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Alison Redford's India Trip Cost $11,000 More Than Estimate

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ALISON REDFORD
The bill for Alison Redford's final trip as premier of Alberta has come in at $131,000 - $11,000 over the original estimate | CP

EDMONTON - The bill for Alison Redford's final trip as premier of Alberta has come in at $131,000 — and includes taxpayer-funded flights to London for a private weekend getaway.

Overall costs for the two-week January trip were released Wednesday by the International and Intergovernmental Relations Department. Itemized receipts are to be posted online next month.

The trade mission and networking trip to India and Switzerland included a stopover for private time in London that was not on the original itinerary.

Redford had planned to visit Canadian troops in Afghanistan for two days, but that was cancelled due to a flare-up of violence.

Instead, Redford, her chief of staff Farouk Adatia and Redford aide Brad Stables flew to London for the weekend at taxpayer expense, said Derek Cummings, press secretary for the department.

He said the flight costs were considered government business because Redford was still in the middle of her trip and her travel plans changed due to events beyond her control.

"They wouldn't have flown home (at that time)."

All other expenses for London were covered by the participants personally, Cummings said.

NDP critic Rachel Notley suggested Redford could have thought of taxpayers first and stayed in India a couple more days when the Afghanistan trip changed.

"There's no rationale for the citizens of Alberta to be paying for a shopping spree in London," said Notley.

"This is a government so deeply enmeshed in its sense of entitlement that they don't see the irony, given they're (also) going about trying to take resources away from middle-class Albertans every day."

Redford quit as premier last week amid escalating revelations of lavish spending on herself and her inner circle, including a $45,000 trip to Nelson Mandela's funeral and government plane trips for her daughter's friends.

The final bill of $131,000 is $11,000 more than budgeted due to unexpected hosting expenses, said Cummings.

Much of the bill — about $101,000 — paid to fly Redford, two members of the legislature and four members of Redford's inner circle to India, around India and beyond.

Another $19,500 went to accommodations and $497 was claimed for food.

In India, Redford's team signed a memorandum of understanding and a statement of co-operation to increase agriculture trade.

The trip was value for money, said Cummings.

"If you talk to the companies that were there, if you look at the agricultural agreements we were able to sign, promoting the new (trade) office in Delhi, the meetings that were held, it was a successful mission."

The trip included 45 delegates representing 20 Alberta companies.

Cummings said the food bill was low because much of the meals were provided at events and receptions.

After nine days in and around India, most of the team went home.

Adatia flew home after London, leaving Redford and Stables to travel to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

In Davos, Redford met and networked with global leaders and said she had a chance to talk to former U.S. vice-president and oilsands critic Al Gore.

During the trip, Redford's office announced that Alberta would host a World Economic Forum conference of its own in Lake Louise in April.

The event, which was to discuss climate change, was cancelled Wednesday due to Redford's sudden departure.

"Both parties feel that, given the present context, the time is not ripe for such a meeting," said the Alberta government in a news release.

The Opposition Wildrose party has said a source told it the forum hit the ditch because organizers were upset Redford's office had advertised the event before it had been formally approved.

Notley agreed.

"It was always a publicity stunt and it was announced irresponsibly in order to justify in part (Redford's) trip to Davos in the first place," she said.

Redford ended her term as premier Sunday when former deputy premier Dave Hancock was sworn in to replace her.

When she announced her resignation March 19, she said caucus discontent over her spending and other issues was making it impossible to carry on the business of government.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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