11/21/2012 06:18 EST | Updated 01/21/2013 05:12 EST

Lynn Redford Expenses: Alberta Premier Silent On Reports Of Taxpayers Paying For Sister's Bills


EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she won't comment on reports her sister billed taxpayers to attend social events for Redford's Progressive Conservative party.

Redford said there are independent investigative processes in place, and she will let them run their course.

"I cannot expect that Albertans would want me as the premier of the province to stand here at a podium and start defending my sister, or for that matter criticizing my sister," Redford told reporters in Red Deer Wednesday.

"That's why we have systems in place."

She would not comment on family discussions relating to the allegations swirling around Alberta health executive Lynn Redford, except to say: "I care an awful lot about my sister and you can imagine if it was your sister there would probably be some pretty difficult moments.

"(But) one way or the other, it doesn't matter because what we're going to do is follow the processes that we should all have confidence in as Albertans to get to the bottom of the matter."

The comments were Redford's first substantive remarks following Monday's revelation from the opposition Wildrose party that Lynn Redford was reimbursed almost $3,400 for travel, accommodations, tickets, liquor and bug spray at Tory events between 2005 and 2008 while she was a health executive in the former Calgary health region.

She also billed taxpayers for $141 to sign up and attend the Alberta Liberal party general meeting in 2005.

All health regions were collapsed into one superboard in 2009, and Lynn Redford now works there as a senior executive in charge of special projects.

The Wildrose party has asked chief electoral officer Brian Fjeldheim to investigate.

The party has also suggested in writing to retired Justice John Vertes that he call Redford to testify at his coming inquiry into possible queue-jumping in Alberta's health system.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said new documents suggest that Lynn Redford may have been a connected Tory insider used to help politicians and political favourites jump waiting lines for care.

Smith points to a legislature debate in 2009, during which then-health minister Ron Liepert confirmed that Lynn Redford was a person that Calgary constituents could contact to deal with health-related problems.

Calgary Liberal Harry Chase told the house during the same exchange that "we could call (Lynn Redford) and within two hours we would get directed (to assistance)."

A month later, Stephen Duckett, then head of Alberta Health Services — which oversees the day-to-day operations of all health delivery — circulated a memo saying it was "not uncommon" for health executives to get requests to provide preferential care to politicians, their constituents or other VIPs.

Redford said it was flat-out wrong for the Wildrose to send the letter to Vertes.

"I was shocked that a political leader would then send a letter to the chair of an independent judicial inquiry telling them what to do. It's inappropriate and I think that it doesn't respect the system," said Redford.

"If we had done that, someone would be standing out on the steps of the legislature saying we have politically interfered with an independent judicial process."

Earlier Wednesday, Smith defended the letter, saying Vertes had asked people with information to come forward, so she did.

"There are enough questions raised about the fact (Lynn Redford) was clearly the political go-to person," Smith told reporters.

"We have members of the legislature commenting they could get two-hour (health-care) service by giving her a phone call. And we have the cloud over whether or not politicians were able to get preferential access."

Both Alberta Health Services and Health Minister Fred Horne have said they consider the Lynn Redford matter a dead issue, given that the health region she worked for no longer exists and that AHS now has strict rules on funding and filing expenses.

Fjeldheim is investigating more than 81 cases of illegal donations, and Redford's party has been under fire for taking illegal donations from municipalities, schools and other publicly funded institutions.

Three weeks ago, he began investigating allegations that billionaire Daryl Katz contributed $430,000 to the Tory campaign in the spring election _ well over the $30,000 individual maximum.

PC Party officials have not commented on the specifics of the Katz donations, but say there is evidence no one contributed more than the maximum.

Redford pointed out her government introduced legislation Tuesday to broaden Fjeldheim's powers and to affirm he has the power to publicly name names going forward and in investigations dating back three years.

But opposition critics note that even if the legislation passes, it won't cover the years surrounding the Lynn Redford allegations.

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