05/14/2013 04:34 EDT | Updated 05/15/2013 10:32 EDT

Alison Redford Severance Payments: Premier Won't Say Who Got Part Of $2 Million Payouts, Or How Much


Alison Redford's office has paid out more than $2 million in severance to former employees in the last three years, but the province is keeping mum on who received the payments and how many staff were paid out.

Opposition criticized Redford's refusal to disclose the details, after the story first ran in the Calgary Herald on Monday, and many are wondering why the secrecy.

"The question is is the premier hiring bad employees, or is she a bad boss, to have such high turnover in the office?” Liberal Leader Raj Sherman asked in an interview with CBC Edmonton.

"Her office has been kind of a revolving door with people coming and going all the time, so the severance costs are much higher than they probably should be,” NDP Leader Brian Mason echoed.

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Sherman told the Herald the $586,000 that was paid out last year alone is more than double the amount that could have went to fund a recently scrapped school music enrichment program.

“The fact the premier is trying to conceal information about the cost of the high turnover in her office at a time when so many programs are being cut is simply outrageous,” he said during question period in the legislature.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk defended the premier's decision not to disclose the information, arguing the decision should fall to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) office.

However, Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation Alberta director Derek Fildebrandt told the National Post he's not buying it.

“It’s a pathetic excuse by a government not willing to completely live up to its very grand statements about transparency or government pay for expenses,” he said.

“The public is fully entitled to know severance payments of executive council,” he told CBC.

“When you go into public service, your income privacy is secondary to public accountability, and to hide that is at odds with the progress her government has made with regard to expense and salary disclosure."

Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation Don Scott, speaking for Redford (who was attending a funeral Monday), reiterated Lukasuk's thoughts that the FOIP process is only process to gather the severance information.

"There is an independent privacy commissioner," he told the legislature. "That is the proper process for requests like this to be dealt with... that's the right process to follow."

In the past, however, the privacy commissioner has ruled government must release the information.

In 2007, the government was ordered to disclose payments to then-premier Ralph Klein's former chief of staff Rod Love, and Alberta's envoy to Washington, Murray Smith.

Alberta’s acting FOIP director Frank Borsat told the Herald all cases are decided on merit, but “it is not usual for employment contracts of senior officials to be released.