03/25/2014 01:20 EDT | Updated 05/25/2014 05:59 EDT

New Brunswick sells government plane to air ambulance service in Alberta

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government has sold its plane to an air ambulance service in Alberta for $2.8 million, about $1.7 million less than what the province paid for it six years ago.

Can-West Corporate Air Charters, a public medevac contractor for Alberta, has agreed to purchase the aircraft, which was used to fly the premier and members of cabinet.

The previous New Brunswick Liberal government bought the 2006 King Air B200 in 2008 for $4.5 million, but Transportation Minister Claude Williams said, just like most assets, planes have a tendency to depreciate in value over time.

"Based on the good condition of the airplane, we did get the maximum and we got more than similar-year aircraft on the market," Williams said Tuesday. "We feel we got a very good price."

Williams said use of the plane has been declining while costs for the crew, insurance, fuel and maintenance totalled almost $900,000 each year.

The Tory government committed in its 2013-14 budget to sell the twin-engine turboprop plane as a cost-cutting measure and Williams said the sale will help the province meet its fiscal challenges.

Williams said the government is still trying to find a way of getting out of a 14-year lease it has for a hangar at the Fredericton airport at an annual cost of $100,000.

"The last option we want is to pay $1.4 million at the end of 14 years," he said.

Williams said the government will now charter flight services for government business trips.

Three companies submitted bids following a request for proposals last year but none of the bids met their required guidelines. Williams said a new request for proposals was issued in January and the results are being reviewed.

Bill Fraser, the Liberal Opposition transportation critic, said he is concerned the sale of the plane means it will become more difficult to know where and when the premier and his cabinet ministers are travelling.

"Now we have to go to each individual department, which is very cumbersome," Fraser said. "Basically, they are flying under the radar now."

Williams said the Opposition will be provided with flight records upon request.