03/28/2014 01:43 EDT | Updated 05/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Redford Ordered Penthouse Suite, Critics Demand Answers


EDMONTON - Documents released Friday show former Alberta premier Alison Redford had been planning a swank taxpayer-funded penthouse retreat on top of a government building.

The "premier's suite" was to have bedrooms for Redford and her pre-teen daughter, Sarah, a shared bathroom, a powder room, a walk-in closet, a butler's pantry and dining, study and lounge areas.

Information on the suite — including memos, emails and reports — was released by the province.

Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver said he personally stopped construction on the suite in mid-January soon after he took over the portfolio from Wayne Drysdale, who is now transportation minister.

McIver said he received word from his department about the 11th- floor suite in the Federal Building near the legislature grounds. He said he walked over and saw the early stages of construction, with some wood-framing complete.

He instructed his staff to meld the suite into meeting rooms that were also to be constructed on that floor, he said.

"I made it clear there wouldn't be a residential component," said McIver in an interview.

He said he didn't consult with Redford's office before killing the penthouse plan and did not get any pushback after the fact.

It was obvious to him that taxpayers should not be paying for such an extravagance, McIver said.

"I didn't think that was in the interest of Albertans and I didn't think Albertans would support that. And those are my ultimate bosses."

Redford, who still represents the constituency of Calgary-Elbow, could not be reached for comment.

The Federal Building is a historic structure under renovation. It will eventually house offices for all members of the legislature along with other government officials.

Email correspondence from 2012 and 2013 shows that at some point Redford's office became involved and ordered changes to the 10th and 11th floors.

The changes called for a "premier's den" built to the style of the ultra-posh Hay Adams Hotel in Boston.

The emails also spoke of a fireplace and temperature control settings in each area.

There were to be separate "grooming" and "changing" areas.

No detail was too small. There were multiple emails on the composition of room-divider panels. One memo urgently demanded "colour boards." Another spoke about 3D floor plans.

McIver said he didn't have an estimate on the cost of the suite or on the changes.

There was discussion about turning the 10th floor into a meeting room exclusively for members of Redford's Progressive Conservative caucus.

To that end, her office urged that separate elevators be configured to bypass opposition legislature members on the 8th floor.

City planners balked at Redford's apartment. They said if she planned to stay overnight, the development permit had to be changed and made public.

Redford's office replied that nothing would be made public for security reasons.

Drysdale, in an email statement Friday, said he was aware of the apartment, but said it was one of many options being considered.

He said the apartment idea was killed on his watch 14 months before McIver said he pulled the plug on the penthouse.

“As of November 15, 2012, my understanding was that these plans were abandoned in favour of two boardrooms and additional hosting space," wrote Drysdale.

An email from Redford's former communications director, Stefan Baranski, meshes with Drysdale's version of events.

"From my perspective, the Fed (building) apartment was never a serious consideration," wrote Baranski.

"The entire 1 1/2 years I've been here, I always was told it was simply an option considered, but our office killed the notion long ago."

NDP critic Deron Bilous said the issue goes beyond Redford to those in cabinet who didn't stop the apartment when it was first proposed.

Bilous said it's alarming that the Conservatives were proceeding with such a lavish perk during the years Redford was cutting budgets and salaries.

"It's absurd," said Bilous. "Albertans are shaking their heads, saying, 'Just when we thought they (the PCs) couldn't possibly outdo themselves, they do.'"

Redford resigned last week amid escalating revelations that she had used government aircraft for personal and party events and to fly her daughter's friends around.

Her inner circle left, too, including Baranski and chief of staff Farouk Adatia.

Premier Dave Hancock's office reported Friday that severance for nine of Redford's staff was a total of $1.3 million.

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