EDMONTON - The divisions within the Alberta Conservative party appeared to grow wider Monday over the controversy surrounding former premier Alison Redford's travel expenses.
In an email sent to party members, which was leaked over the weekend, Finance Minister Doug Horner admitted some of his colleagues think he should step down, but he rejected calls from the Opposition Wildrose party to resign.
Horner said it's "blatantly false" he misled Albertans about Redford's use of government planes and other public resources.
However, two of the three candidates for the party's leadership cast doubt on Horner's future if they win, also noting that he is supporting Jim Prentice.
"Following this leadership race, if I'm so lucky as to be the premier, you're going to see a major house-cleaning at the top, and the cabinet is going to look significantly different," said Thomas Lukaszuk.
Ric McIver told reporters that when he was a minister he had to book flights through the Treasury Board, but he's not clear on how things were handled when Horner's office was responsible for provincial planes under Redford.
"Maybe you should ask about Mr. Horner's future to the candidate that he's tied his future to," said McIver. "He's supporting one candidate and perhaps you should ask that candidate what he thinks."
Prentice, for his part, took to Twitter to say that if he is chosen Alberta's next premier, he would "clean this mess up," adding he would "appoint a new, smaller cabinet based on merit and integrity."
As for pointing fingers, Prentice noted that both Lukaszuk and McIver were also members of Redford's cabinet "but did not speak up. Only finding voice when convenient. Time for new leadership."
The Opposition called for Horner's resignation last week after the provincial auditor general concluded in a report that Redford and her office used public resources inappropriately and for personal and partisan purposes.
Horner said after the report's release that the province will immediately implement recommendations related to government travel and would also look into the current airline reservation system.
In his letter to fellow Tories, he said he would not let the Wildrose or the media bully him into stepping down.
“I was told many years ago by my father that if you are accused of something and it's true, take the punishment, learn from it and move on," he said. "But if it’s not true, depend on the truth and … those who accuse need to take responsibility for their actions.”
(CHED, CHQR, The Canadian Press)