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Free lunch for PC Ministers requires Auditor General investigation

EDMONTON, AB (April 2, 2015): A taxpayer funded luncheon with no apparent government business requires an investigation by the Auditor General, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said today.

A pre-election luncheon was held in January 2012 at a cost of $3740 and the hosting expense was picked up by two ministries; Alberta Education and Alberta Culture. However, upon investigation by the Wildrose, there are no records of government business being conducted at the “Edmonton Southeast Business Leaders Luncheon”, nor are there records of the planning or pre-approval for events of this nature required by Treasury Board directive.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says the timing and lack of documentation is troubling and has asked the Auditor General to investigate.

“The PCs record of electioneering on the public dime is clear and this event seems to have all the signs of the government spending taxpayer dollars on a campaign style event,” Jean said. “If there was government business conducted at this luncheon, why do documents show multiple ministries scrambling, after the fact, to justify the expense and why wasn’t the hosting expense approved in advance? To me, this smells like electioneering and it’s why I’ve asked the Auditor General to investigate.” 

Records obtained by the Wildrose show the event was originally billed to Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Naresh Bhardwaj, who was not a sitting minister at that time. A number of former ministers were in attendance at the luncheon, but documents show ministry staff scrambling to track down information on the purpose and who was responsible for paying the bill.

“If the government truly wants to justify this expense, they would have produced documents showing that the proper planning and diligence required by Treasury Board had been followed. But it’s clear that they can’t,” Jean said. “$4000 for a luncheon may be a meager expense in the grand scheme of things, but this seems to me like just another example of what we are seeing Prentice and PC government continuing today; campaigning with the public’s money. It has to stop and I hope the Auditor General gets to the bottom of this.”