EDMONTON, AB (October 23, 2014): While campaigning for PC leader, Jim Prentice told Albertans he would have zero tolerance for politicians who didn’t respect taxpayers saying, “they shouldn’t be taking free hockey tickets” and that he would have “zero tolerance for all that stuff.”
However, when FOIP documents released yesterday showed that PC health minister and Edmonton-Whitemud candidate Stephen Mandel expensed $69,000 in hockey tickets while he was mayor, Prentice was silent.
In typical PC fashion, Stephen Mandel and his staff gave a litany of ever-changing excuses in their weak attempts to justify why taxpayers flipped the bill for his front-row season tickets to the Oilers. Not only did Mandel secretively charge $69,000 in hockey tickets to taxpayers for 200 hockey games but he can provide no records of how those tickets were distributed.
Here are the facts:
Claim #1: Mandel’s spokesperson Stephen Buick started the day by claiming that these hockey tickets were required for ordinary “hosting purposes”.
FACT: The City of Edmonton has access to two different skyboxes owned by City-related organizations (Edmonton Northlands and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation) which City Council is free to use when hosting.
Claim #2: Mandel’s spokesperson then claimed that Mandel bought the tickets in order to give them out, “just like you’d expect from any mayor.”
FACT: The Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper pays for his own hockey tickets, as do Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson, Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and Toronto’s Rob Ford. Furthermore, the current Mayor of Edmonton confirmed that he does not have season tickets to any Edmonton sports teams and said it would “not be appropriate” for the mayor’s office to expense season tickets for a professional sports team.
Claim #3: Mandel told the media that the purchase of the tickets was routine and City Council knew about it.
FACT: Not only is there no record of these expenses ever being publicly disclosed but City Councilor’s did not know about them and assumed that Mandel had personal season tickets. Also, the existence of these gold season’s tickets never came up during the lengthy arena debates.
Claim #4: Mandel ‘s spokesperson then said Mandel adopted, “an established practice under the previous administration” of buying season tickets.
FACT: The expenses clearly show Oilers tickets were NOT expensed in either 2006 or 2007 during Mandel’s tenure. The purchase of season tickets was a practice established by Stephen Mandel.
Claim #5: Mandel said the practice of expensing tickets was stopped because of the negotiations with the Oilers’ owner over the new Edmonton arena.
FACT: The City of Edmonton had been in almost constant negotiations with the Oilers for two decades. Negotiations over a new arena occurred throughout the time Mandel was charging taxpayers for season tickets. The City first reached a framework agreement on a new arena in 2011, tickets were expensed between 2008 and 2012.
Claim #6: Mandel’s team first told the media that these tickets were part of the cost of a skybox shared with Edmonton’s Economic Development Corporation.
FACT: The seats are a pair of gold season’s tickets in section 119 row 17.
Claim #7: By the end of the day, Mandel’s team had come out with yet another excuse -- that these tickets were purchased on taxpayer dime in order to give away to charities and that Mandel had “no recollection” of ever using the seats himself.
FACT: There is no public record of the Mayor’s Office ever donating these tickets to charities. No photos, no press releases, no established program for community groups to access these “donations”.
Unelected PC health minister Mandel needs to come clean with Edmontonians and tell the whole truth about these tickets and reimburse taxpayers. And, Jim Prentice needs to live up to his word and show “zero tolerance” for this behavior. Otherwise, he’s proving yet again that he’s just more of the same.