Day 8 & 9: Travel to New Orleans

The IVLP program leaves the weekends free for travel and sightseeing, so there were no meetings scheduled the last 2 days. That gave me some time to catch up on some reading and speech preparation since I have several speeches to do when I get back, including a debate on equalization with Michael Ignatieff on October 18 at the Petroleum Club in Calgary.

I am grateful for the comments I’ve received on Twitter and Facebook about this debate. It seems there is consensus that equalization is not working well. It is up to the politicians to propose ways to improve it, and I’m hoping to contribute to that debate before the program comes up for renegotiation in 2014.

I’m in New Orleans for the next two days and look forward to learning more about the post-Katrina flood mitigation efforts. We have 66 Alberta communities at risk of flood every year during spring runoff, including my new hometown of High River. I think we could learn a thing or two from those who went through the worst of it.

I was able to take in a New Orleans Saints game today. (Their fans are almost as exuberant as Saskatchewan Rough Riders fans!) But while I was there I was reminded that 30,000 people crammed into the Superdome to seek shelter after Katrina pounded the shores. The city and it’s people appear to have made a full recovery. I’ll find out whether that really is the case tomorrow.

Expenses: If you didn’t read the press release for this trip, no doubt you might be wondering, who’s paying for this trip? Here’s the answer. The costs are covered by the US Department of State, and they estimate the expense at $9,080 US for the 21-day program. With politicians’ travel expenses very much in the news lately, I thought you’d be interested in knowing my expenses as we go.

I have always said that international travel is an important part of the Premier’s job and, as Official Opposition Leader and International and Intergovernmental Affairs and Aboriginal Relations Critic, I think it is a necessary part of my job too. Knowing how the political system works in the US in particular – our biggest customer and trading partner – is increasingly important as we watch the Keystone pipeline project grind its way through the approval process. Knowing how this process works, including the interplay between federal, state and local jurisdictions, and the impact of NGOs on the entire process is vital information for an Alberta political leader to have.

My criticism has not been about the fact that the Premier and her ministers are taking international trips, it’s the eye-popping price tag associated with them. You’ll notice this trip budgets out at about $432/day, whereas most ministeral trips lately have been costing in the range of $2000/person/day (or more). My expenses for Day 8 & 9 are below:

Here are my expenses for Days 8 and 9:

$35.00     Taxi from Airport to the Omni Hotel

$39.00     Dinner at Pierre Maspero’s

$27.00     Lunch at the Superdome

$42.00     Dinner at Luke’s

$143.00     Total for Days 8 & 9