Alberta's Washington office still without representative

At a time when Alberta is pushing for the U.S. to approve the Keystone pipeline, the province’s highly-coveted office inside Canada’s embassy in Washington has been without a representative for over six months.

Alberta’s pseudo-embassy, which opened in 2005 under Ralph Klein, has been used by Premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford when on trade missions to the U.S.

However, the office has been without a representative since former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier, who was temporarily appointed to the job, left in June.

Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations maintains the office. Department spokesman Bill Strickland says they have been trying to fill the position.

"We recognize the recruitment process has taken some time - but our focus has always been and continues to be on finding the right person for the job," Strickland wrote in an email to CBC News. “We have undertaken an exhaustive search for an experienced and dynamic candidate who will serve as Alberta’s eyes and ears on the ground in Washington.”

The office remains open, with a receptionist and one other employee, costing the province at least $1 million a year.

The province also paid for a condo for the representative, but says it was released in August, as soon as possible after Bronconnier left the job.

Alberta’s opposition parties have never supported the expense of maintaining the office. Now that the job remains empty, NDP leader Brian Mason says the province can’t justify the cost.

"Our preference would be to work with the Canadian embassy, and through the Canadian embassy,” Mason said.

“If you're going to have the office, you need to have somebody in the position, otherwise the other costs are simply wasted money. “

Strickland expects to be able to make an announcement on the position “in the near future.”

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