Alberta’s premier is defending spending $113,000 on unused hotel rooms during a trip to the Olympics last summer.
The rooms at the five-star Le Meridien Hotel in London were paid in advance. When the province pared down the size of its delegation, officials were unable to get a refund. The average nightly rate for each room was $850 CDN.
Premier Alison Redford defended the trip on Monday as a tightly focused mission aimed at growing markets around beef, forestry and oil and gas.
“The circumstances around an Olympics are exceptional and our perspective was that it was important to be there,” said Redford. “[There were] very exceptional circumstances with respect to much lower numbers around tourism in London. We worked very hard, as I understand it, and were able to recover those costs and were able to recover 40 per cent of those costs in very unpredictable times.”
Travel costs for Redford, Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk and three staff members added up to $87,135. The trip had an entire price tag of $518,280.
“Every single time that we talk about Alberta overseas, we’re growing markets," said Redford. "We had a great opportunity to develop strong tourism and strong cultural ties. We had an opportunity to work with Korean Air around reopening trade links, and a lot of opportunity to talk about something very important to Albertans, which is the fuel quality directive, which will of course, affect our ability to export our products into Europe.”
Parents of athlete upset
The Edmonton parent of an Olympic competitor said money the government spent on unused rooms would have been better spent on the province’s athletes. Sandy and Stuart Sehn went to the London Olympics to watch their son Eric compete with the Canadian diving team.
“It's tough for the athletes. They work very hard. I think most people don't understand how hard they work. And to have the government basically throwing away money like that,” said Sandy Sehn.
Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle has said the cost of the unused rooms shows how the government has no respect for how it spends taxpayers' money, while NDP leader Brian Mason described the situation as "absurd."