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Alberta RCMP won't lay charges against former premier Redford over expenses

Then Alberta Premier Alison Redford speaks to reporters in Calgary, on March 15, 2014.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The RCMP won't seek criminal charges against former premier Alison Redford, after an investigation requested by the province when Alberta's Auditor-General found she had inappropriately used government resources.

Ms. Redford resigned in March, 2014, after weeks of controversies over her expenses and the use of government aircraft left her with a divided caucus. Ms. Redford's government faced the lowest approval in the province's recent history.

Premier Jim Prentice has called the period surrounding Ms. Redford's departure the "darkest days" for the province's Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Prentice's office declined to comment Friday on the results of the RCMP probe.

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"In the interest of thoroughness, the RCMP interviewed a wide range of individuals who provided us with information related to the Auditor-General's report," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand wrote in a statement. "The file is now concluded."

Ms. Redford released a statement after hearing of the RCMP decision: "I am grateful this is now over. I was never concerned about the outcome, as I had the benefit of knowing that my and my office's actions were above board," she wrote. "Now that this is over, I am looking forward to again making a contribution to the province, and country I love."

Ms. Redford's political career began to unravel quickly after it was revealed that she spent $45,000 to attend the funeral service for former South African president Nelson Mandela. That amount was split between a government plane to bring her to Ottawa and a commercial flight to bring her home early from the funeral.

Weeks before her resignation, the premier revealed that she had used government aircraft to fly her daughter and her daughter's friends to various destinations around the country. Records later showed that Ms. Redford took her daughter on more than 50 flights. Records also showed that Ms. Redford's staff booked government aircraft with false passengers so that the premier could fly alone.

In a report released last August, Auditor-General Merwan Saher blamed an "aura of power" around the premier that allowed for the many shortcomings in her office. Ms. Redford resigned her seat in Alberta's legislature a day before the report was released.

She did pay back the $45,000 airfare for the South Africa trip and thousands more for flights with her daughter.

"This was no surprise. Now, it's up to Premier Prentice and the PCs to pay the money back to taxpayers that is still out there for trips that weren't made on government business," said Drew Barnes, the whip for the Opposition Wildrose.

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On Friday, a spokeswoman for Alberta's Justice Minister provided the provincial government's only comments on the former premier avoiding criminal charges.

"The legal opinion we received recommended we refer this matter to the RCMP. We did that. We are pleased to see it is now concluded," wrote press secretary Jessica Jacobs-Mino.

In early December, the Alberta Accountability Act was tabled to strengthen some of the rules that Ms. Redford is said to have breached.

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