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Alberta health official charged taxpayers for political events

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne.

Sandor Fizli/The Globe and Mail

A senior official in Alberta's health system billed taxpayers for partisan political events, the latest in a series of donation sagas in the province.

Documents released Monday show Lynn Redford, then a government relations executive with Calgary's health board, claimed $7,668.28 in expenses between 2005 and 2008, including some claims for partisan fundraisers.

They include at least $500 in tickets to fundraisers for the governing Progressive Conservative Party, $165 for two Liberal fundraisers and $210.41 in booze for a 2007 barbecue for MLAs. Other expenses included mileage and travel costs to meet with MLAs.

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It all met "expectations and norms at that time," Alberta Health Services (AHS) said Monday. Alberta law, however, prohibits partisan donations by public agencies.

The rules have since tightened and Lynn Redford now works for AHS, which amalgamated the regional health boards.

Ms. Redford is also the sister of Premier Alison Redford, whose opponents are questioning the expenses.

"This is quite clearly partisan political activity. This is not in the realm of what would be appropriate for a government agency to be spending its time and money on," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said.

Health Minister Fred Horne brushed aside questions, saying the rules and regions have since been changed.

"I'm not going to make any comment on past health regions. … I'm very, very comfortable that today this sort of situation is not going to be a concern," Mr. Horne said.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said questions about political donations are ultimately for the Premier, who – in her former role as justice minister – declined to prosecute cases of illegal donations, which have all been kept private under strict Alberta laws.

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Lynn Redford's various receipts, obtained by both the CBC and the opposition Wildrose Party, are the latest in a series of political spending controversies in Alberta. One relates to questions about several taxpayer-funded agencies buying tickets to partisan events – a total of 45 cases of illegal donations have been found over the past year. Another is about personal expenses filed by health executives, including one who billed lavish meals and repairs to his Mercedes. A third controversy is more recent – billionaire Daryl Katz's single $430,000 cheque to the Alberta PCs during the spring election.

AHS has rejected calls to release all expenses of executives with former health authorities, saying policies "were open to interpretation" at the time.

Lynn Redford declined comment Monday. The Premier, speaking to an Ottawa luncheon Monday, also declined to speak to reporters.

With a report from Shawn McCarthy in Ottawa
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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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