Alberta Tory leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk apologized Monday for ringing up more than $20,000 in international data roaming charges on one trip.
But he also questioned why the two-year-old information was leaked to the Edmonton Sun newspaper less than two weeks before Progressive Conservative party members vote for a new leader and premier.
"I have nothing to hide. This bill was not hidden," Mr. Lukaszuk told reporters after a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. "It was in a public venue. Anybody could have accessed it.
"The fact that somebody purposely highlighted it at this point in time obviously is a reputational issue."
Mr. Lukaszuk also issued a statement that said he "absolutely" made a mistake "and for that I apologize."
He said he was on a personal trip to Poland and Israel in October, 2012, as a guest of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's "compassion to action" program. He was deputy premier at the time and a government legal case needed his attention, he said.
"There were a lot of long conversations and proceedings with lawyers and the courts," Mr. Lukaszuk said in the statement. "The case itself is under a court-ordered publication ban, so it is against the law for me to provide details. A letter from the legal firm confirms that it was a government case.
"Suffice it to say that government faced an issue, it needed to be dealt with, and it was."
The New Democrats suggested it's just more of the same from the Conservatives. Critic Deron Bilous said Mr. Lukaszuk is not immune to the sense of entitlement that led to former premier Alison Redford's ouster.
"This is a person who says he's different, and new, and going to bring accountability to government. Well, actions speak louder than words," Mr. Bilous said.