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Alberta’s Redford to attend Olympics at a cost of $84,000

Alberta Premier Alison Redford during a press conference in Calgary April 24, 2012 after being elected premier Monday night.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is heading to the London Olympics at a cost to taxpayers of $84,000.

Ms. Redford says during her five-day trip she will promote the province as a place to invest and do business. The focus will be on selling Alberta's energy, tourism and culture sectors on the world stage.

"The Olympics are more than a sporting event," Ms. Redford said in a release Wednesday. "They are where the world meets and that's where Alberta needs to be."

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Ms. Redford called it a golden opportunity to meet with key decision makers and business executives. The trip runs from July 29 to Aug. 4.

The premier is to be the keynote speaker at a Canadian energy day hosted by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

She is also to attend receptions and speak at a Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce event.

The cost of her London trip also covers the travel expenses of two cabinet ministers and three government staff.

The Opposition Wildrose Party said Ms. Redford's trip to London is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars more than it should.

Wildrose estimates the government could reduce the tab by more than $50,000 if the premier and her entourage took cheaper flights and stayed less in less expensive hotels.

"We have no problem with the premier advancing Alberta's interests abroad, but it seems like there's a way to do it that's more responsible to taxpayers," Ms. Smith said in an email.

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"We're not asking her to stop spreading Alberta's message, just to respect taxpayers when she's doing it."

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also questioned the worth of Ms. Redford's trip.

Scott Hennig, the federation's Alberta director, said people attend the Olympics to watch the sporting events, not to talk seriously about heavy oil and trade.

"I'm not sure that people are going to be looking for information on Alberta when they are going to the Olympics," Mr. Hennig said.

"I'm not sure that there is a worse time you can go to London to meet with officials. Hotels are going to be crazy expensive."

Mr. Hennig said Ms. Redford should file a report on what the trip achieved when she returns to Alberta.

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