CALGARY – Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says his government has sold three of the four planes that were part of the controversial provincial fleet.
The first decision of Prentice’s new cabinet was to sell the four-plane fleet that had become a public relations millstone around the neck of the Progressive Conservative government.
The planes had become symbols of waste, excess and entitlement that brought down former PC premier Alison Redford last March.
“The first decision that we made was in fact to put the government air fleet up for sale, which was executive order number 1 as I referred to it,” said Prentice in a noon hour speech Thursday to the Canadian Club of Calgary.
“The Dash 8 is still available if anyone in the room is interested,” Prentice said.
Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher reported last year that Redford had used the “aura of power” of the premier’s office to take the planes for personal trips for herself, her pre-teen daughter, and her daughter’s friends.
He said Redford’s staff even booked phantom passengers on the planes so that Redford could fly solo.
Government MLAs also used the planes to fly to political events under the guise of official government business.
Prentice told reporters there is no justification for a provincial fleet of planes. He said government members either fly commercial and occasionally need to charter an aircraft.
“From time to time, to be clear, it’s important for the premier, lieutenant- governor and ministers to get out to rural Alberta, to remote parts of the province,” Prentice said.
“We’re able to access charters but that’s done sparingly. I think I’ve been on four or five charters since I became the premier. I don’t think that justifies owning a fleet of airplanes.”
Fargo Jet Centre Inc. of Fargo, N.D., was the successful bidder. It exceeded the minimum bid price by approximately $600,000, or 11 per cent.
“Considering there is a limited market for some of these planes and the economy is tight, especially in western Canada, we are pleased to have sold three of the aircraft at a fair price,” said Stephen Khan, minister of Service Alberta.
A 1985 DeHavilland Dash 8-103 did not receive a bid that complied with the criteria of the bid process.
The government is looking at options including re-tendering the remaining plane and the related inventory of spare parts and tools.
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