Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ralph's World's First Contest 

Premier and Staff Spend Big at Home as well as Abroad

Public Accounts Chair Hugh MacDonald of The Alberta Liberals has released some tantalizing expense account information regarding spending habits of Premier Klein, his wife and various Tory ministers and staff as they travel the world seeking truth, wisdom and business on our behalf. Details of the various expense items tend to be like the Tories themselves when it comes to spending of our tax dollars; - a little on the vague side. For example, during a trip to Mexico in September 2002, the Premier and his sidekick Mark Norris paid $1097.00 in gratuities to the concierge and maid at the Four Season's Hotel. I want to a little more detail on what the maid and the concierge did for our boys that occasioned such generosity. Cleaned toilet bowl 8 times at $25 per clean. Smiled, bowed and said "Welcome Premier and Honorable Sidekick" 12 times at $15 per suck up. That's the kind of detail I want.

So here's the contest.

We'll provide the real expense account items just as Ralph and his folks submitted them. Not much detail. Your job is to speculate in detail on how just how that money was spent. Use your creativity just like the Tories. Points will be awarded for innovation, innuendo, and imagination.

Send in your submissions to johnnyslow@hotmail.com and we'll announce the winners at the end of the current legislative session. We'll publish your works on Ralph's World under your name or anon. Just let us know.

Here is the background material you have to work with as extracted by the Liberals from the government under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act (FOIPP).



Between the last election (March 12, 2001) and January 24, 2004, the government has publicly released information on 122 trips taken out of province by ministers and MLAs. The actual number of trips may be higher. (These are trips paid for by government ministries, not the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.) The total reported cost of all trips was $1,114,355 but the government did not publicly provide costs for 26 of the trips, so the actual total is much higher. The government failed to provide itineraries for 79 of the trips. That means taxpayers do not know specifically what business was conducted during these trips. 21 out of 24 Cabinet Ministers (including the Premier) took trips out of province. 20 MLAs took trips out of province. Government members visited every continent except South America and Antarctica.

10 top travelers (ministers):

Murray Smith, Energy 22 trips
Ralph Klein, Premier 17 trips
Mark Norris, Economic Development 16 trips
Halvar Jonson, International and Intergovernmental Affairs 11 trips
Lyle Oberg, Learning 7 trips
Iris Evans, Children's Services 6 trips
Ron Stevens, Gaming 6 trips
Heather Forsyth, Solicitor General 6 trips
Gene Zwozdesky, Community Development 5 trips
Pat Nelson, Finance 4 trips
(tied) Victor Doerksen 4 trips


This information, obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP), provides more detail on the cost of particular government trips, including trips where little or no information on costs was provided publicly. In some cases, expenses have been charged by individuals who were NOT publicly reported as being on the trip in question. All amounts shown are in Canadian dollars. Where necessary, foreign currencies were converted according to the exchange rates on the date expenses were charged.

The Mission to New York

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Mark Norris (Economic Development Minister), Premier Ralph Klein, Murray Smith (Energy Minister)
Dates: approximately December 7 to December 10, 2002
Reported cost: Costs not reported
Reported business: meetings aimed at increasing investment in Alberta. No itinerary was provided.
Details uncovered through FOIPP: $14,316 charged in expenses by Gordon Olsen (Executive Director for the Southern Alberta Office of the Premier until March 1, 2003) and Cal Lawinger (lawyer) Including:$8320 spent on car service in Manhattan, $5996 spent on accommodation, food and the mini-bar at the Sheraton Hotel. These are costs charged by Executive Council members only and so the actual total cost of this trip was probably much higher.

The Team Canada Mission to the UK and Ukraine

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Colleen Klein (wife), Gene Zwozkesky (Community Development Minister), Dave Broda, MLA, and three staff members
Dates: May 14 to May 22, 2002
Reported cost: $88,000
Reported business: In the UK, meetings with British Petroleum and Centrica. In Ukraine, "Expanding Alberta's deep and historic connections to Ukraine and establishing relations with top Ukrainian government leaders" (news release).
Details uncovered through FOIPP: $15,720 charged in expenses by Chris Heseltine in London only Including:$4,922 spent on accommodation at the Millennium Mayfair Hotel in London, $1,451 spent on one lunch at the Marriott Hotel, London, May 17 2002, $4,511 spent on car service in London, $248.58 paid to bell boys, check-in staff and other staff in gratuities

The Mexico Trip

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Minister Mark Norris
Dates: approximately September 19 to October 2, 2002
Reported cost: Costs not reported
Reported business: Opening a trade office. No itinerary provided.
Details uncovered through FOIPP:$15,526 charged in expenses by Douglas Lane, Collin Jeffares, Jack Davis Including:$3,601 spent on the Premier's accommodation at the Four Season's Hotel, $1,097 paid to the concierge and maid in gratuities, $2,624 spent on a dinner for 12 people, September 22, 2002

The Team Canada Mission to Asia, Russia and Germany

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Colleen Klein (wife) Mark Norris (Economic Development Minister), unnamed staff member
Dates: February 5 to February 22, 2002
Reported cost: $32,000
Reported business: meetings with investors, trade partners and government officials
Details uncovered through FOIPP:The itinerary stated the budget for this trip was $32,000 but the final budget was higher. $38,076 charged in expenses by Doug Brower, Jamie Davis, Ralph Klein, Mark Norris Including:$1,475 spent on 3 nights' accommodation at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo for Premier Klein and Colleen Klein, $1,152 spent on 3 nights' accommodation at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo for Jamie Davies and his wife


Alberta passed its Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in 1995. It requires the government to disclose information that is in the public interest. However, certain sections of the act specifically exempt members of the Executive Council, which includes the Premier and his staff:Section 4(1)(o) * The Act does not apply to a personal record or constituency record of a member of the Executive Council Section 4(1)(q) * The Act does not apply to a record created by or for a member of the Executive Council, that has been sent or is to be sent to a member of the Executive Council*For Executive Council members, the only information that is not considered "an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy" is a person's "classification, salary range, discretionary benefits or employment responsibilities*" (Section 17)


Alberta's Auditor General has a significantly difference mandate from Canada's Auditor General. The Federal Auditor General Act states the Auditor General must report "money that has been expended without due regard to economy or efficiency" (section 7d).The Auditor General of Alberta Act is far less focused. It states that Alberta's Auditor General must report accounting systems and management control systems, including those systems designed to ensure economy and efficiency, that relate to revenue, disbursements, the preservation of assets or the determination of liabilities were not in existence, were inadequate or had not been complied with" (section 19 (2) (d)). In other words, the federal Auditor General tracks expenditures whereas the Alberta Auditor General tracks accounting and management systems. The goal of Alberta's Auditor General would seem to be to help the government improve its systems, whereas the Federal Auditor General seems to be a more direct advocate for taxpayers. The Auditor General of Alberta's main publication is the Annual Report. It does not provide detailed information on the results of the Auditor General's investigations. Instead, its main focus is on recommending how the government can improve its accounting as well as updating the status of the government's compliance to previous years' recommendations. Unless the mandate of Alberta's Auditor General is changed, Alberta's finances will be subjected to far less scrutiny than those of the Federal Government.

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