Although she paid back the money, she will have those costs covered from her living allowance available to all MLAs who live outside Edmonton, Fisher said.
“If she goes for lunch with a constituent and they talk about parks, is that an MLA expense or a ministerial expense?” he said. “It’s just pulling it out of different bank account.”
However, Anderson said he was having difficulty swallowing the explanation of honest mistakes, since none of the other rookie ministers had the same trouble: “Mistakes do happen, but they do not happen 31 times in a five-month period.”
Cusanelli could not be reached for comment.
All expenses incurred by ministers after Oct. 1 are being regularly posted online in accordance with a new expense policy ordered by Premier Alison Redford.
Don Scott, associate minister of accountability, transparency and transformation, said Wednesday’s disclosure is proof Redford is serious about having the toughest expense policy in the country.
“The premier made a commitment that we were going to be the most open and transparent government in Canada, and that’s exactly what I want to deliver,” Scott said.
“We’re delivering it, whether our critics accept it or not.”
Among Cusanelli’s colleagues, the documents show Energy Minister Ken Hughes regularly pre-booked a sedan service for trips to and from airports, which costs almost double the price of a regular taxi. Hughes said getting a cab, especially in Calgary, is often a difficult task.
“I think Albertans would want their energy minister to show up on time,” Hughes said. “You need a predictable service to get you from point A to B.”
However, Hughes said he gave up the car service when the government’s new expenses policy came into force. It states that “taxis are the preferred method of ground transportation”
Still, the minister noted he and members of his staff were left waiting for a ride for more than an hour at one recent event, and his wife actually came and drove them all to the airport. He said in some cases, the car service might still be appropriate.
The documents also show Redford’s expenses for September, and her airfare for multiple stops in Asia from Sept. 8-16 cost more than $18,000 â€” with a change fee of almost $1,200 required so Redford could get back early following the death of former premier Peter Lougheed.
Jay O’Neill, a spokesman for the premier, said Redford has been clear about the importance to Alberta’s economy of overseas market access, and trips like these will pay huge dividends.
“It’s critical to not only Alberta’s economic future, but also Canada’s,” O’Neill said. “Asia is a key market.”
International and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Cal Dallas also had to pay a change fee of $2,300 at the time of Lougheed’s death to come home early from a trip to Europe.
In general, fine dining, luxurious hotels and expensive flights were fairly rare, though the documents show some ministers do indulge from time to time. In some cases, it’s unclear who the ministers are buying for because the description is scribbled in illegible writing. In a number of cases, itemized receipts, including who was actually at the dinner, are missing.