In his first official press conference as premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice announced that he is putting the government planes up for sale.
Prentice added that MLAss and ministers are required to use commercial flights to get around the province and for ministerial travel.
“The Alberta government is no longer in the business of owning planes,” Prentice said. “I have instructed officials to begin an RFP that will provide best overall value to access communities where the distance is too far to drive or commercial flights are not available.”
Prentice said that the decision to sell the government flights had no relation to the selection of cabinet ministers, and that all MLAs would be expected to follow suit.
He also mentioned that until the sale goes through, that any flights on the government planes would need approval from the premier’s office.
Flights have been a major headache for the PC government, since it was revealed that ministers and former premier Alison Redford had used the government aircraft service, which is meant for non-partisan use only, for PC party events.
Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke said that the announcement from the premier provides a clear message to the people of Alberta.
“There is a clear message that we feel that this is the right move on the part of the premier to move forward,” he said.
“That is the right direction we need to be going.”
Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta director Derek Fildebrandt said that the sale of the government flights is the right thing to do.
“This is a good start for Mr. Prentice as premier,” said Fildebrandt. “This isn’t going to balance the budget or ensure the end of entitlements, but it is a good symbolic start towards cleaning up the mess.”
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said that the sale of the service has been long advocated by the Wildrose Party.
“However, this was the right thing to do six months ago,” she said in a news conference,
“It seems as though this is something the PC government has done with reluctance rather than something they’ve done out of conviction or principle.
“If Mr. Prentice is serious about addressing the culture of entitlement, he will need to take a firmer stand on government travel and send the message that no minister is above the standards Albertans expect.”
Prentice said he expects the process of selling the government assets to take between three and four months.
“This will be done carefully and thought-fully,” Prentice said, adding that 27 employees in government air transportation service will be affected.