Premier’s security on public flights questioned by former security chief

By on November 23, 2014

Jim Prentice (Facebook photo)
Jim Prentice (Facebook photo)

EDMONTON—The former head of security for the provincial government says there is no way to ensure the premier’s safety when he travels on commercial flights.

Neil LeMay says he would advise Premier Jim Prentice to reconsider his decision to sell the government fleet.

LeMay held the Alberta government’s top security job from 2008 to 2013, which included part of former premier Alison Redford’s tenure.

Prentice grounded the planes on Sept. 16, in the wake of a scathing report from the auditor general about chronic misuse of the fleet.

Cabinet ministers must now fly on commercial airlines, or, if that’s too costly, charter a flight.

Since then, Prentice has chartered planes three times and flown commercially twice.

LeMay, who spent 27 years with the RCMP and now acts as a security advisor with a private firm, says the government should take a second look at its air-travel options.

“From a security perspective, particularly in the environment we’re in right now in Canada, I would suggest they may want to proceed cautiously,” he says.

“It’s always easier when you have a protectee like a premier or a significant minister of the government to have them travel in a secure environment that you control 100 per cent, and I think that having your own aircraft gives you an ability to do that.”

The premier’s office said there are no plans to reinstate the government fleet.

“The premier follows the instructions of the sheriffs, including with respect to his commercial travel arrangements,” spokeswoman Emily Woods said in a statement. “He will continue to fly commercial flights, just as many other premiers do regularly.”

Redford quit as premier in March ahead of a caucus and party revolt over reports of exorbitant spending on herself and her inner circle.

In August, Auditor General Merwan Saher said he found during an investigation that Redford and others had abused public trust by using government aircraft for personal reasons or to attend partisan political events.

He said Redford at times used the planes to fly her daughter and her daughter’s friends around. On two occasions her daughter flew solo.

Saher also said Redford’s team added phoney passengers to flight lists to give the impression the plane was booked, which allowed Redford and her team to fly by themselves.