NDP says it will sell politicians’ exclusive airplanes if elected April 4

By on March 3, 2016

Economy Minister Bill Boyd (in photo) spent nearly $400,000 on government flights. (Photo from the Government of Saskatchewan's website)
Economy Minister Bill Boyd (in photo) spent nearly $400,000 on government flights.
(Photo from the Government of Saskatchewan’s website)

SASKATOON—Saskatchewan’s NDP says it will end what it calls “the gravy plane for politicians” if elected April 4.

The party says it will sell a taxpayer-funded fleet of airplanes exclusively for the premier and cabinet ministers.

The NDP says documents accessed through the freedom of information law show that Economy Minister Bill Boyd spent nearly $400,000 on government flights.

It says on 279 occasions, Boyd had the airplane pick him up or drop him off at his home in southern Saskatchewan.

NDP Leader Cam Broten says selling two of the planes would bring in about $4 million, while the third plane would be retrofitted to become an air ambulance based in northern Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Party countered that it spent less on the planes last year than the NDP did during their last year in office in 2007, and said replacing the aircraft with charter flights would be more expensive.

“We’ve used these aircraft to fly into the north with Red Cross workers to deal with emergencies. We’ve had them on standby for evacuation,” Education Minister Don Morgan said Thursday.

“They’re also capable of being quickly retrofitted or flipped over for use as air ambulances.”

The latest announcement comes from the NDP even though the election has not officially started.

The Alberta government said last year that it had sold off three of four planes that were part of its fleet. The planes had become symbols of waste, excess and entitlement that brought down former PC premier Alison Redford.

Alberta auditor general Merwan Saher reported in 2014 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.

Alberta government MLAs also used the planes to fly to political events under the guise of official government business.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s office recently defended her travel after documents obtained by a freelance journalist showed she spent more than $500,000 on private planes over the past five years.