Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey has thrown his support behind a new Government of Alberta website that discloses ministerial and staff expenses in a bid to increase transparency for politicians.
Originally announced in September, the new site fulfills a promise the PC government made for the public to see expense claims and receipts submitted by cabinet ministers and senior officials in the public service.
“It will make the information more readily available, so it adds an accountability factor that you hope would have been there all along. Nevertheless, it ensures that it’s there,” Casey said.
“I’ve been around this for a long time,” he added. “Having someone look at all this or know what your expenses are is fine with me. You have a job to do and you expense what is part of the job and that’s really all there is to it.”
The expenses and receipts are available in a searchable database and can be downloaded online. Members of the public can search for certain ministers and senior officials’ expenses.
The website also shows details on expenses relating to travel, accommodations, meals and hospitality and includes claims from associate ministers, political staff, deputy ministers and executive ministers in the public service sector.
“This certainly has a level of transparency that exceeds anything that municipally you would have in most places,” the MLA said. “My understanding from the information we were given is that it’s as good as any legislation in the county.”
Incorporating the use of new technology has shifted the way both politicians and the public communicate with one another and is one of the main reasons why this increase in transparency has come to fruition.
“One thing that’s making this more possible is just the whole electronic age we live in,” he said. “Making that information available to taxpayers is really much easier in today’s world than it would have been 10 years ago.
“You would hope that all levels of government would eventually adopt a similar kind of policy that allows the normal person on the street to have access to information they want. It’s obviously the right thing to do.”
According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the new website and disclosure policy makes Alberta “the gold-standard for expense transparency.”
“The government and MLAs in all parties deserve credit for doing the right thing and making their expenses public,” said CTF Alberta director, Derek Fildebrandt in a press release.
“Knowing that Albertans are watching will go a great distance in ensuring that expenses from public officials are appropriate and reasonable,” he added. “Alberta’s federal MPs should take a cue from their provincial counterparts and post their expenses online.”
Premier Alison Redford commented on the launch of the new site and in a press release called it the “most transparent expense disclosure policy in Canada.
“I am proud that we are taking this next step in providing Albertans the accountable government they expect and deserve,” the premier said.
The expenses can be viewed online at www.alberta.ca/travelandexpensedisclosure.cfm