Redford's lonely planet

Alison Redford travelled the globe when she was Alberta's premier and so did her travel scout, forwarding photos of hotels and suites, sussing out suitable patios and restaurants and at least once advising on public toilets.

Michelle Tetreault went to such locales as China, India, Switzerland, London and Washington in the 20 months she held the position that International Relations Minister Cal Dallas said didn't exist before Redford came to power.

The Canadian Press obtained nearly 1,600 pages of Tetreault's emails through the Freedom of Information Act. Although many portions were blanked out, the documents provide a glimpse into the mysterious job.

Tetreault travelled to most locations months before the former premier, often flying business class. Government staff are allowed to fly business class on international trips longer than four hours as long as it is pre-approved.

Tetreault travelled to China in June 2012 before Redford's trade mission the following September. She compiled photos, including one of a "traditional Chinese restaurant" and another location where Redford and her staff could have steak and eggs for breakfast because "the owner sells Alberta beef."

Tetreault also set out a list of China travel tips for staff: it's custom not to place a purse or briefcase on the floor, and remember "public toilets are all crouch only."

She went to India at the end of 2013 in advance of Redford's trade mission and networking last January.

In tips Tetreault later sent to staff, some of it referenced from travel books, she included advice on shopping for souvenirs, when women should wear head scarves and historical background on the Taj Mahal.

Weather was also noted. In New Delhi, she reported, "mornings will likely consist of heavy fog until 9:30 a.m. A light jacket may be required."

Tetreault got the job shortly after Redford and the Progressive Conservatives won the 2012 election. A provincial directory lists her salary as $127,827 the following year.

Last March, shortly after Redford quit as premier due to growing criticism over her harsh leadership style and lavish spending, Tetreault's position was cancelled. She was reassigned within government.

Redford left politics for good last week when she resigned her seat as a Calgary backbencher, just one day before a scathing auditor general's report was released detailing her misuse of government planes and travel expenses.

When questioned about the travel scout job back in June, Dallas said Redford asked that the position be created to meet "her specific needs." Before then, the organization of premiers' trips was done in Alberta or by officials who worked in the province's satellite offices or by those who happened to be travelling in the locations.

A government spokesman said Tetreault could not comment on the job or her trips. She didn't respond to an email request for comment.

When Redford resigned her seat last week, she admitted in a letter that mistakes were made during her time as premier. She said she would be offering no further explanation.

Documents released in June show Tetreault's expenses totalled almost $330,000 from spring 2012 to January 2014.


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