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Alberta taxpayers paid $173,000 for plush Redford penthouse never built

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford returned to work as the backbench MLA for the riding of Calgary-Elbow at the legislature in Edmonton on Monday, May 5, 2014. Redford had not been in the legislature since she resigned March 23.


Alberta taxpayers were billed $150,000 just for design concepts on a planned penthouse for former premier Alison Redford, show documents tabled this week in the legislature.

The total bill for all consulting work on the suite, dubbed the "sky palace" by the opposition and media, was just over $173,000.

The documents were tabled Tuesday by former Infrastructure minister Ric McIver.

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They show that $150,000 was spent on conceptual design, related contract documents, and fittings.

There was $11,850 for advice on how to change the plumbing and air systems. There was $7,400 on suggestions on lighting and power changes. Architect fees to co-ordinate the engineering subconsultants were pegged at $3,850.

The penthouse was to be on the 11th floor of the Federal Building – an historic structure under renovation that will eventually house offices for all members of the legislature along with other government officials.

It is a block north of the legislature, and the top offers stunning views of the sandstone-domed structure.

The project was run by the Infrastructure Department, but e-mail correspondence released in March revealed that starting in late 2012, Redford's office became involved and ordered changes to the 10th and 11th floors.

The changes called for a "premier's suite" built to the style of the ultra-posh Hay Adams Hotel in Washington D.C.

There would be bedrooms for Redford and her preteen daughter, Sarah, a shared bathroom, a powder room, a walk-in closet, a butler's pantry and areas for dining, studying and lounging.

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There would be grooming and changing areas, a fireplace and room-by-room temperature controls.

There were multiple e-mails on the composition of room-divider panels. One memo urgently demanded "colour boards." Another spoke of 3D floor plans.

Ultimately, the suite was never finished.

McIver has said he learned of it in January, just weeks after taking over the Infrastructure portfolio.

He said some of the framing for the suite had already been done. He ordered the existing framing redone to turn the floor into meeting rooms and cancelled the premier's penthouse.

McIver said it wasn't something taxpayers should pay for.

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The new expense totals follow up on a raft of memos, e-mails and reports released by the province in late March, less than a week after Redford resigned ahead of a reported caucus and party revolt over her spending and plummeting poll numbers.

The documents showed that at one point, city planners balked at Redford's apartment. They said if she planned to stay overnight, the development permit had to be changed and made public.

Redford's office replied that nothing would be made public for security reasons.

There has been confusion over who killed the penthouse project. Wayne Drysdale, the current Transportation Minister but Infrastructure minister at the time, has said he thought he cancelled the project in late 2012.

Drysdale, ironically, is now Infrastructure Minister again. McIver resigned from cabinet Tuesday to announce Wednesday he will run in the PC party leadership race to replace Redford.

Opponents have held up the suite as the symbol of the excess and entitlement of the governing party. Since the project was reportedly killed twice, the Wildrose party refers to it as the "zombie sky palace."

Premier Dave Hancock admitted Wednesday the project went off the rails.

"It wasn't appropriate," said Hancock.

"Infrastructure should have been in charge of that process right along, and I think that's what we need to make sure [that happens in the future].

"It should all come back to the ministry."

However, he said, "at the end of the day [the Federal Building] will be a good project for Albertans."

Redford has refused to comment on the planned penthouse, saying she has moved on with her new life as a backbencher for the riding of Calgary-Elbow.

All members of Redford's inner circle have left the government, sharing $1.3-million in severance.

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