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BC Politics

Air Christy Hits New Milestone: $355,000

Where in the province is our premier's posse flying? Your latest update.

Bob Mackin 18 Oct

North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin, a regular contributor to The Tyee, has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since 1990. Find his Tyee articles here.

Premier Christy Clark spent more than $66,000 on charter jet flights between December and July, according to invoices released under Freedom of Information.

The latest spending puts the cost of jetting Clark, cabinet colleagues and staff around the province at more than $355,000 since she was sworn-in March 14, 2011.

The records do not include the invoice from Clark's Aug. 7 trip to assess the Mount Polley disaster.

That round-trip from Vancouver to Williams Lake via Anderson Air included executive assistant Jordan McPhee, caucus communications director Shane Mills, aboriginal issues advisor Wade Grant, Environment Minister Mary Polak and her assistant Tom Hancock. Ministry of Finance FOI clerks have previously said processing time for invoices is up to a month.

The priciest trip

The most expensive trip was May 1 for a Vancouver to Fort Nelson round-trip to attend a meeting with Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gayle. Anderson Air charged $13,539.14 for the flights.

Gayle famously asked provincial officials to leave an April 16 liquefied natural gas industry summit and held aloft an eagle feather to exert authority. Gayle's nation eventually signed a deal with Black Diamond Dene LP for a long-term LNG work camp lease in the Horn River Basin.

The passengers were Clark, McPhee, Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad, deputy minister Steve Munro, chief of staff Dan Doyle and two people whose names were censored but referred to as "minister's guests." The government claimed the names are private and protected by the Freedom of Information Act's fear of harm to law enforcement clause.

Doyle is a former highways ministry deputy minister and BC Hydro chair who handled aboriginal relations for VANOC after overseeing the completion of venues for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Clark, McPhee, Doyle and a fourth person, whose name was withheld, departed Victoria on a 9:45 p.m. Pacific Coastal Airlines flight the previous night, which cost $1,351.27.

A July 18 Anderson Air trip to Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and back to Vancouver cost $10,786.42. The passengers included Clark, McPhee, spokesman Sam Oliphant, Deputy Premier and Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman, Polak and Munro. Three names were redacted for security and privacy reasons.

Anderson Air owner John Anderson, president of the Oppenheimer Group, has donated $7,600 to the BC Liberals since 2009.

Three one-day trips to her constituency

Clark's two-day California trip via London Aviation Services on Feb. 5 and 6 cost $9,738.75. Clark, McPhee and Oliphant were joined by then-Government Communications and Public Engagement deputy minister Athana Mentzelopoulos and a person whose name was redacted, but referred to as "minister's guest."

Clark met with an executive of Indian-owned visual effects house, Prime Focus World, in Hollywood before the entourage flew to Sacramento where Clark addressed the California State senate.

The Jan. 30, July 22 and Dec. 11 one-day trips were to Kelowna, where she is one of the local MLAs. Two of the flights were on Blackcomb Aviation, the charter airline owned by prominent BC Liberal David McLean, and the other by Pacific Coastal. The Dec. 11 trip included a liquor deregulation announcement at West Kelowna's Gidda family-owned Volcanic Hills Estate winery.

Other trips included Quesnel for the Economic and Innovation Forum ($2,646.50 on April 11), a Kitimat news conference for the sale of an old hospital site to the Haisla First Nation ($7,627.53 on June 17), and the Premier's B.C. Natural Resource Forum in Prince George ($6,586.18 on Jan. 21-22).  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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