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Air Christy Climbs to Half Million Dollar Mark

Crack the pretzels: time for an update on our premier's latest itineraries.

Bob Mackin 25 Feb 2016TheTyee.ca

North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since he began as a journalist in 1990.

Premier Christy Clark has spent more than half-a-million dollars in almost five years on private jets to fly her and her entourage, according to documents released via Freedom of Information.

More than $65,000 of that was spent on round-trip flights from Vancouver to Kelowna since she became the area's most-senior BC Liberal MLA in July 2013. Clark's annual disclosure statement makes no mention of property in the Okanagan, but she owns a house in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

There are around a dozen scheduled commercial daily flights between Vancouver and Kelowna, but officials can make the case for chartered flights when there is no scheduled air service available to meet their schedule or that the "charter cost is economical as compared to the scheduled air service."

Government travel policy also says alternatives, such as videoconferencing, must be considered whenever practical for cost savings and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Clark flies most frequently with three or four of her aides, such as assistant Andrew Ives, press secretary Sam Oliphant and videographer Kyle Surovy, plus an RCMP bodyguard, whose name is censored. All but two of the 17 Kelowna charter trips disclosed on documents between October 2013 and November 2015 have returned to Vancouver on the same day.

By comparison, when Gordon Campbell was premier, he led his entourage a total of 17 times to various B.C. destinations on charter flights during 2009 and 2010. The total costs of Campbell's flights were not disclosed in documents that were posted on the government's Freedom of Information website.

Trip highlights include...

In 2014, Clark went for a one-day trip to Kelowna for the B.C. Wine Awards on Oct. 1 and another on Oct. 3 for the Westside Road upgrade news conference. The only overnight trip to Kelowna shown for the 2015 period was June 26 to 27. The invoice for the $4,634.09 Orca Airways round-trip from Vancouver censored two passengers' names, but a handwritten note on the invoice ordered accounting staff to "please invoice these 2 passengers to BC Liberal Party."

During those two days, BC Tree Fruits launched a new cider and West Kelowna became B.C.'s 51st city. Clark marked the milestone by tweeting a photo of a deer eating an apricot.

Clark had planned to be in Vancouver on June 21, National Aboriginal Day, to lead the Om the Bridge yoga class on the Burrard Bridge. But a backlash by the public and BC Liberal Party members forced cancelation of the event. Clark spent part of the day in Kelowna before returning to Vancouver that afternoon to attend Canada's win over Switzerland in a Women's World Cup game.

Clark made two Vancouver-to-Kelowna round-trips in consecutive days for photo opportunities with firefighters last summer. The July 23 event included an appearance by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the premier's Orca Airways itinerary shows Clark, three aides, Forest Minister Steve Thomson and her bodyguard were scheduled to be on the ground in Kelowna for a little over 2.5 hours. The cost was $4,251.45.

When Clark flew to Oliver to meet firefighters on Aug. 16, she was first flown on a $491.40 one-way Seair charter from Montague Harbour at Galiano Island, where she has vacation property, to Vancouver International Airport. The invoice for that flight shows "Clark (F)" and a name that was withheld for personal reasons, beside "(C)" which presumably means child. Clark, three aides, MLA Linda Larson, deputy forests minister Tim Sheldon and a bodyguard were on the $3,141.43 round-trip from Vancouver to Oliver.

The most expensive trip in the last two years was $16,785.63 for a round-trip to the Nov. 5-6, 2014 Western Premiers' conference in Regina with Transportation Minister Todd Stone, two deputy ministers, three aides and a bodyguard.  [Tyee]

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