Dean Bennett
Alberta’s NDP is asking the privacy commissioner to investigate why there is no paper trail for the cancellation of a penthouse suite that had been ordered by former premier Alison Redford.  Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous said Wednesday a freedom-of-information request on the so-called sky palace turned up nothing.  “There are no documents whatsoever,” Bilous said.  “So the question is: Are they refusing to produce these documents or are there no documents, in which case there is absolutely no paper trail on a project (for which) hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent.”  Privacy commissioner Jill Clayton is already investigating allegations that Redford’s government sought to interfere in freedom-of information requests to limit political fallout on controversial issues.  Redford resigned as premier in March amid controversy over opulent spending on herself and her inner circle.  Within days of her departure, it was revealed her office had intervened with the Infrastructure Department to make changes to the top floor of the Federal Building.  The building, a block north of the legislature, is being renovated to house politicians, political staff and civil servants. But in July 2012 Redford’s office ordered changes to the top floor to accommodate a “premier’s  suite” complete with changing and grooming areas, a fireplace, separate temperature controls, a butler’s pantry and dining and study areas.  Documents revealed $173,000 was spent on design and engineering plans that were ultimately never implemented.  Ric McIver, while serving as  infrastructure minister, said in March he cancelled the project in January because he thought it was an improper use of taxpayer dollars.  McIver left cabinet last month to run in the race to replace Redford as party leader and premier.  Deputy minister Marcia Nelson, the top civil servant in the Infrastructure Department, confirmed to an all-party committee last week that McIver cancelled the project.  Wayne Drysdale, who preceded McIver as infrastructure minister, has said he cancelled the project in December 2012.  Drysdale was reassigned to the post after McIver’s departure.  Premier Dave Hancock has disputed the characterization of the suite as a retreat for Redford only. He has told the legislature the concept was for it to be a kind of “hotel.”  McIver has said he believes some of the framing had already been done on the suite when he cancelled it.  But Nelson has said only some floor and duct work had been done, and that there were no additional construction costs charged to the abandoned penthouse.  Bilous said there should be some supporting documentation, given the nature and size of the project.  “That’s a real red flag (for) . . . this government that claims to be open and transparent yet has been the complete opposite from Day 1,” he said.  McIver did not immediately respond when asked for comment Wednesday.  Clayton is investigating a memo dispatched last November by then-deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk. It directed staff to get involved in freedom-of-information requests and to help devise strategies to respond to them.  Lukaszuk later said the directive was never implemented.  He, too, is now running to replace Redford.  The former premier’s suite is being redesigned for hosting and meeting rooms.