No fewer than five high-ranking officials within the Prentice government have already been tapped to take on jobs within the Tory campaign once the provincial election kicks off.
CBC News obtained an agenda from this past weekend’s “Campaign College,” a one-day event held at a Red Deer hotel.
Those involved in both high-level government work and high-level campaign work include:
Patricia Misutka, principal secretary to Premier Jim Prentice;
Christel Hyshka, chief of staff to Health Minister Stephen Mandel;
Mike Storeshaw, director of communications for the premier;
Rosa Ellithorpe, director of government caucus;
Craig Davis, policy manager.
“The frustration is that it’s going right to the premier’s office,” said Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman. “After 40-plus years, the complacency and the lack of definition between the legislative side of things and the party side of things is completely blurred.”
Of the high-ranking officials with Tory campaign jobs, Misutka is on the party’s provincial campaign team and will be in the so-called “war room,” where decisions are made about events, locations and messaging.
Also in the war room will be Ellithorpe and Hyshka.
Strankman said it’s hard to believe they have all prepared for their campaign work strictly outside of working hours.
“They need to be aware of their position … and they need to be cognizant of what they are doing. And using government or taxpayer dollars to bring forward their own political views is simply unacceptable.”
Prentice spokesperson Emily Woods replied to some CBC questions on the issue via e-mail.
“Employees in the premier’s office work on government business during government hours and are free to spend their personal time as they wish; this may include volunteering with the PC party.”
Woods confirmed that none of these government workers are currently on a leave of absence and all are employed full time.
When asked last week about keeping government and party work separate, Prentice insisted there is a proper division that should be clear to everyone.
“The party is a separate operation with separate offices, and that is what they do and that is what they’re engaged in, and they’re very busy. My office, the premier’s office, is the office where the government of Alberta is centred, and that’s what goes on in my office.”
Asked if any of the workers will take a leave of absence once the campaign begins, Woods said the writ has not yet dropped, and she “cannot speculate on what may or may not happen in the future.”