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Alberta politician caught in prostitution sting welcomed back to Tory caucus

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EDMONTON - An Alberta politician caught trying to buy sex from undercover officers in Minnesota while on a government trip has been allowed back into the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Government whip George VanderBurg said Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo member of the legislature Mike Allen has been accepted back after a secret-ballot vote by caucus members.

VanderBurg said Allen approached him a couple of weeks to discuss re-entering caucus. He would not discuss the results of the vote, only that it was "yes."

"Mike joined us after the caucus meeting for lunch and he got a very, very warm welcome ... He got a warm applause and lots of pats on the back," VanderBurg said.

"Mike had made a mistake. He admitted that. He paid his price both personally and publicly. He made his apology. He had his time in the corner and now it is time for Mike to get back to work. In all of us, we forgive people for their sins."

Allen said it was always his hope to return to the Tory caucus and he's "grateful that they've accepted my back into the fold."

He was arrested in 2013 while in Minnesota representing the province at a conference on cross-border issues. He pleaded guilty in St. Paul, Minn., to a misdemeanour after he contacted officers who had posted a fake online ad for escorts.

Police reported Allen, who was single at the time, arranged to meet pair of prostitutes who were actually female undercover officers and he agreed to pay about $200 for sex.

He had just put some cash on a counter in his hotel room and was starting to undress when other police officers came in and arrested him.

He apologized and told his hometown paper, Fort McMurray Today, that he ended a serious relationship prior to the St. Paul trip and he was lonely.

Allen said Monday he "stepped out of line.

"I made a grave error in judgment and its something I think about every day ... I think about what got me to that point. I reached a low point in my life and I made a decision on an impulse. So the biggest lesson I learned was that there are many choices we make as we move through life and you always have to think about what the impacts of those choices are going to have on what you do."

Allen said he knows he disappointed many people.

"It's something I will have to keep working on and will keep working to regain that trust from those that aren't happy with what I did."

He said he hasn't decided whether he will run again in the next election.

After Allen was arrested, then premier Alison Redford said she was "disgusted" by his actions and called them "more than inappropriate."

Allen was removed from caucus and a U.S. judge ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines and penalties.

VanderBurg said he doesn't think there will be a political price to letting Allen back in.

"The message I've heard very clearly is that Mike works hard in his constituency, he worked hard to get elected and he has worked hard both as a PC member and as an Independent member."

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