Government business eats up MLAs’ travel budgets

NANAIMO: Three MLAs claim a combined total of $58,183 in travel expenses over a six-month period.

Quarterly financial statements on travel expenses show Nanaimo’s three MLAs claimed more than $58,000 combined over a six-month period.

Last week, for the first time, reports from all 85 MLAs were released to the public, showing expense totals from April to Sept. 30 of this year.

According to the report, Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley claimed $17,131 for the period, while Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog’s expenses totalled $15,118. Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon reported a total of $25,934.

The expense totals are broken down into five categories: capital city allowance, in-constituency travel, general travel, accompanying person travel and speaker approved travel. General travel includes travel outside of the MLA’s constituency within the province. The numbers show Routley claimed $6,253 in expenses, while Krog claimed $5,093, and Cantelon claimed $13,472.

Cantelon attributed some of the difference in expenses to having to attend functions and make announcements on behalf of the government when cabinet ministers are unavailable.

“It saves their travel expenditure when they’re requested to attend various functions up and down the Island,” he said.

All three MLAs claimed the $6,000 capital city allowance, which allows them to receive compensation for accommodations while sitting at the legislature Mondays to Thursdays.

“We’re often staying in Victoria because on a typical evening when the legislature is sitting, we’re down there until 9 or 10 o’clock [p.m.] with events and meetings and often there are receptions,” Routley said. “It would be difficult to expect that people would be driving back and forth every day.”

Routley added that in general, MLAs do their best to keep travel expenses down where they can, for example, by taking the ferry to avoid costly flight expenses.

The disclosure is a response to a report by Auditor General John Doyle, released in July, which found that MLA credit card bills were being paid without receipts, and the legislative assembly had continued to fail to produce financial statements, though it was recommended by a previous auditor general.

All three MLAs say they are in full support of the disclosure.

“There’s no reason not to be open, there’s nothing to hide,” said Cantelon. “People should know what their MLA is doing, why they’re doing it and where they’re going.”

For the full reports, please visit www.leg.bc.ca/mla/remuneration/travel_expenses.htm.

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