Keith Baldrey on Speaker Spending

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia Linda Reid.

Political landscapes are littered with the fallout from spending controversies, and many of them involve relatively small amounts of money, especially when compared to the gargantuan size of government spending.

Alison Redford found the skids greased for her departure from Alberta’s premier’s office for spending $45,000 of taxpayers’ money for a trip to South Africa.  Ex-senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin found themselves in the soup for wrongly expensing thousands (not millions) of dollars.

And here in B.C., NDP MLA Jenny Kwan had to write a $35,000 cheque to cover some improperly paid-for travel expenses and as a result her political future is very much in doubt.

And now the Speaker of the provincial legislature, Linda Reid, finds herself mired once again in controversy over her spending habits.

Already red-faced (one assumes) over being caught spending $45,000 on a computer console for herself and $700 on a muffin rack for MLAs, Reid now finds herself admitting she flew her husband to South Africa last summer at taxpayers’ expense.

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Reid was attending the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (which is held in countries that just happen to have great weather and/or major tourist value, such as South Africa, the Bahamas, Kenya and England) which is what Speakers in British Commonwealth parliaments and legislatures like to do.

She decided it would be a great idea if she took her husband along. But they flew first-class (something the government forbids for its own civil service or politicians) and taxpayers paid not only for her ticket, but for her husband’s as well (a return ticket likely cost between $7,000 and $12,000).

Reid helpfully posted some photos of her trip on her Twitter feed, and they have been quickly downloaded by grateful journalists and retweeted or posted to their websites, so a much wider audience than her 1,426 Twitter followers can have access to them.

My favorite photos are one of her husband petting a giraffe looming over his head, with the caption reading: “My husband making new friends” and another of Reid laying beside some lion cubs.

What either of those two activities have to do with being a legislature Speaker is not yet entirely clear.

Reid has been Speaker for less than a year, but she has already earned the unenviable reputation of spending tax dollars at whim, on things some may consider to be questionable at best.

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The Speaker is the supreme ruler of the legislature, and really answers to no one. I suspect neither the governing B.C. Liberals or the Opposition NDP is too happy about the latest revelations about their Speaker, but don’t expect either side to scream too loudly.

The legislature’s management committee, made up of both B.C. Liberal and NDP MLAs, have already quietly rapped Reid on the knuckles for her spending. So perhaps the Speaker will have learned her lesson.

On the other hand, there is another Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference scheduled for this year, so you never know. This one is in Cameroon by the way. I think they have game farms there too.

UPDATE: Reid has since agreed to repay more than $5,500 she billed the government, and said that NDP MLA Raj Chouhan was also on the trip with his wife.

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