May 15, 2018 11:09 pm
Updated: May 16, 2018 12:18 am

Taxpayers spent over $6,000 on one B.C. MLA’s food in 9 months. For another, they spent $52

The controversy continues over the BC Liberals' call for Victoria-area MLAs to lose their $61-a-day per diems for meals and as Richard Zussman reports, a closer look at the numbers reveals the questionable spending habits of certain MLAs.

A A

When B.C. MLAs are in Victoria, they’re entitled to taxpayer-funded per diems of $61 per day so they can pay for food.

They don’t have to produce the receipt and they’re entitled to the full amount even if they spend less than that.

WATCH: Bill introduced to end free lunches for Victoria MLAs

And it’s a perk they only enjoy in B.C.’s capital. Even the ones who live there can take advantage of it.

A report available on B.C.’s legislative website shows just how much money taxpayers spent on MLAs’ food in the period from April 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.

It’s there for all to see as the B.C. Liberals call for Victoria-area MLAs to lose access to the per diem — a proposition that B.C. Green Party leader and Oak Bay-Gordon head MLA Andrew Weaver has pushed back upon.

READ MORE: BC Liberals call for Victoria-area MLAs to lose their $61-a-day per diem for meals

Story continues below

At $6,637, Katrine Conroy, the BC NDP MLA for Kootenay West and minister of children and family development, racked up the biggest bill of all members between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2017.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert was second with $4,732, and Min. Doug Donaldson was third, with $4,416.

“I’ve ended up spending a lot more time in Victoria than I’d expected to,” Herbert told Global News.

“With a young family I don’t travel back and forth to Vancouver as much as I used to.”

MLAs from the other side of the legislature also racked up food bills in that time frame.

Liberal Mike Bernier claimed $4,066, while Coralee Oakes claimed $3,665.

“I find it cheaper to actually stay in Victoria for an extra day or two,” he told Global News.

“$61 for food is a lot cheaper than $600 for a flight back home.”

The B.C. Legislative building sets the backdrop as tourist takes pictures on Canada Day, in Victoria, B.C., July 1, 2011.

Chad Hipolito/CP

But not every MLA claimed high per diem expenses.

BC NDP MLA Lana Popham was at the bottom of the list, having charged a total of $52 to the taxpayer.

All told, sitting MLAs charged $253,239 to the taxpayer for food.

“There is no evidence that MLAs are abusing but there is a question mark in people’s mind that someone making six figures, sometimes quite high six figures, they are enjoying the perks of office to a level that is concerning,” Integrity BC’s Dermod Travis told Global News.

On top of the per diem, MLAs could either expense their hotel stays or receive $1,000 per month for separate accommodations.

“The $12,000 lottery win is a $1,000 month that the MLA can spend it as they wish, no question asked, no receipts, that’s the program [that] needs to be brought to an end,” Travis said.

“Most years the legislature only sits for 50, 60 days a year, the idea we are going to give them $12,000 a year is frankly an insult.”

READ MORE: B.C. government defends payroll tax in face of looming property tax increases

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee is in charge of setting per diems for MLAs.

The committee is set to review the issue in the fall.

“There is a policy that came into being after the last review by an independent panel, they are the ones that set the policy up [so] it would be $61,” said Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

Others believe the per diem amounts are fine as is.

“The per diems are a pretty reasonable price to pay to keep people interested in getting involved in politics,” said political theorist David Moscrop,

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.