British Columbians paid nearly $100,000 in travel expenses to two northern Members of the Legislative Assembly during the last nine months of 2013.
According to records released last week by the province, New Democratic Party MLA Doug Donaldson (Stikine) was paid $49,536 for travel between April 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. In that same period, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad (who also serves as provincial minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation) racked up $48,961 in travel expenses.
These totals also included travel by people accompanying the MLAs. Each year, MLAs are permitted to bill the province for up to 12 trips by “accompanying persons.” While MLAs usually reserve this perk for their spouses, it can be (and often is) utilized to cover the cost of transporting staff members to meetings and other functions.
In the last nine months of 2013, Donaldson was reimbursed for $7,254 worth of “accompanying person” expenses incurred during eight trips. Only Michelle Mungall, Donaldson’s NDP colleague and MLA for Nelson-Creston, had higher expenses of this type ($7,806).
During the same period, Rustad’s “accompanying person” expenses totaled $2,596.
Donaldson also received a higher “capital city” accommodations allowance than Rustad. Donaldson was paid $12,600 to help defer the cost of living in Victoria for part of the year – the second highest total among BC MLAs – while Rustad collected $9,000.
Rustad billed the province for more ‘general’ travel costs ($27,575) than did Donaldson, who claimed $19,821.
While both Rustad and Donaldson, who represent remote rural ridings, made the province’s ‘top 10’ list of MLAs with the highest travel costs last year, neither finished first. The MLA with the highest travel costs over the last nine months of 2013 was Kootenay East representative Bill Bennett. Bennett, who currently serves as minister of energy and mines, was paid $61,220 during the period.
Donaldson could not be reached for comment, and Rustad did not respond to requests for an interview.
Between April 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013, BC’s 85 MLAs were paid a total of $2,313,943 in travel expenses.