Skeena NDP MLA tops in travel expenses

Some of Robin Austin's travel was approved by the Speaker of the House

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin topped the list of legislative travel expenses for the six months ending Sept. 30 with a total of $53,606.

Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff, a Liberal from southern BC who, was second with travel expenditures of $46,410 while NDP MLA Norm Macdonald was third with $45,332.

Barisoff, who announced in August he would not be seeking re-election, was in charge of monitoring MLA expenses. He came under scrutiny earlier this year after the auditor general released a report criticizing how MLA expenses were managed.

Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson placed fourth at $42,678 while Liberal John Rustad, who represents the Nechako Lakes riding, was fifth at $39,653 and Gary Coons, who represents the NDP for the North Coast riding was sixth with $37,514.

The list of MLA expenses was released today.

A significant portion of Austin’s travel expenses – $19,486 – came under the category of spending approved by the Speaker of the House.

An explanatory note says examples include out of province or out of country travel in connection with specific duties such as Commonwealth Parliamentary Association functions.

Take away Austin’s speaker-approved travel and his remaining expenses of $34,120 place him in the mid-range of MLA travel spending.

Austin spent $21,708 in general travel with a per diem total of $785.

He spent $6,000 on accommodation while in Victoria and $1,356 on a per diem allowance while there.

Austin’s Speaker-approvel travel included a trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka in September to attend a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference.

Routine expenses include the “capital city allowance,” for which most MLAs who live outside Greater Victoria claim $1,000 a month without receipts. With receipts, out-of-town MLAs can claim up to $19,000 a year for rent, mortgage or hotel accommodation while in Victoria on legislature business.

MLAs are also eligible for $61 a day for meals while in Victoria on legislature business.