SPENDING is higher for northern Members of the Legislative Assembly because of travel costs, says Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin.
Austin’s $42,733 in expenses, as listed in the 2010/2011 provincial public accounts just released, is on the high end of MLAs.
“I couldn’t even tell you how many trips I’ve made,” Austin explained of trips to Victoria. “But obviously tons, we fly down every Sunday and we come back every Friday.”
He explains that it is his legal obligation to attend legislature in the capital city and that all travel expenses need to be accounted for.
“We don’t get to travel around the province willy nilly, we have to justify it as well,” Austin said.
On addition to travel costs, Austin spent $15,683 on accommodation and other living costs while in Victoria as part of what’s called a capital city living allowance.
Austin said for his first three and a half years as MLA he stayed in a Victoria hotel, but eventually got an apartment in the provincial capital.
MLAs can spend up to $19,000 per year on accommodations in Victoria as well as $61 per day for food.
Austin costs are on par with those of North Coast NDP MLA Gary Coons who racked up $15,673 in living costs and topped Austin’s travel budget slightly with $43,084 spent on travel.
Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson spent the most of the three northwest MLAs – $20,405 on capital city allowance and $44,442 on travel expenses.
“So if you look at it and see that the three of us in the northwest, Gary Coons, myself and Doug Donaldson have substantially higher figures than say [NDP MLA] Jenny Kwan, who lives in the lower mainland,” Austin said.
Total travel costs for all MLAs in B.C. were $1,423,548, capital city allowances added up to $885,801 and salaries came to $9,199,442 which works out to $101,859 per MLA.
MLAs who have additional responsibilities as chairs of legislative committees receive a top up to their salaries. Cabinet ministers make an additional amount on top of their MLA wage.
MLAs received additional monies for offices in their ridings and for employees.