At first glance, it might look like Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger’s travel expenses are way out of line when compared with those of his colleague in Kamloops-North Thompson.
But, when Terry Lake’s accommodation allowance as a cabinet minister is added to his MLA expenses, the amount is more in line with Krueger’s.
When combined, Lake’s travel expenses as MLA and cabinet minister total about $25,000 and Krueger’s are $29,159.
“It’s kind of confusing,” Lake said of the two reports. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”
The B.C. government released for the first time Wednesday the travel expenses of MLAs after a scathing report by the auditor general said the legislature’s financial books were a mess.
The expenses cover the first six months of this fiscal year, from April 1 to Sept. 30, and show B.C.’s 85 MLAs spent a total of $1.5 million.
In the report, Lake’s expenses come in at $5,959.
The biggest spender was New Democrat Robin Austin, who billed $53,606 during the period, followed by Liberal Bill Barisoff, the speaker of the house, with $46,410, and Norm MacDonald, another New Democrat, who billed $45,332.
Lake and Krueger’s expenses sit in the middle of the list.
Krueger defended Austin’s spending, saying the education critic is honest, hard working and constantly on the road visiting B.C. schools.
“I wouldn’t question that for a second,” said Krueger.
Krueger and Lake said the public has a right to know what their MLAs are spending. Publishing the report holds them accountable.
“I think it’s good for people to know,” said Lake.
But the posting of the expenses came only after Auditor General John Doyle released a report this summer, saying the financial books of the B.C. legislature were so chaotic that it was impossible to tell if money was being well spent.
Doyle’s report found that MLA credit card bills are being paid without receipts and the legislative assembly hasn’t produced financial statements despite a 2007 recommendation from the previous auditor general.