Friday April 18, 2014

Public spending is always news

Terry Lake is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

The Kamloops-North Thompson MLA racked up the second-highest amount of travel expenses among MLAs between April 1 and Sept. 30 of this year.

Given his previous portfolio as Minister of Environment and his new appointment as Minister of Health after May’s election, that’s completely understandable.

Lake has an entirely new portfolio to learn as head of the largest single ministry in the province with literally hundreds of facilities in every corner of B.C. We expect nothing less than his full attention to seeing the health-care system first-hand in as many places as possible early in his tenure.

Rural ministers also tend to do more travel than those located in the Lower Mainland or the capital, as well, as they make their way to and from the province’s political hub and around their geographically vast ridings.

Yet when spending reports are released, someone has to be at the top — and that makes Lake a target with his spending at $33,147 between April 1 and the end of September, just a hair behind the highest spending MLA, Doug Donaldson from the Stikine riding, with $33,202.

What is most surprising is that most people seem to be giving Lake as an easy target a miss.

We’re gratified to see that the more typical sources of complaint when politicians spend money — the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and even our own online commenters — are interpreting Lake’s expenses in this spirit of understanding. It was even asked by some commenters why this was a story.

To which we can easily respond: MLA expenses are always a story, even when they are reasonable and justified. The guardians of our public purse must always be accountable, and it’s only right to report the results of that accountability even when they are in good order.

In fact, it’s a pleasant change, after watching so much ink being spilled in the Senate expense crisis embroiling Mike Duffy and in the circus surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, for B.C. to not be the go-to place for scandal.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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