Lali tenth highest travel spender among MLAs
Fraser-Nicola NDP MLA Harry Lali was in the top 10 of travel expense spenders of his 85 peers.
The B.C. government released the quarterly MLA expense report Thursday, which recorded Lali’s travel expenses at $50,370 for the nine-month period beginning in April 2012. That’s just $564 less than what New Democrat Party leader Adrian Dix spent in the same period.
“It’s cost-in, cost-out,” Lali said. “It’s not like MLAs are making a huge profit and it’s going into their pockets.”
He said legislature allots a higher travel budget to rural MLAs because of increased travel expenses.
Lali is classified in the highest category for funding requirement.
He said much of the expenses went toward attending functions in the constituency, and participating in caucus meetings in Vancouver and government duties in Victoria.
“Rural MLAs, in order to get to Vancouver and Victoria, where most of the legislative duties and caucus meetings take place, have to drive greater distances,” he said. “In the case of Victoria, most fly and we have to take two flights — Kamloops to Vancouver and Vancouver to Victoria, and that obviously adds to the costs.”
As critic for municipalities and rural development, Lali has other areas where he needs to travel, he noted.
According to the report, Lali spent $9,000 on accommodations, $8,685 on in-constituency travel, and $26,827 on general travel.
While Lali finished in the top 12 per cent of spenders, those further away from Victoria generally spent more.
Lali has noted he is also in the fifth-largest riding in B.C., which demands longer inter-constituency travel.
The disclosure doesn’t include specifics about where MLAs drove, flew or dined.
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia also reported six-month expenses in October, when Lali spent $32,829.
That was the first time a consolidated public disclosure was required.
The new disclosure policy is a response to a damning report released in July by ex-auditor general John Doyle. In the report, he found MLA credit card bills were paid without receipts being kept as evidence of the expenses. The new procedure was also recommended by the previous auditor general in 2007.
With receipts, MLAs are allowed to claim up to $19,000 per year for rent, mortgage or hotel accommodations while they are in Victoria on legislature business. MLAs are also allotted $61 per day for meals when they are in Victoria.
The top spenders for the period are New Democrat Robin Austin, who charged $75,035; New Democrat Doug Donaldson billed $67,960; and Liberal Bill Barisoff, speaker of the house, expensed $57,010.
The quarterly expenses are posted to leg.bc.ca/mla/remuneration/travel_expenses.htm.