When it comes to travel expenses paid to MLAs, North Coast MLA Gary Coons had among the highest for the period from April 1 to September 30.
Of all of the sitting MLAs, only five had higher travel expenses than Coons. Coons’ total bill for the period was $37,514 with $5,790 for in-constituency travel and $20,574 for travel within the province – also the fifth highest out of all MLAs.
Unlike several other MLAs Coons had no Speaker Approved travel expenses, those expenses associated with out-of-province or out-of-country travel in connection with certain duties, and when those expenses are removed Coons actually sits at number five among MLAs for travel.
“It comes down to distance…There are 57 other MLAs who can walk, drive or take a ferry and they are here. There are another 22 who could get here without much challenge,” said Coons, who also noted that much of the information from provincial ministers is missing citing the $70 in general travel recorded for Justice Minister Shirley Bond and the zero dollars in travel recorded for Jobs Minister Pat Bell.
“To some degree it’s nice to have this information, but to some degree it’s pretty insignificant…There are 23 MLAs missing information because they are Ministers
In comparison to nearby MLAs, however, Coons is below those in the northwest. Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson had travel expenses totaling $42,678 and Skeena MLA Robin Austin topped the list with expenses totaling $53,606 of which $19,486 was Speaker Approved travel. The other MLAs higher than Coons were Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff at $46,410, Columbia River -Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald at $45,332 and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.
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.