Some B.C. MLAs racked up more than $30,000 in travel expenses during the past six months, including Richmond's Linda Reid, while others barely cracked $3,000, according to new figures released this week by the Legislature.
Not surprisingly, the data suggest MLAs in large, remote ridings have the most expenses while those whose ridings are near Victoria have the lowest.
Doug Donaldson, NDP MLA for Stikine, had the highest expenses overall at $33,202, followed closely by Liberal MLAs Terry Lake (Kamloops-North Thompson) at $33,147 and Pat Pimm (Peace River North) at $31,604.
Linda Reid, Liberal MLA for Richmond East, came in fourth at $30,771, but more than a third of her expenses involved travel duties related to her role as Speaker.
Pimm noted in a phone interview that his riding is both the largest in the province and the furthest from Victoria.
"It can be 15 hours to go from one end of my riding to the other," he said. "In some ridings, it's 15 minutes on a bicycle."
Pimm, who has also been travelling across B.C. to meet with farmers in his role as agriculture minister, said it's important for MLAs to see the province.
"We all get tied up in the Lower Mainland and the Capital Region," he said. "Getting out and seeing each area of the province is really critical for MLAs and ministers because each region is different."
MLAs' travel expenses involve several components, including a set allowance for travel within their constituency based on how large their riding is, a housing allowance to help them afford a place in Victoria, and a per diem for every day they spend in the capital.
MLAs are also allowed to expense the cost of travelling around the province and can bring along a travel companion for up to 12 trips a year.
NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis, whose Esquimalt-Royal Roads riding is a short drive from the Legislature, had the lowest expenses of any MLA at just $3,233.
An all-party committee agreed last year to begin releasing more details on MLA expenses after a damning report by auditor-general John Doyle found significant deficiencies in how MLA expenses had been tracked and reported. An interactive graphic at vancouversun.com breaks down the travel expenses for each MLA by category.
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