B.C.'s MLAs cracked open their travel expenses Wednesday, revealing a $1.5-million bill for taxpayers in the first half of the fiscal year.
The disclosure, posted on the legislature's website, is the first of its kind by the province's 85 politicians.
The move comes after a scathing report by the auditor general into the legislature's finances this year, which prompted a promise of better bookkeeping and transparency by MLAs.
Robin Austin, the NDP MLA for Skeena, earned the dubious distinction of having the highest expenses during the period from April 1 to Sept. 30.
Austin's $53,606 bill to taxpayers included a trip to Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference Sept. 7-15.
Austin was invited by Speaker Bill Barisoff because his family is from Sri Lanka, said an NDP spokesperson. Barisoff, who as Speaker has a largely ceremonial role at the legislature, racked up $46,410 in travel. He's the MLA for Penticton.
Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger billed the most for food. He expensed $2,498, based on a $61 per diem when in Victoria. No receipts are required for that expense.
Pat Pimm, the Liberal MLA for Peace River North, billed the most for capital city accommodation, at $9,300. MLAs from outside the Capital Regional District are allowed up to $19,000 a year in hotel or apartment rentals, with receipts, or $1,000 a month without receipts.
Pat Bell, the Liberal MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie, claimed the most taxpayer-paid trips for an accompanying person, with nine trips totalling $8,034. MLAs are allowed 12 paid trips per year for an additional person.
Cabinet ministers, whose travel, food and accommodation is initially paid for by their ministries, did not release figures on Wednesday.
The ministers' monthly travel expenses and annual accommodation totals are posted on the Open Government website.
The MLA travel expenses did not include receipts, as Barisoff had previously promised.
Critics have said the top-level totals are useless because they don't allow the public to see whether individual purchases are appropriate.
Travel expenses are to be posted quarterly by MLAs. The cost of MLA constituency offices, including staff salary and rent, is expected to be released in January.
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