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May 27, 2010

MLA Expense Disclosure

The backlash members of parliament are facing over not allowing Auditor General Sheila Fraser to examine their expense claims is spreading to the provincial legislature. Just wait until the public figures out that is the least of what they don't know about "members' compensation".

Both the government house leader, Mike de Jong, and opposition house leader, Mike Farnworth, are reported as saying they are prepared to discuss the issue of auditing MLA's expenses.

When the legislative assembly management committee is discussing opening the books on expenses claimed by MLAs, it should also revisit the disclosure requirements in Section 40 of the Members' Remuneration and Pensions Act which requires disclosure on a Legislative website of purchases of past pension service, but does not require disclosure of any of the pay and perks MLAs receive year to year.

If you click on http://www.leg.bc.ca go to the left menu bar and click on Members and then click on Remuneration, you will find a page that refers you to the Public Accounts. What kind of increased transparency is it to simply refer to accounts that have been public for decades, always more than a year out of date and never on the simple basis of revealing annual salaries, benefits and perks?

MLAs who understand the pressure MPs are under to allow the Auditor General to review their expenses, should enthusiastically endorse a page on the Legislative website that would state annual salaries of MLAs (over $100,000), annual salaries of cabinet ministers, the details of their dental and extended health plans, the details of other perks such as travel allowances, and anything else that is necessary in order to account for every penny that is spent on maintaining the Legislature and our MLAs - meaning all details of caucus and constituency budgets and claimed expenses.

It is not good enough for BC's MLAs, on either side, to run and hide from the backlash in Ottawa over MP's expenses. Our MLAs need to get out in front and provide a model of disclosure and transparency.