An editorial by Mel Rothenburger:
A COUPLE OF FAMILIAR POLITICAL NAMES are in the top six spenders for taxpayer-funded spouses’ travel over the past four years.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, former cabinet minister and now an Independent MP, spent almost $126,000 of your money and mine flying her husband back and forth across the country during that time. And Cathy McLeod, the incumbent member for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, spent just over $110,000.
For the most recent year ending March 31, McLeod expensed $32,000 for spousal travel. An average flight between Kamloops and Ottawa costs around $3,000, according to the reports for McLeod’s expenses.
By the way, you might also recognize the name of Mel Arnold. He’s the Conservative MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap. He racked up just over $121,000 under the designated traveler program.
The designated travel program is one in which MPs can give some of their allotted return trips to someone else for the purposes of family unity or when the person represents the MP at something. It’s been going on since 1971.
In total, this travel cost taxpayers $4.5 million over the four years. A good investment of taxpayers’ dollars?
Being an MP, especially an MP from the West, isn’t easy. The travel schedule between Ottawa and B.C. is gruelling. It’s tough on the MP and tough on family life. Work-life balance is important and needs to be recognized.
But how much should we be paying for? Maybe MPs’ family members don’t have to fly Business class. Or, at least, maybe the MP or designated family member should pay for the upgrade from Economy.
And, just maybe, there should be stricter limits on the use of this designated traveler privilege.
Barring any of that, heaven forbid, MPs could police themselves and show more restraint.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.