True to his word, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad released a break down of his expenditures on Facebook last week.
He made the promise following a government release of MLA compensation figures which listed totals for travel costs and MLA compensation for the first time.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Aug. 10, 2011, there was public outrage following the release as it lacked any detail.
According to the government, MLAs are not obligated to provide any details in the report other than a total amount spent in the last fiscal year for travel, a total amount spent for a capital city living allowance and their annual compensation.
The report shows Rustad received $101,859 in compensation, plus an additional $14,525 allowance as parliamentary secretary for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011.
He also reported spending $13,781 under the heading of capital city living allowance and a further $48,533 on travel.
Rustad said to Lakes District News that he is aware the public would like to see more detail in the report to see how the funds are spent.
“People should know what the expenses are as an MLA. Some people may think the expenses are high, some may not, but it is important for people to see what is involved.”
Via his Facebook account he said, “I committed to post my expenses in some detail from the last year so here it is.”
According to Rustad, his travel throughout the province cost taxpayers $35,100.90 last fiscal year.
He spent $7,705.08 on meals and accommodation expenses totaled $7,534.75.
MLAs are allocated 12 trips per fiscal year to be used by an accompanying person. Rustad reported spending $2,019.42 on this and said most of the time the travel expenses were related to an accompanying constituency assistant, Judy King.
“My wife Kim only travelled with me on a couple of occasions last year as she works too.”
He also reported spending $7,308.40 on travel to various committee meetings and listed speaker approved out of province travel to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region annual summit held in Calgary from July 16-20 at a cost of $885.48.
The summit is a gathering for legislators, business leaders and policy experts providing them with an opportunity to explore issues such as energy, environment and the related topics of climate change, agriculture and trade.
The expense breakdown posted on Facebook amounted to a combined $60,554, however the report listed his total expenses as $62,314.
He said the $1,760 discrepancy between the amounts was probably due to a misplaced expense form.
He said he had his staff work on the expense breakdown and they had to backtrack through receipts and expense reports so it is likely that an expense form was missed in the process.
“The amount is about the cost of one trip and last year I had about 65 different trips throughout the riding so I suspect that is what happened,” he said.
Rustad said his recent business trip to China was not accounted for in the report because it occurred this year, after the fiscal year end for 2010 – 2011.
He said the trip cost zero dollars to the tax payer as his ticket was paid for with his air miles.
MLAs are allowed to collect air miles on work related travel, but the air miles must only be cashed in for work related travel, not for personal travel. As the trip to China was business related it fell in this category. Rustad travelled as part of a delegation with School District 91 and discussed timber sales as well as the school district’s partnership with their Chinese counterparts during the trip.
He went on to say that while in China he personally paid for his own accommodations and meals and School District 91 paid the $142 for his visiting visa to enter country.
“I don’t have a problem with reporting what I spend, we are not obliged to do it and it is over and above what is required, but I know people want to know.”
A couple of other MLAs are also taking the initiative to provide further details of their spending, including MLA for Abbotsford West, Mike de Jong and Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson.
“I provided a similar breakdown of my spending on Facebook last fiscal year as well.”