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Kootenay East's Bennett tops BC MLAs $2.3 million travel expense list

Among British Columbia MLAs, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett appears to have incurred the largest tab for travel expenses in the first nine months of the fiscal year.

Bennett's bill came to $61,220 for the period between April 1, 2013 and the end of the year, according to records the Legislative Assembly released today. That works out to about $6,800 a month, or $225 per day.

The largest portion was $42,992 for general travel, which includes accommodation, transportation and food while traveling within the province, but outside an MLAs home constituency. The total amounts also include capital city living allowances, in-constituency travel and travel outside the province or country.

Bennett is the minister of energy and mines and is also responsible for the core review, intended to find savings in government operations.

Speaker Linda Reid, who represents Richmond East, had the second highest travel expense tally for the nine months at $52,373. This included by far the highest amount in the "approved by the speaker" category at $19,687.

Notes accompanying the document say expenses for the speaker to travel outside the province or country are approved by the executive financial officer. Expenses needing approval would be things like amounts to attend Commonwealth Parliamentary Association functions, it said.

Other MLAs with relatively high expenses tend to be people representing large rural or remote communities, those serving as cabinet ministers, or both.

Pat Pimm, who represents Peace River North in the northeast corner of the province for the BC Liberals and is the agriculture minister, had travel expenses of $51,640. John Rustad, who represents Nechako Lakes and serves as aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister, had expenses of $48,961.

Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman had travel expenses of $49,013, including over $16,000 for travel outside the province or country. Health Minister Terry Lake had expenses of $48,160 and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson's bill came to $42,630.

On the NDP side, Doug Donaldson representing Stikine had expenses of $48,536, Jennifer Rice from North Coast had $43,928, Michelle Mungall from Nelson-Creston had $43,796 and Nicholas Simons from Powell River-Sunshine Coast had $42,792.

Premier Christy Clark's travel expenses came in at $31,799 and opposition leader Adrian Dix's at $25,766. The Green Party of B.C.'s Andrew Weaver, first elected in May and representing a Victoria-area riding, had travel expenses of $17,332.

The total travel expenses for all MLAs in the nine months was $2.3 million.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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