As mentioned in a recent MP report, as a result of the positive feedback I received from last year`s accountability report this will now become an annual report that I will submit to the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla. I will also follow the format used last year including information from the period of April 1st of 2012 up to March 31st of 2013 in accordance with the Board of Internal Economy reporting periods. While some of this information is publicly available, it can be difficult to find and often exists at several different locations online or not at all. As stated last year, I believe it is important for citizens to have an annual summary on the activities of elected officials in public office
including the related costs.
Office expenses and travel are typically the most scrutinized areas of spending for elected officials at any level of government. For Members of Parliament from British Columbia, our travel expenses are higher than those of MP’s from other areas in Canada as a result of the fact that we fly the farthest distances between B.C. and Ottawa. My personal travel expense during this time frame was just under $55,000 – in my case this works out to roughly 420 hours in an airplane and I would estimate over 95% was regular coach class– I didn’t fly first class before being elected as an MP and I continue to make every effort to fly economy class where possible as an MP.
Total spending for my offices here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and in Ottawa including all staff, leases, advertising and the above mentioned travel was $394,289. This amount is within the top 10 lowest expenses for a BC based MP. Currently the average total spending of an MP in British Columbia is roughly $445,000. Closer to home NDP MP Alex Atamanenko from B.C. Southern Interior has posted spending of 493,616 as a comparison. The highest spending BC based in MP is Liberal Hedy Fry at $516,429.
Sponsored travel falls into a different category as Members of Parliament are invited from time to time to travel to other destinations both within and outside of Canada for a variety of different reasons. These invitations often include airfare and accommodations being paid for by the Host and not taxpayers. When Members of Parliament accept these special trips they are required to disclose and report such travel to The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I can confirm that while I did
receive invitations of this nature I did not accept any complimentary trips or travel nor have I since being elected.
One other category of spending is spousal travel. The Board of Internal Economy allows for MP`s to fly a spouse between Ottawa and a member's home riding. Post Media is credited with doing an
analysis on these benefits and in turn also reported on them with a list ranking all MP`s. The highest spending MP for spousal travel was now former Toronto-Centre Liberal MP Bob Rae at just under $ 57,000. My ranking on this list was #198 with spending of $900.45.
In terms of meetings and other community events (not including my regular duties in the House of Commons) this past year I attended or participated in over 400 –a similar number to the previous year. This does not include unscheduled events or daily phones calls that also occur throughout the year. Some good news to pass on is that the Board of Internal Economy has been implementing new or revised rules that in my view will help to keep expenses in check across the board. The information included in this week’s report is intended to provide a brief summary of some of the more commonly scrutinized expenses. If there is other information that you are interested in, please do not hesitate to contact me with your request. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at
This past weekend I participated alongside a group of citizens from the community of Merritt and surrounding areas as part of a search and rescue effort, looking for a missing local resident at Stump Lake Ranch. Sadly, we were not successful in our efforts, but it is heartening that so many local citizens came out and helped in the effort to find a fellow community member. I would also like to take a moment to thank the many volunteers who are involved in search and rescue organizations in our local communities throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla. This challenging and highly valued service from so many volunteers is important for those who may be missing a loved one and is very community minded.
The House of Commons has again resumed session this week after a brief five day recess. We will continue discussions on Government Bills C-2 “Respect for Communities Act” and Bill C-3 “Safeguarding Canada’s Seas & Skies Act”. There will also be a number of Private Member`s Bills up for debate this week, including Bills C-428, “Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act”, Bill C-523 “Mandatory Disclosure of Drug Shortages Act”, Bill C-520 “Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament Act” and Bill C-461 “CBC and Public Service Disclosure and Transparency Act.” If you would like further information on these or any other bill before the House of Commons do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.
Also occurring this week is a vote on the opposition day motion from the NDP that was introduced last week. The motion suggests that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in Canada’s best interest. This has been an interesting debate as both our Government and the Federal Liberals are supportive of the Keystone XL project that the NDP has been actively opposing for some time. On a related theme, this past weekend there was also an effort to organize and demonstrate against the Northern Gateway pipeline in front of my Penticton office. As I was in Merritt and could not attend this gathering, I feel it is important to recognize that a number of citizens took the time to speak out against this particular pipeline project. I also hear from a number of citizens who are strongly supportive of pipelines in general or in some cases supportive of certain pipeline projects but opposed to others. This is certainly an area that I welcome further input from citizens on. While some have expressed opposition to pipelines, very few have proposed alternatives that do not include increased rail or truck transport that also carry risk.
Although the House of Commons is now in session until mid-December, if you have a comment, concern or question I am available by phone in the late afternoon and early evening here in BC while I am in Ottawa. I can be reached via email email@example.com or at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.