It is hard to believe this will be my fourth annual accountability report as time has gone by quickly since being first elected in 2011. Like my previous accountability reports this is a summary of my expenditures over the past fiscal year as the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. As with previous reports I will follow the format using information from the most recent fiscal period of April 1st of 2014 up to March 31st of 2015 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 in previous years, 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 typically higher than those of MP’s from other areas in Canada as a result of the fact that we fly further distances between B.C. and Ottawa. My personal travel expense during this time frame was just over $ 52,000; this is an increase of $3,000 over the $49,000 spent last year but still down from $55,000 spent in 2013. In my case this works out to roughly 420 hours in an airplane, the vast majority spent flying regular coach class.
Total spending for my two offices here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and one in Ottawa including all staff, leases, advertising and the above mentioned travel was $371,517. Like previous years this is within the top three lowest expenses for a BC based MP. As a comparison closer to home, NDP MP Alex Atamanenko from B.C. Southern Interior has posted spending of $441,536 as a comparison.
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 during the last fiscal period nor have I accepted any since being elected.
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 1-800-665-8711.
This year we have seen a number of forest fires in Okanagan-Coquihalla. These situations can be particularly demanding in interface areas for those who are evacuated as well as those that are often the last line of protection. While some fires like we saw at Hamilton Hill near Merritt can be quickly and effectively extinguished, we must remain mindful that despite advances in technology and techniques, this work is inherently dangerous and requires amazing amounts of work, coordination and ingenuity. For many of us we can only imagine the sacrifice and perseverance that it takes to contain such fires.
I was glad to join Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark with other elected officials at Shelter Cove- Westside Road fire near West Kelowna to hear firsthand the experiences of those who are courageously fighting this fire. One gentleman who led the crew spoke of his years of dedication to firefighting and sense of service that he and his crew drew upon on daily to tackle such gruelling work. It was very gratifying to hear both leaders on behalf of British Columbia and Canada respectively, publicly praise the crew and the multitudes of other Canadians who also are working to keep their communities and areas safe. I would encourage all citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla who have the opportunity to do so to also extend their thanks.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.