Opinion

Albas: MP submits finance report card

This week, I would like to submit my annual accountability report.

It was my intention to do this earlier in the year, however, it was only late last week that the Board of Internal Economy tabled the audited MPs’ expenditure reports.

The audit reporting period was from April 1, 2011, up to March 31, 2012.

Although much of this information is publicly available, it’s often difficult to find as it may exist within several different areas of government.

I believe it is important for voters  to have an annual summary on the activities of elected officials in public office.

The following information is based on the most common requests that I receive from constituents.

Without question, spending and travel are typically the most scrutinized areas.

In the comparison context of other MPs, a British Columbia MP’s travel expenses are higher than elected members from other provinces because of the distance to Ottawa.

My personal travel expense for the time frame was just over $49,000—in my case this represents roughly 400 hours in an airplane.

I would estimate close to 98 per cent of that travel 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 now.

Total spending for both my offices here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and in Ottawa—including all staff, leases, advertising and travel—was $316,625.

Currently, the average total spending of B.C. MPs is roughly $445,000.

As a comparison, closer to home southern B.C. interior New Democrat MP Alex Atamanenko has posted spending of $516,131.

Sponsored travel falls into a different category as MPs 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 provider and not taxpayers.

When MPs accept these invitations, we are required to disclose and report such trips to The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

I can confirm that I have not accepted any complimentary trips or travel since being elected.

•••

At some point over the years, you may have heard about MPs who rarely venture into the House of Commons while they are in Ottawa unless votes are occurring.

From my perspective, I try to be in the House for a portion of each day that Parliament is sitting.

During my first year as an MP, there were only three sitting days that I was not in attendance for votes. For each of these circumstances, I was asked to represent the government at an announcement here in Okanagan-Coquihalla.

When not in the House of Commons, I am most often involved with one of the two parliamentary committees I sit on or another parliamentary committee covering for an MP who may have a scheduling conflict.

In total, I attended over 915 different events between Ottawa and Okanagan-Coquihalla, which included nearly 300 different meetings and roughly 130 community events, and the remainder being other parliamentary or constituency related functions. And that’s not taking into consideration the time spent on unscheduled events or daily phone calls.

If there is other information that you are interested in, please do not hesitate to contact me with your request. Likewise if this annual accountability disclosure is not of interest to you, please let me know, otherwise I will look to post a similar report this time next year.

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