July 14th, 2024

Area MLAs discuss their living expenses

By Gillian Slade on August 19, 2017.


When it comes to local MLAs’ accommodation expenses in Edmonton one claims less than the maximum, while the other has to supplement what the government pays.

Bob Wanner, NDP MLA for Medicine Hat, rents a central two-bedroom apartment located near the Legislature in a secure building that is consistent in cost with the area average.A member of Wanner’s staff did not have the exact amount the apartment costs but said it exceeds the $1,930 allowance with the additional cost paid by Wanner personally.

According to the fourth-quarter report for the fiscal year 2016/2017, Wanner’s accommodation cost is shown as $25,090 while the maximum allowed is $23,160.

“This is due to a claim processing error in the previous fiscal year ($1,930 for the month of October 2015) which was reconciled in this recent fiscal year filing,” said Alex McCuaig, chief of staff to the Speaker.

In addition to rent there are also utilities, parking, furnishings and all other costs associated with maintaining a residence, said Laura Deschamps, manager for Wanner’s Medicine Hat office.

When Drew Barnes, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA, was first elected, for his first three years he stayed in a motel for about $130 a night, he says.

“After the 2015 election I bought a one-bedroom condo a block from the legislature. I bill the cost of my unit between $1,750 and $1,850 a month, which is less than the maximum allowance,” said Barnes.

The fourth-quarter report states Barnes claimed $21,360.00.

MLA Derek Fildebrandt has recently been under fire for claiming the maximum $23,160 while also renting his unit out on Airbnb and making about $2,500 in the process, which he has since paid back.

Under the Members’ Allowances Order 6(1) it states “A Member who qualifies for an allowance under section 5(1) may claim an allowance for accommodation reflecting the actual costs incurred up to a maximum amount of 23,160.”

That is all the rules state on the matter, said McCuaig. There is already a review of expense claims for MLAs underway.

“Speaker Wanner, as chair of the Members’ Services Committee (MSC), identified the need for a review of the Member Services Orders and expenditure guidelines and has been, and continues to be, supportive of such a review,” said McCuaig.

A sub-committee of the MSC was struck in September 2016 to do just that.

“The Speaker has also been supportive of a modernization of the internal financial management reporting systems that also involves the way claims are submitted …” said McCuaig.

Under expense claims posted online for the fourth-quarter fiscal year 2016/2017 under “hosting,” Wanner claimed 1,292.01, Barnes 1,243.96 and Fildebrandt $1,489.07. In the fourth quarter of 2015/2016 Wanner claimed 2,061.08, Barnes $1,484.02 and Fildebrandt 1,069.57. Claims for hosting include social events for constituents and/or food and drink items in the constituency office for the benefit of constituents who come in to see the MLA, and restaurant receipts for meals with staff and constituents.

Wanner claimed for a “winter social” in December 2016 a total of $339.30 for crackers, fruit, vegetable trays and soft drinks. A reception for the British Consul General $289.80 and supplies for the office included water, coffee creamer, coffee and gluten free crackers 92.62 for people coming in to see the MLA. In December 2015 the “holiday social” was a catered event and cost $1695.00. The event was open to all constituents as a come and go event and about 100 constituents attended, Deschamps said.

Barnes held a town hall meeting at Desert Blume Golf course that cost $81.35. Meals at restaurants with experts or with constituents to discuss issues included receipts for $30.19, $22.04, $35.70, and $34.75. Office coffee and water supplies came to just under $200.

Fildebrandt’s restaurant meals with constituents include receipts for $45.10, $43.11, 42.83, $72.45, $40.74, $38.20, $40.46, $43.42, and $27.14. There are also receipts for restaurant meals while having staff meetings as follows: one in Edmonton $183.48. In the 2015/2016 fiscal year fourth quarter there are restaurant meals while holding staff meetings as follows: $30.78, $64.85, and $30.13. Supplies of food and drinks for the office to serve to constituents totals about $87.00.

On Friday the United Conservative Party issued a press release after an internal audit of MLA expenses and found there were administrative errors totalling $557.30. This amount has now been returned to the Legislative Assembly.

Share this story:


Comments are closed.