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MPs expenses top 10 highest in BC

Weston spends 514K on travel salaries office leases

by Jane Seyd North Shore News Annual expenses for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Member of Parliament John Weston are again in the top one-third for BC MPs, according to a report recently released by the House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy, despite having the second-to-lowest travel expenses for that group.

Weston spent $514,000 on expenses including travel, staff salaries and office leases between April 2010 and March 2011, according to the report.

That was the 10th highest expense recorded by BC’s 36 MPs last year.

But it was also down from the $604,000 Weston logged in expenses the previous year, which had pushed him into the third-highest spending spot.

Much of the reduction came about because Weston’s spending was lower in the past year on the one-page, often-partisan leaflets known as “ten percenters.” In the previous year, Weston spent $87,000 on the leaflets. MPs were previously allowed to send up to 10 per cent of the flyers into other constituencies free of charge.

Now those rules have changed. In the last year, Weston spent $33,600 on 10 percenters, still in the top six amounts that BC MPs spent on the leaflets. He spent a further $26,000 on more traditional “householder” mail outs and $19,000 on advertising.

Weston defended those numbers, saying given the size of his riding, in terms of both population and geography, he has to communicate through a range of methods. The numbers also reflect the higher-than-average number of seniors in his riding, said Weston, who rely more heavily on print media than electronic communication. Many of those materials focused on “job creation and economic stimulus,” said Weston.

One area where Weston had low expenses was travel. In the past year he spent only $53,000, despite logging almost weekly trips back and forth between Ottawa and his riding. Most BC MPs spent anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 on travel.

Weston wouldn’t say whether that’s because he flies economy when other MPs are flying first class. He said years of experience in international travel have taught him how to be a savvy shopper when it comes to airline fares. “I instruct my staff to be vigilant in finding the cheapest fares we can,” he said.

Weston also spent just over $239,000 on office staff, including offices in Squamish, Whistler, Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. “I think it’s a bargain,” he said.

Other expenses included just under $38,000 in office leases and expenses, just over $27,000 on telecommunications, just under $24,000 on accommodation and “per diem” expenses and just over $19,000 on “hospitality and events.”