High travel costs for Northwest MLAs a reality of rural living

Doug Donaldson talks about high travel expenses.

  • Aug. 26, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson tops the expenses out of the three Northwest MLAs in the area, from here to Prince Rupert.

In the provincial public accounts 2010/11 documents just  recently released by the government, Donaldson had $44,442 in travel expenses.

That was higher than Skeena MLA Robin Austin’s travel budget of $42,773, and North Coast’s Gary Coons at $43,084.

MLAs outside of the Victoria area also receive a Capital City Living Allowance. Donaldson was allotted $20,405 out of that account.

Austin had $15,683 and Coons is reported at $15,673.

“It does cost a lot to get … representation in Victoria from northern rural areas,” said Donaldson. “As anyone knows who has traveled at all from Smithers … the airfares are definitely something that are very, very high.”

He added that coming from the private sector before entering politics he is very aware and conscious of the fact that it is public money he is spending.

“[I] look for opportunities I can to take advantage of ways to decrease those costs.”

As for the Capital City allowance, he noted they are set rates and the rental bills for him are sent directly to the legislative comptroller’s office from the rental companies.

“Some MLAs have purchased places to live in Victoria and they receive a stipend for that as well,” he said but noted that a property purchase is not something he’s considering at this time.

The Skeena MLA,  Austin, told The Terrace Standard much of the same, that the expenses are a result of living in this remote area.

“So if you look at it and see that the three of us in the northwest, Gary Coons, myself and Doug Donaldson have substantially higher figures than say Jenny Kwan, who lives in the Lower Mainland,” Austin said.