The speaker of the B.C. legislature has promised to review MLAs' housing allowances, after figures leaked to the Times Colonist Newspaper show they could receive up to $1.1-million this year even though the legislature even though there is no fall session.
Speaker Linda Reid says she will also review rules that allow MLAs from outside the Greater Victoria area to claim up to $1,000 a month in housing expenses without a single receipt.
The 78 eligible MLAs are given several options to pay for housing in the capital including:
- Submit receipts up to $1,580 a month for rent or home ownership expenses.
- Claim up to $1,000 without a receipt for rent or home ownership expenses.
- Submit receipts for hotel accommodation up to $1,416 per month.
Currently, the following number of MLA are making expense claims this fiscal year:
- Nine MLAs submit rent receipts for a maximum possible total cost to taxpayers of $171,000.
- 13 MLAs claim $1000/month for home ownership without receipts for a maximum possible cost of $156,000.
- 29 MLAs claim rent without receipts for up to $1000/month for a maximum possible cost of $348,000.
- 27 MLAs submit hotel receipts for a maximum total possible cost of $459,000.
The final cost to taxpayers will not be known until the final claims are submitted at the end of the fiscal year.
But critics say given how infrequently the legislature actually sits, the housing allowance is too rich especially since in some cases it amounts to taxpayers subsidizing a politician's real estate investment.
But some MLAs are defending the figures, saying even with the payments, many still pay out of pocket to be in Victoria several months a year.
MLAs also note even when the legislature is not sitting, they need to be in Victoria for cabinet, caucus and committee meetings, and other official duties.
MLAs are paid $101,859 per year, and can claim a $61/day food allowance while in Victoria or while travelling around the province outside their riding. They also receive $119,000 a year to run their constituency offices.