P.E.I. MP travel costs vary widely

Recently released figures listing MP expenses show the cost of airfare for travel to and from Ottawa varied widely amongst P.E.I. MPs.

Recently released figures listing MP expenses show the cost of airfare for travel to and from Ottawa varied widely amongst P.E.I. MPs.

Included in the information released earlier this month, for the first time, was the cost of travel for the family members of MPs.

In total, the four MPs claimed $264,518.90 in expenses for airfare for themselves, their spouses, and their dependants. MPs in Ottawa are allowed to transfer as much of their airfare budget as they like to a single, so-called designated traveller. All four Island MPs chose their spouses.

MP travel budget

MPs don't have a defined travel budget for airfare. They are instead allotted 64 travel points, each point representing one return trip. Most of those points are reserved for trips between Ottawa and their home riding.

MPs can transfer as many of those points as they like to their designated traveller. They can also spend points on flights for staff and for dependent children.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey told CBC News parliamentarians spend so much time away it could take a toll on their home lives.

"I think the idea is to make Parliament a family-friendly place," said Casey.

"The policy decision to allow for spouses to take a limited number of trips is all about keeping families together. I can tell you it's pretty darn important to me and it's pretty darn important to my marriage."

Most of the trips are to Ottawa, but it is also possible for parliamentarians to claim trips for themselves and their designated traveller to other parts of Canada. A portion of their travel budget can also go for trips to New York or Washington.

Only Egmont MP Gail Shea had lower airfare expenses than Casey, but Shea's ministerial travel was not included in the report. Per round trip, Casey's expenses - including all travellers on his account - were the lowest at $1005. His designated traveller, Island MLA Kathleen Casey, made 7.5 round trips at an average cost of $768. His children made 2.5 trips at an average cost of $1,318.

Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay rang up the biggest airfare bill. Travellers on his account spent an average of $2,248 per round trip. His designated traveller, wife Frances MacAulay, made 11 return trips to Ottawa last year with an average cost of $2,353.

MacAulay couldn't be reached for comment.

According to rules on MP spending set by the House of Common's Board of Internal Economy, "members and their authorized travellers must select the most economical and practical means of transportation to reach their destinations and use the most direct route available."

More detailed information on the expenses of most of the Island's MPs is coming soon. The Liberal Party has decided it will post detailed expenses for all members of its Parliamentary caucus. That will provide individual costs for each trip.

The first release is scheduled for this week, and it will come out quarterly after that. The Conservatives and NDP have no plans to follow that example, but Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has been posting receipts since she was elected two years ago.


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