Nova Scotia MLAs vote to give themselves freer spending rules
51 MLAs may be able to tap into postage and travel funds
Nova Scotia MLAs may soon have greater access to thousands of dollars now reserved only for postage or travel within their constituencies.
A legislature committee made up of eight MLAs voted on Thursday to give themselves freer reign over a pot of money currently reserved for so-called franking and travel. Staff are currently working out the details.
That will give the 51 representatives in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly between $14,059 and $18,558 more, each year, they can spend on other constituency-related expenses.
That's on top of the $51,384 they now all get annually for those expenses.
New Democrat House leader Frank Corbett proposed a loosening of the rules to ensure MLAs have enough funds to be able to properly serve the people they represent.
He argued that the change in the electoral map, which came into force during the 2013 election campaign, means some elected members have larger constituencies and, as a result, need more than one constituency office.
Progressive Conservative House leader Chris d'Entremont said new rules that force MLAs to rent accessible office space only has also driven up the cost of some office rentals.
Under the current rules, money earmarked for franking and travel can only be used for mileage claimed within an MLA's constituency or outside the riding while on constituency business.
It can also pay for postage when an MLA sends out official mail or a newsletter.
Historically, not all MLAs have used up their franking and travel allowances. Some don't bother to record their mileage and submit claims.
For example, Dartmouth East representative Andrew Younger claimed $4,288.85 for the six months between April 2014 and September 2014.
During that same period, his Liberal colleague in the neighbouring constituency of Dartmouth South, Allan Rowe, claimed just $85.
Opening up that pot of money to all allowable office expenses is likely to mean more MLAs using up more of their franking and mileage allowances.