MLAs defend housing stipend

Local MLAs insist housing allowances aren’t being abused.

Local MLAs insist housing allowances aren’t being abused.

Linda Reid, speaker of the Legislature, will review B.C.’s MLAs possibly receiving $1.1 million in allowances for accommodations in Victoria this year although the House is not sitting this fall.

“There was a five-week sitting in July and that’s never happened before,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

Foster also points out that MLAs are frequently in the capital for caucus and committee meetings.

“I am in Victoria two nights this week, two nights next week and three on the following week,” said Foster, who rents an apartment there.

Greg Kyllo, Shuswap MLA, also stands by the current funding structure.

‘“We’re spending a lot of time there,” he said.

“I sit on six different committees and I am spending on average, three days a week on the road to Victoria or Vancouver.”

Reid has also indicated she will review the policy that permits non-Victoria MLAs to claim up to $1,000 a month in housing expenses without submitting a receipt.

Foster doesn’t believe a change in the rules is required.

“We’re making more work out of something. Some will have to process that (receipts),” he said.

Foster doubts anyone is using the money for items other than housing, whether it is staying at a hotel, renting an apartment or purchasing a home.

“What will someone do, sleep in their car?” he said.

“You have to stay somewhere. I’m not sure when you’ve been to Victoria lately, but there’s nothing cheap to stay in.”

Besides claiming $1,000 a month without a receipt, MLAs can also submit receipts for up to $1,580 monthly for housing or they can hand in receipts for hotel rooms to a maximum of $1,416 a month.

“It’s not extravagant,” said Kyllo, who is staying in hotels while in Victoria.

Foster admits he is frustrated with the media focus on the Legislature not sitting during the fall when he and other MLAs are busy with a range of activities.

“People have a misconception that we’re all at the golf course if we’re not in Victoria which is ridiculous,” he said while at a budget session in Kamloops.