Richards third highest expenses among MPs
Wild Rose Member of Parliament Blake Richards had the third highest expense claim in the House of Commons this year.
For the year beginning April 1, 2012, and ending March 31, 2013, Richards’ expenditure report indicates he spent $547,510.
Only the leader of the opposition, Tom Mulclair at $550,830, and Conservative Steven Fletcher who represents Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia in Manitoba at $612,259, spent more than the Wild Rose federal representative.
Richards said his expenses as an MP are affected by the fact the riding is larger and has a larger population than any other.
“The budgets for each Members of Parliament are different and they are each based on the size and numbers of constituents in the riding and obviously in our case, with a riding that is 28,000 square kilometres in size, there is an extra budget that goes with that,” he said.
“There is also an extra budget that goes with the fact that we are 40,000 to 45,000 population higher than what we should be.”
Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the expenditure reports made public last week lack enough detail for the ordinary person to determine if they are reasonable.
“These reports are not subject to scrutiny of the Auditor General and they are not subject to the Access of Information Act and there is no proactive disclosure of the actual documents,” Thomas said.
“The difficulty always is that none of this stuff is subject to disclosure, so you can’t look at the contracts or the receipts, you can’t really look at anything.
“You just know this MP spent $8,000 on hospitality – well what the heck is hospitality? Are politicians picking up bar tabs on the public tab?”
Richards’ expenses broken down includes $262,642 in employees’ salaries and service contracts, $137,227 in his own travel, $26,112 in travel for dependants and employees, $10,730 for his accommodation and per diem expenses and $15,507 for a secondary residence in Ottawa.
His travel included chairing a committee on cooperatives and credit unions and meetings across the country with respect to his private member’s bill – which he noted added to his expense amounts.
“I have always done everything I can to be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars – that is important to me,” he said.
Richards also spent $8,631 in hospitality and events and $3,450 in advertising. He spent $21,367 in direct mailouts referred to as householders and $10,733 in political flyers.
Thomas said it is time for the government to not only stop paying for political flyers, but stop sending out householders, which he likened to junk mail.
“Any of that information is easily available online and granted there may be elderly folks or people who don’t have a computer who really appreciate getting a piece of junk mail, but it costs a substantial amount of money to send these things out by the truckload,” he said.
Finally, Richards expenditure report includes $55,897 for office expenses, including his constituency office in Airdrie. The report also indicates $371,794 came from Richards’ budget to pay for the expenses and $175,715 was provided by the House of Commons.