B.C. MP defends using taxpayer money to fly family
Russ Hiebert, the B.C. Member of Parliament elected on a promise to fight government waste, is defending his use of taxpayer dollars to fly his family to and from Ottawa during the six months Parliament is in session.
The Conservative MP for South Surrey – White Rock – Cloverdale racked up $637,093 on his expense account for the 2008-2009 fiscal year – more than $200,000 more than the national average.
The former lawyer spent $214,360 for return trips for himself and his family between Ottawa and his home in Cloverdale, B.C. The average MP spends $87,415.
Hiebert told CTV News he was actively encouraged to travel with his family by his peers and he believes he is the only MP with a young family who has to travel a long distance.
"Because my wife and I made a commitment to keep our family together, that means my wife and kids come with me when the house is in session," Hiebert said.
The MP insists his spending is within the limits set forth by the House of Commons.
"They allow for MPs, all MPs, to bring a spouse and dependent children to Ottawa," he said.
"As far as I can tell, most MPs take advantage of that opportunity because they recognize how important it is."
But some of Hiebert's constituents don't feel that he deserves that opportunity.
"With the economy the way it is, you shouldn't be able to make those kinds of expenditures," said Ken Lloydsmith.
"Why does he have to fly with his family?" asked Norma Sproston.
The "central budget" of the House of Commons includes 64 return trips a year for each MP to travel between their constituency and Ottawa, as well as covering meals and incidental expenses.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the auditor general needs to examine whether the spending guidelines are too lax.
"If you have a regular job at a regular company and you want your family or children to travel with you, you pay for it out of your own pocket not out of the company pocket," said Scott Hennig.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry