High River senator defends claiming $5,600 flight for wife
Politics: Sen. Scott Tannas claimed over $43,000 in travel, accomodations in just over two months
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
A Canadian senator from High River claimed more than $43,000 in travel and accommodation expenses in just over two months last year, shuttling back and forth between his home and Ottawa.
However, it’s $10,733 in business class flights for his wife – including a $5,600 business- class airfare – that is raising questions.
Sen. Scott Tannas defended expensing the cost of his wife’s flights. He said elected officials in Ottawa spend a lot of time away from their families and it’s only fair that they be able to bring them out on occasion.
“Members of Parliament, both MPs and senators, are in an unusual position where they are being asked to spend anywhere from 80 to 100 days a year away from their families,” he said.
Tannas said his expenses are in line with senate regulations as senators are allowed to claim travel expenses for dependents who accompany them. They are also allowed to travel in business class.
He said he made a mistake in booking flights that resulted in higher airfares. Tannas said he chose flights with the lowest available fare in business class. He said he is now using flight passes that will reduce his travel costs.
“I’m happy to take my lumps for a screw up that I made in the early days of my time through a decision that I made that was the wrong one,” said Tannas.
“It’s ironic, I did what I did to try and save money and it wound up costing way more in the end.”
Tannas was appointed to the senate in March 2013. He joined other Conservative senators in recently posting their expenses on-line starting with the period from Oct. 17 to Dec. 31.
Over that time, he rang up $43,207 in travel, accommodation and meal expenses. His expense claims include $10,733 in business class airfare for his wife, who accompanied him on three occasions. One airfare in business class cost $5,602. Tannas claimed $30,894 in expenses, including $21,037 in business class air travel in seven trips, with one fare costing $5,653, with the remaining going to other transport expenses, hotels and meals. His expense claims also include $1,579 for one of his senate employees to travel from Ottawa to Lethbridge on senate business, including a $999 economy flight.
Senators earn a base salary of $135,200 per year.
Air travel expenses between their home and Ottawa are covered based on a point system. Senators start with a maximum of 64 points and one point is deducted for each round-trip from their home to the capital. Tannas said senators are authorized to spend up to $200 per night on hotel accommodations and they receive set per diems of $90 per day for meals and incidentals.
“We’re not staying in suites or something like that,” he added.
Tannas said the senate’s travel expense regulations are in-line with his experience as former president of Western Financial Group.
“I don’t find the rules to be different than they are for the private sector,” he said. “I came from business and the policies that we have around flights for officers of our organization, and what I see of other organizations, I think the rules as they stand right now are consistent with other organizations of the size and scope.”
Tannas said his travel expenses may also have been higher because he was new to the office and travelling back and forth more often.
As he does not plan on living in Ottawa, he said he will often be traveling back and forth from Alberta. As well, he said flights from Alberta are longer and more costly than those taken by senators who live closer to Ottawa.
“I don’t think that in the long-run I’m going to be able to be in the middle of the pack in terms of 100 senators, most of which are from Ontario and Quebec, in terms of expenses,” he said.