Travel expenses need more scrutiny
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
Travel is a fact of life for people serving in public office, however, rules governing travel expenses for elected officials need to be reviewed to ensure taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars.
Premier Alison Redford has been in the hot seat since it was revealed her trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral cost taxpayers $45,000.
Last week, High River Sen. Scott Tannas’ expenses came under the microscope as he rang up more than $43,000 in business class flights and accommodations in less than three months, including $10,733 in airfare for his wife who joined him on three occasions. On one occasion, Tannas claimed a $5,600 business class flight for his wife.
Tannas has defended the flights saying he followed all senate expense rules and senators are allowed to claim airfare for a spouse or dependent traveling with them to Ottawa.
Redford has said she wouldn’t have gone to South Africa if she knew the cost would be as high as it was.
Travel is part of the job for elected officials, particularly for MPs and senators who frequently fly from far-flung corners of Canada to Ottawa, or even further to destinations abroad.
However, travel rules should be reviewed to ensure expenses and can be justified to taxpayers.
Tannas argued MPs and senators are required to spend long periods away from their families and it’s fair their spouses be able to join them occasionally. His point is valid and it’s fine to allow a small number of flights a year for family members, but it’s not appropriate for taxpayers to pay for them to fly in business class.
All flights in the more costly business class need to be justifiable for all government officials, including senators, MPs, premiers and bureaucrats.
For obvious security reasons, it’s understandable that the Prime Minister doesn’t travel on commercial airlines. Business class flights are acceptable for provincial premiers and some senior cabinet ministers and government officials, partly for security reasons and to allow government work to be completed during the flight. However, there needs to be an identifiable reason why most others would need to fly business class.
It doesn’t take long for airfare and other travel bills to add up and it’s not too much to ask for a little more scrutiny from those in public office to ensure the best use of taxpayers dollars.