Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer racked up $23,603 in travel expenses over six months - more than any other MLA from Surrey, White Rock or North Delta.
The figure was disclosed in a report released Wednesday on MLA travel expenses, covering a six-month period from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2012. It's the first time MLA travel expenses have been made public.
Following Hayer was Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains spending $16,384 and Surrey-Whalley's Bruce Ralston spending $15,619, followed by Guy Gentner of Delta North ($15,296), Surrey-Fleetwood's Jagrup Brar ($15,078), Surrey-Green Timbers' Sue Hammell ($14,205) and Gordon Hogg of Surrey-White Rock spending $14,299.
Spending the least on travel was Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and former transportation minister Kevin Falcon at $5,012 and Surrey-Panorama's Stephanie Cadieux, also Minister of Development, at $2,892.
Hayer, Hogg, Falcon and Cadieux are Liberal MLAs while Ralston, Bains, Gentner, Brar and Hammell are NDP.
According to the report, MLAs from outside of Victoria are paid an allowance to cover their accommodations while in the provincial capital, most of which are listed at around $6,000 for local MLAs. However, representatives are also given "general travel" funds for any other travel within the province, and Hayer tops the local list at $9,973 while Brar came in second with $6,007.
General travel also allows MLAs to claim a per diem for the costs of "foods and incidentals." Hayer's came to $3,053 while Brar's came to $85. MLAs are not required to provide receipts for per diems.
Asked about his expenses, Hayer, who is not running for re-election in 2013, said his travel and the expenses claimed were required for things that "need to be done" for his constituents.
"I've been very active for the past 11 years as MLA and I've been on committees and attended functions and got things done for my constituents," he said.
"If I needed to deal with issues for constituents, that's the most important part for me and that sometimes requires travelling."
While Hayer was unable to note any specific trip or travelling expense that may have caused his general travel and per diem to be higher than others, he said he did what needed to be done to best represent Surrey residents.
"It's good to release, to let the public know what we spent but on the other hand I'm not willing to not travel if I need to help my constituents," he said. "When something needs to be done, I go. Travelling isn't easy, you have to get up early in the morning, but as long as I'm MLA I will make sure I work hard, means seven days a week for my constituents."
The NDP slammed Hayer in 2010 for attending Olympics events on the public purse. At the time, Ralston called on the Liberal backbencher to explain how his receiving $900 in Olympics tickets benefited his constituents.
Hayer received tickets to the men's hockey preliminary matches between Sweden and Germany and also Finland and Germany. He also viewed, from luxury suites, two victory ceremonies featuring performances by pop singer Nelly Furtado and the rock band Hedley.
Hayer responded that then-premier Gordon Campbell had asked him to attend the events "to sell British Columbia."
But Ralston, identifying Hayer as "not a decision maker," said it's "very hard to see what the benefit is of having him there."
"It's hard to believe that Mr. Hayer was working while watching Nelly Furtado perform live," Ralston said at the time.
As for Cadieux, when asked about her relatively low expenses, she said, "I don't fly. I chose to drive my car."
But Gentner noted that in the case of government ministers, "their travel expenses are hidden under the ministries they serve."
Falcon is the former finance minister and Cadieux is Minister of Social Development.
Gentner said a lot of cash could be saved if MLAs travelled to Victoria by ferry rather than catching a helijet from Vancouver.
"A lot of it (travel expenses) could be avoided if more MLAs took the people's boat," he said.
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