Surrey Liberal backbencher MLA Dave Hayer's taxpayer-funded travel expenses have once again far surpassed those of his fellow local MLAs.
The veteran Surrey-Tynehead MLA, who will not run in the May provincial election, racked up $36,887 in travel costs between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2012.
That's $11,964 more than runner-up Sue Hammell, NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, whose total travel costs came in at $24,923.
"I think he's obliged to answer questions about it. It is public money," said Bruce Ralston, NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley.
Asked repeatedly by the Now where he's been going, Hayer provided no detail but indicated he sees himself as a "provincial" politician whose duties take him outside of Victoria and Surrey-Tynehead.
"Maybe the only thing they have is in their own riding, right?" Hayer said of his fellow MLAs.
Hayer said his own work is "probably much different than what most other MLAs do."
When people ask him to attend a meeting, he said, "I attend. Luckily I've been very successful helping people out," Hayer said. "I work very hard."
Hayer told the Now that all of his travelling was done within B.C. "I don't go outside the province," he said.
After Hayer, and then Hammell, Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains spent $24,720 on travel, Jagrup Brar (NDP, Surrey-Fleetwood) spent $24,273, Ralston spent $23,248, Gordon Hogg (Liberal, Surrey-White Rock), spent $22,618, Guy Gentner (NDP, Delta North) spent $22,406, Kevin Falcon (Liberal, Surrey-Cloverdale) spent $10,387 and Stephanie Cadieux (Liberal, Surrey-Panorama) spent $3,872.
Of the 39 MLAs who represent ridings from Langley to West Vancouver, Hayer recorded the highest travel expenses between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. Of all B.C.'s 85 MLAs, Hayer was the 17th highest spender.
In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012, Hayer also had the highest travel expenses of our nine local MLAs, at $35,831. In that period, he spent $14,015 more on travel than runner-up Gordon Hogg.
Kevin Falcon, who was no stranger to travel when he held major cabinet posts like transportation and finance, was asked for some insight into why a backbencher MLA's travel expenses would be consistently higher than his neighbouring MLAs.
"Only Dave would be able to answer that," he said. "He's involved in issues that are perhaps unique to Dave."
Falcon noted that travel isn't necessarily a perk.
"Anyone who thinks travelling is some kind of benefit doesn't need to travel," he said.
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