Premier Wade MacLauchlan defends monthly expense cheques for MLAs

Teresa Wright
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FILE PHOTO: Premier Wade MacLauchlan

Says monthly payments to backbenchers cover costs related to their work

Monthly cheques provided to backbench MLAs for expenses are legitimate reimbursements and will likely soon be disclosed to the public, says P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

MacLauchlan sat down for an interview with The Guardian Friday to discuss backbench MLA expenses following a meeting of his Liberal caucus Friday.

He defended the $300 monthly allotment provided to private members on the government side of the legislature for expenses.

“All of us are concerned that people recognize in the public that this is for the reimbursement of expenses that members of the legislature have incurred in the course as their work as MLAs,” MacLauchlan said.

“It’s not a supplement to anyone’s salary, it’s actually for expenses that leave them out of pocket and that’s very much how we view it and how it has been viewed in the past and should be viewed going forward.”

The amounts each backbench MLA receives for expenses, what kinds of activities and items are expensed and the fact no receipts are required was revealed earlier this month as part of a Guardian investigation.

The money comes from an operating grant provided to the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Green party backbench offices to help run their daily affairs.

Until details reported in The Guardian, almost nothing was known of how the caucus operating grants are managed.

That’s because they are not currently disclosed to the public. Also, spending details and records from all offices of the legislative assembly are exempt from release under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

MacLauchlan says the Standing Committee on Legislative Management, which oversees the work of the legislative assembly, will discuss the matter at an upcoming meeting and decide whether MLA expenses should be disclosed to the public.

He noted his previous commitments to greater disclosure of expense spending, including posting expenses of deputy ministers and senior government officials online in the spring.

At that time, he requested the legislative management committee to follow suit, but so far this has not happened.

“The most important thing is that we have committed all along, and I expect that view will be reflected as our members take part in that discussion, a preference for greater openness and transparency and that will be, I believe, reflected as things go forward.”

MacLauchlan stressed his view that MLA expenses are legitimate and that negative inferences about how this money is spent are unwarranted.

The operating grant of the caucus offices has been referred to in previous Guardian stories as a slush fund, a term used by retried Liberal cabinet minister Ron MacKinley.

“I think we all have to… be sure that we’re not casting too many shadows over the work of the legislature over the MLAs,” MacLauchlan said.

“We have a common position on this as far as our caucus is concerned. We believe the MLAs are doing a good job and that it’s reasonable for them to be reimbursed, and not an unreasonable amount of money that’s involved, for expenses related to their work.”

He would not share his personal views on whether backbench MLA expenses should be subject to the same disclosure rules as cabinet ministers and senior staffers. He believes it could be interpreted as the premier telling the legislature what to do.

But he did reiterate one of his campaign pledges.

“I’m in favour of openness and transparency.”

Meanwhile, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker has already begun voluntarily posting expenses from his office, including hospitality expenses, donations and office supplies.

Speaker Buck Watts, who chairs the legislative management committee, did not return The Guardian’s requests for comment on this story.

twrighttheguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Standing Committee on Legislative Management

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Recent comments

  • This island is on the brink of bankruptsy
    January 25, 2016 - 14:45

    With our small province being over governed and wasteful spending we all are on the brink of a disasteruos bankruptcy how the h@ll can this small province go on. Im thinking the taxpayers are broke and only a matter of time It will happen. Create jobs generate some revenue also cut the MLAs Into half we are going to be like Ethiopia,Only a matter of time.

  • This island is on the brink of bankruptsy
    January 25, 2016 - 14:43

    With our small province being over governed and wasteful spending we all are on the brink of a disasteruos bankruptcy how the h@ll can this small province go on. Im thinking the taxpayers are broke and only a matter of time It will happen. Create jobs generate some revenue also cut the MLAs Into half we are going to be like Ethiopia,Only a matter of time.

  • Theresa
    January 24, 2016 - 13:30

    I agree with Regular Joe 100%. We don't get our expenses paid when we go to work so why should the MP's. They signed up for the job and they should be treated like regular workers on the island and stop using our hard-earned tax dollars to fill their pockets. Premier McLaughlin is a joke when he talks about "openness and transparency". When is all this gouging going to stop?

  • Ralph
    January 24, 2016 - 11:00

    One would have hoped that the Premier would have shown leadership and understanding of the hardship many taxpayers live under enough to propose this slush fund be eliminated and that what appears to be frivolous expenditures carried by the MLAs themselves. One is disappointed in the extreme, that this Premier is as mundane as any other politician.

  • no thanks
    January 24, 2016 - 06:58

    it costs money for these guys to APPEAR AT EVERY wake and funeral they possibly can

  • UPWESTER
    January 23, 2016 - 17:44

    MacLauchlan stressed his view that MLA expenses are legitimate and that negative inferences about how this money is spent are unwarranted. Okay Mr open and transparent Premier, can you please tell us, the great unwashed, just how you know that MLA expenses are legitimate when you have never seen an expense account? If they have legitimate expenses, they should be reimbursed for them, provide they have submitted an expense account that can be checked and verified. Every person working in the private sector has to file an expense account, or they don't get reimbursed, and as a person who was responsible for verifying many accts,, we always had a couple or three who padded their expenses..If it is just a slush fund like MacKinley says, than at least have the courage to call it that. I could live with that, just don't try to make it out to be something other than what it is. If it's for legitimate expenses, then there must be receipts tendered, and if it is not required to show receipts, then call it what Ron MacKinley calls it, a slush fund. Simple, no?

  • Sick already
    January 23, 2016 - 14:08

    Always talking and says NOTHING! Ahhhhhhhh... Yes ahhhhhhhh....Just do what you said you will do. A novel concept. I know the "Run Uncontested" promises must be kept but common, you've done squat except scare some government workers.

  • Indigo
    January 23, 2016 - 12:27

    Does not sound like the Premier will eliminate this taxpayer abuse. He rather indorses this taxpayer supplied slush fund for the well paid, too numerous MLAs. Absolutely is disheartening. This leave the taxpayers without any avenue to get rid of this undemocratic practise. Continuation must therefore with attached rules for the exact taxpayer approved and publicly stated purposes of the funds. Charitable contributions should be OUT. Taxpayers have the right to donate on their own and at their own discretion, - no need to be taxed for the purpose of having personal charitable donations administrated through the MLAs. - Leave the money with the taxpayers and let them decide what they want to support. Having it any other way is bullying and dictatorial, - and those things must be out, absolutely , - because it is 2o16. Please address this matter accordingly, Mr. Premier, if you don't have the fortitude to eliminate this abuse all together.

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    January 23, 2016 - 11:46

    No one reimburses the private TAXPAYERS expenses for work related expenses . We can't claim Boots or Gloves or car repairs needed for us ,to get to work or do the job we work at on our taxes . These MLAs get a huge TAX free salary along with a huge TAX free expense account not to mention TAX free cars that they pay no REGISTRATION fees or INSURANCE fees on , heck they don't even pay into their own PENSION FUNDS and we still have to provide them with an extra $300.00 a month slush fund for out of pocket expenses . When is it the turn of MLAs to tighten the belts a little to help with the deficit, instead of just being a blood sucking leach on the pockets of TAXPAYERS . Must be time for another raise for them seeing as they must have worked for a week this year already . Some nerve to stand up and say this is a needed expense we TAXPAYERS need to cover , for these poor struggling underpaid politicians .

    • Good Post But
      January 23, 2016 - 18:07

      Very good post & very truthful . The only problem being that the people of PEI love being ripped off by MLA'S . Slush fund is correct term & you the people are the only ones that can change the way things are done . You need a party with a leader that has integrity like Bevan-Baker before things will change . You the voters are the only ones that can change it . It will never happen in my time . LOL

  • Reiterate Blah Blah Blah
    January 23, 2016 - 11:29

    More so every time he speaks, the Premier looks like the cartoon Politicians on the Simpsons, "Blah, blah, blah, blah a blah " It is all about "The Pleasure of the Premier". A Preference for what he promised yet denies.

  • don
    January 23, 2016 - 09:53

    what we the tax payers of PEI needs is an honest government and so far in my life time we have not had one. i guess when Christ comes to take over then and only then will we have an honest government. so far they are in to help themselves to our money and help there friends and they can not prove other wise..

  • don
    January 23, 2016 - 09:31

    wade there is no difference between you and ghiz. you think there is but you look out for your own party and there friends just like ghiz.

  • James
    January 23, 2016 - 08:51

    Here we go aganin. Another issue not disclosed or talked about until someone dug it up. Mr Premier better come down out of the clouds. All money spend by Government is taxpayers dollars. No phony excuses. $300.00 a month not very much eh. Tell that to somebody else. Their salaries are to high enough for what they do plus we have a way to many MLA'S in PEI with a population of 145000. You were told Mr Premier to clean up the mess before you move forward. You have not taken good advice. You are looking more like the last Premier everyday. $300.00 a month($3600.00 a year) from each MLA would go along way helping hard working Islanders raise a small family.

  • STILL WAITING
    January 23, 2016 - 08:36

    Sorry Wade...You keep telling everyone about Openness and Transparency to the point where I am sick of hearing it but when it comes to answers on the Ghiz Files you either pass the Buck or Run...Far as I can tell your the Bully...My way or the Highway...Is that Open and Transparent ???

  • mutt
    January 23, 2016 - 07:54

    No receipt = no accountability and open to abuse. If you spent it fine submit the receipt but don't give someone a blank cheque. Most politicians are suspect to begin with.