MLAs con­tinue to de­fend spending

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON

SYD­NEY — Cape Bre­ton North MLA Ce­cil Clarke says he’s jus­ti­fied in spending $15,300 on ex­tra pay for his con­stituency as­sis­tant and ex­tra ex­penses within his North Syd­ney of­fice.

Over a three-year pe­riod from 2006-09, Clarke was the big­gest spen­der in the Tory cau­cus dol­ing out $7,500 in bonuses, over­time and week­end ex­penses to his full-time con­stituency as­sis­tant and an­other $7,800 for part-time work­ers and other ser­vices.

“ You have to look at the pres­sures, the caseload, the work. This money was within the yearly al­lo­ca­tion for my con­stituency of­fice, which would run about $4,000 per month,” Clarke said Fri­day.

“In­di­vid­u­als might have (re­ceived) a $500 or $1,000 pay­ment for pro­vid­ing work.”

All three par­ties have re­leased con­stituency ex­penses not in­cluded in the leg­isla­tive bud­get in re­sponse to au­di­tor gen­eral Jac­ques La­Pointe’s re­port that con­cluded it was un­clear whether staff had paid taxes on bonuses and ex­tra pay.

The Tories are push­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the au­di­tor gen­eral’s of­fice on the break­down of ex­penses over that three­year pe­riod.

Un­like Clarke, fel­low Con­ser­va­tives Karen Casey and Chris d’En­tremont who also served in high pro­file cab­i­net po­si­tions in Rod­ney MacDon­ald’s gov­ern­ment, had con­stituency ex­penses that were con­sid­er­ably less — $5,566 and $1,926, re­spec­tively.

“When you con­sider three years for a num­ber of peo­ple to be do­ing ex­tra work, $15,000 is quite rea­son­able given the work­load I had,” Clarke said.

“I was also the min­is­ter the far­thest away from the cap­i­tal, also deal­ing with the high­est caseload of any MLA for com­mu­nity ser­vice files in the prov­ince on a per capita ba­sis.”

Cape Bre­ton West Tory MLA Al­fie MacLeod paid no ex­tra money to his con­stituency as­sis­tant, but spent $3,810 on other staff. When con­tacted Fri­day, MacLeod said he couldn’t pin­point what was in­cluded in that fig­ure.

“I do have a per­son that I have come in to clean, but I can’t tell you def­i­nitely that’s what’s there,” he said.

Vic­to­ria-The Lakes Tory MLA Keith Bain paid his con­stituency as­sis­tant $1,500 on top of salary. How­ever, there were no pay­ments made to ex­tra staff or ser­vices.

The au­di­tor gen­eral didn’t scru­ti­nize the Tories fourth is­land mem­ber, Al­lan MacMaster of In­ver­ness, be­cause he was only elected last fall.

Late Fri­day, the Lib­eral party re­leased con­stituency ex­penses for its MLAs.

In a news release, Glace Bay MLA Dave Wil­son ad­mit­ted some peo­ple may con­sider ex­tra ex­penses paid to his staff “ high, but it re­flects the vol­ume of work that has been han­dled by my of­fice.”

Wil­son topped the list of Lib­er­als by pay­ing his con­stituency as­sis­tant $24,395 over an 18-month pe­riod in ad­di­tion to his salary. He gave an­other $37,500 over three years to other staff in­clud­ing a sum­mer stu­dent and jan­i­tor.

“My of­fice han­dled 800 files from con­stituents last year alone. Most of my bud­get, I ear­mark for staff in­stead of ad­ver­tis­ing and do­na­tions,” he said in the release.

Cape Bre­ton South MLA Man­ning MacDon­ald de­fended pay­ing his con­stituency as­sis­tant $43,375 on top of her salary be­cause he has “one em­ployee, no other staff.”

“I chose to spend money from my con­stituency al­lowance on an ex­cel­lent as­sis­tant as op­posed to ex­tra equip­ment,” MacDon­ald said.

He said the money was paid in monthly in­stall­ments through the Speaker’s Of­fice.

Rich­mond MLA Michel Sam­son paid $1,000 to his as­sis­tant, $2,880 for a sum­mer stu­dent and $250 on re­search.

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