MLAs continue to defend spending
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.