B.C. Premier's Office Defends $475K Credit Card Bill

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CHRISTY CLARK
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark fields questions about a national energy strategy at the annual Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax on Friday, July 27, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan | CP

B.C. Premier Christy Clark's office is defending a credit card bill that is more than double the size of her predecessor Gordon Campbell's.

Records from the Office of the Comptroller General show the Clark's office charged $475,000 in expenses to credit cards during the 2011/12 fiscal year.

Charges under Clark's tenure include several tabs for thousands of dollars at various top restaurants, such as $3,267.66 at Ferris Oyster Bar in Victoria and $2,279 at Bishops in Vancouver.

The charges also include a large number of travel expenses with airlines, hotels, plus office supplies, and more than $100,000 from communications companies Rogers and Telus.

The year before under former premier Gordon Campbell, the office's expenses totalled $205,000 and $195,000 the year before that.

Extra duties raised expenses

However a spokesperson for the Premier's office says there are three key reasons by the office's expenses were more than twice as high as under Clark's predecessor.

First, the office grew substantially when it took over intergovernmental relations last year, raising the cost of regular expenses.

Second, B.C. hosted other premiers in both Victoria and Vancouver for the Council of Federation meetings, and Clark's office footed the bill.

And third, Clark embarked on one of B.C.'s most expensive trade missions to Asia earlier this year.

Still, Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director of the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the bill raises red flags and the office should be under more scrutiny. The Federation wants public access to all receipts related to government spending.

"Cell phone bills of a $120,000, $140,000 in airfare — these are huge expenditures at a time when we are borrowing money to balance the books. That's not right. We need to make sure that we are restraining ourselves in every part of the public service, including the premiers office," said Bateman.

On Monday an all-party committee of B.C. MLAs that is responsible for overseeing spending at the legislature promised a major overhaul will put its financial books in order within the next six months.

The promise comes after B.C. Auditor General John Doyle delivered a scathing report last week that said the committee and its comptroller were not producing any useful financial statements or maintaining even the most basic accounting records.

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