BRITISH COLUMBIA

Linda Reid's Expenses Under Fire, But Defended By NDP

03/04/2014 05:19 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT
CP
VICTORIA - British Columbia's Opposition New Democrats are defending the legislature's Speaker after media reports revealed she had racked tens of thousands of dollars worth in expenses, including a complimentary snack display for politicians.

Speaker Linda Reid, a Liberal, filed expenses that include $48,412 to build a new desk in the legislative chamber and equipping it with a pricey touch-screen computer terminal.

They also include $13,449 for a new members' lounge in the legislature library, including a $734 display case for coffee, muffins and other free snacks.

Money was also spent to build a new wheelchair ramp, relocate a media interview area, and upgrade the Speaker's office and the legislature dining room.

The legislative assembly management committee approves the total budget for the Speaker and other officers of the legislature, but it did not vote on the expenditures currently under scrutiny.

Still, NDP house leader John Horgan, a member of the committee, said he stands behind some of Reid's expenses because upgrades in the legislature chamber and improvements to accessibility are important.

"With respect to improvements with the chambers itself, you can't just get a two-by-four and a couple of sheets of plywood," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I mean, there's an expectation we're going to put craftsmanship in the building today comparable to the craftsmanship in the past. I think there's an additional cost in that regard."

News of Reid's expenditures come just weeks after Finance Minister Mike de Jong revealed a provincial budget that touted a commitment to controlling spending.

Reid did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

Horgan refused to criticize Reid for "doing the right thing" by improving wheelchair accessibility in the legislature.

He also defended the computer terminal on the Speaker's desk, which cost roughly $20,000, saying it allows Reid to access information quickly.

Horgan said perks such as free muffins and coffee, and three new flat-screen televisions in the members' lounge, are questionable in a time of fiscal austerity, but he said at least Reid is being honest about her spending.

"There were, in the past, a steel door over the Speaker's office and expenditures far greater than the ones that are being exposed now were never touched because of the secrecy that surrounded the legislative assembly management committee, so I give Ms. Reid full credit for blowing the doors off of that secretive committee," he said.

Horgan says he understands British Columbians may question the spending, particularly when belts are being tightened everywhere, so Reid will be expected to provide answers at a meeting next week.

— By Vivian Luk in Vancouver

Also on HuffPost

Key Senate Scandal Quotes