VICTORIA - The Speaker of British Columbia's legislature offered an apology to taxpayers Tuesday while at the same time repaying the more than $5,500 she billed the government to fly her husband with her to South Africa on a business-class ticket last year.
Speaker Linda Reid, a Liberal, said it was common practise that legislators could take along spouses when travelling, and she and her husband flew to Johannesburg late last summer for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference.
Reid said she was sorry and won't do it again, though she isn't resigning.
"I travelled in my capacity as Speaker," she said. "I attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference. That work is important. It's important work on behalf of democracy. We will continue to ensure we will deliver the best product we can on behalf of British Columbians. If this caused anybody any consternation, I sincerely apologize."
Reid said the amount of money she repaid for the flight was $5,528.16. Reid said she will also repay any other costs that may arise from her husband accompanying her on the trip.
Reid said the assistant deputy speaker, New Democrat Raj Chouhan, was on the same trip and took his wife along.
NDP caucus chairman Shane Simpson said Chouhan intends to discuss the matter with the Speaker, but as of Tuesday, taxpayers did pay the cost for Chouhan's wife to travel with her husband. Simpson said Chouhan, who offered to pay his wife's costs at the start of the trip, was told by Reid it was Speakers' office policy to pay the costs.
Simpson said Chouhan told him he and his wife flew economy class to South Africa and they stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, with the total cost of the trip for the Chouhans at about $6,300.
"The reality is you have to do it in a way that is respectful of taxpayers' money, and how you spend money," said Simpson. "It does raise questions about first-class travel for spouses. But the trip itself was probably a legitimate trip."
Simpson said political life can be difficult on families and relationships due to large amounts of travel and lengthy absences from home, but there must be some right balance that allows families to thrive while not abusing taxpayer dollars.
Reid's expenses came under scrutiny earlier this month, when media reports detailed tens of thousands of dollars in spending, from a new desk in the legislature to a $734 snack display for politicians.
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