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Labrador West MHA Jim
Photo: Peter Genge
PEEKING INSIDE MHAs
NEW CONSTITUENCY ACCOUNT REPORTS
New on-line reports let constituents track the tax money
spent by the Member
Two years after the constituency account spending scandal broke, the
Williams government has implemented one of the key promises made in an
effort to rebuild voter confidence. A new web-based report allows
constituents to keep a running eye on what, and how much, their MHAs are
The Member Accountability and Disclosure Reports, available by clicking
House of Assembly on the www.gov.nl.ca website, break down spending in
categories, provide maximum expenditure information, and track what
percentage of their allotted sums each MHA has already spent. So far,
the only monthís spending available on online is for March 2008, but a
fiscal year total is also included and remaining months will be filled
in as information becomes available.
In Labrador West, PC MHA Jim Baker is well within his allotted limits.
Out of a allowed $6,350.00 budget for Office Allowances, Baker has
racked up just $705.99 in March, and only $1,156.80 for the year so far,
just 18.2% of his limit. MHAs like Baker, who donít maintain
constituency offices outside their homes, are typically in that range.
MHAs such as Minister Clyde Jackman, who maintain office accommodation
elsewhere, are deeper into the public purse at about 50% of their
allocation. Bakerís expenses included a telephone message book, staples,
and file folders.
The Operational Resources category includes Bakerís one large expense, a
laptop computer, but, at $1,144.00 on that purchase, $1,814.68 in total
for the year, Baker is at the bottom of the spending heap for that
category as well. Tom Marshallís total over the same period was
The amounts provided to each MHA for meals while traveling, travel
expenses, and living allowances while the house is in session vary
considerably based on distance from the capital city. Steve Kent, living
in neighbouring Mount Pearl, has less than $3,000 allocated, while Jim
Baker, in Labrador West, and the other Labrador MHAs, have $20,000 or
more available to them. On a percentage of their available budget,
however, itís clear Labrador Westís MHA isnít dining too high on the
hog. Baker has used just 1.3% of his available funding. Steve Kent
stands at 5.1%, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael at 12.1%, and Liberal Leader
Yvonne Jones at 12.9%. Other Labrador MHAs are John Hickey at Patty
Pottle in a tie with Baker at 1.3%.
It was the straight Constituency Account monies which triggered a
multitude of reports from Auditor General John Noseworthy in 2006. Since
then, those funds have come under strict usage and reporting procedures
handed down in a 1300-page document by Chief Justice Derek Green. Each
Member of the House of Assembly has $1,270 of funding earmarked
Constituency Allowance for the fiscal year 2007-2008. In general, MHAs
have not been using their constituency allowance amounts. Baker has used
just $29.05 of his allowance.
Other MHAs of note would be Tom Rideout, $189.48; Clyde Jackman, 99.66;
Steve Kent, 165.84; Patty Pottle, $0; John Hickey, $47.38; Lorraine
Michael, 38.94; Danny Williams, $0; Tom Marshall, $0; Dave Denine,
$243.02; Tom Osbourne, $0. One of those who isnít shy about using her
constituency amount is leader of the provincial Liberal party, Yvonne
Jones, who has spent 95.5% of her $1,270, for a total of 1,213.13.
The information provided in the recently released report relates to
Membersí allocations and expenditures incurred during the period 9
October 2007 to 31 March 2008. Reports will be published on a
semi-annual basis in the future; therefore, the next reports published
will cover the period from 1 April 2008 to 30 September 2008.
While providing insight into how public monies are spent by individual
MHAs, direct comparisons member-by-member wonít always be valid
measurements. For example, while Labrador West MHA Jim Baker could be
expected to use a high percentage of funding for travel to and from St.
Johnís, the district has a small footprint, so an MHA like Yvonne Jones
or Patty Pottle would see higher amounts necessary to get to different
parts of their district because they must travel by ferry or air just to
get from community to community.
As well, MHAs who hold other portfolios, such as Minister of a
particular department, might be able to piggy-back some of their
district costs with ministerial occasions. In some cases, this could see
expenses put on other tabs, or, it could help decrease the overall costs
by combining expenses.
Overall, however, the accounts allow constituents some insight into the
cost of doing political business.
ē Ngaire Genge
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