Surrey MP third-highest spender in province
A Surrey MP is among the top three biggest spenders in B.C. for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, according to the latest members' expenditures report.
Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Nina Grewal spent $543,563.53 on items such as travel, employees' salaries and service contracts, hospitality and events, advertising, printing and (constituency) offices.
The average B.C. MP spent $487,012.494 last fiscal year, which is higher than the national average of $432,937.896 per MP, since Members of Parliament from this province have the farthest to travel to reach the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Grewal spent $56,551.08 more than the average B.C. MP, and $110,625.634 more than the average Canadian MP.
The biggest B.C. spender was Cariboo-Prince George MP Richard Harris, with $585,074.90 in expenses, with former Vancouver-South MP MP Ujjal Dosanjh coming in just below that amount at $584,966.37.
In a phone interview Tuesday from Ottawa, Grewal noted this is her fourth term in office, and that in past years, "my expenditures were in the middle of the pack."
"Each year, my budget is not only balanced, but there is a healthy surplus," she said.
This year, however, the area where Grewal spent more than any other B.C. MP was in the printing category, on pamphlets that are commonly known as "10 percenters."
Called 10 percenters because the quantity produced must not exceed 10 per cent of the households in a riding, MPs can produce as many of them as they want as long as the content is substantially different each time.
MPs were previously allowed to send the one-page, usually partisan leaflets to households outside of their constituencies free of charge. Those rules changed with a 2010 Board of Internal Economy decision that scaled back the way MPs can distribute the flyers, but the partisan pamphlets are still allowed.
Still, Grewal spent more than any other MP in the province on printing the flyers – $47,910.17 worth. Several other B.C. MPs refrained from spending any money in the same category; others ranged from $350 to the second-highest behind Grewal – $43,043.84 on 10 percenters – spent by Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp.
Grewal said she uses the flyers to communicate with her constituents and let them know what she's doing for them.
"My constituents tell me they want to be informed and I'm keeping them well-informed," she said.
She concurred that the 10 percenters are "where the fault lies" for her high expenditures.
"After every budget, we review our spending. I will certainly be reconsidering how much is spent on 10 percenters," she said.
Dosanjh, who lost to the Conservatives in the 2011 federal election, spent $213,740.40 last year on travel for the "member, designated traveller and dependents."
In 2010, South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert drew criticism for defending the fact he spent $214,360 on travel for himself and his family during the 2008-2009 fiscal year, a difference of just over $600 compared to Dosanjh.
Hiebert's overall expenses this past fiscal year are below the B.C. and national average at $425,711. He spent $91,438.27 on travel and $14,626.80 on 10 percenters.
Dosanjh and Harris did not respond to The Leader's requests for interviews.