Shuswap MLA among biggest spenders on accompanied travel

Kyllo says Accompanying Person Travel expense beneficial to health of families.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo says a government policy that accommodates spousal visits in Victoria was an influential factor in his running for office.

The B.C. legislature recently released a list detailing Accompanying Person Travel expenses for the province’s 85 MLAs. A total of $125,310 was spent last year between April 1, when the province began keeping a record of these expenses, and Dec. 31. Kyllo racked up the fourth highest amount, and the highest among BC Liberals, at $5,182.

All of the top 10 spenders – the highest being the BC NDP member Michelle Mungall of the Nelson-Creston riding at $7,806 – were from outside the Lower Mainland.

Each MLA may designate up to 12 trips in a fiscal period (April to March) for travel with an accompanying person of the MLA’s choosing. Typically, it’s a family member, though it might also be a constituency or legislative assistant.

Kyllo said last year he used his allotted accompanying person trips to bring his constituency assistant, Holly Cowan, to Victoria for a conference, but “primarily I think families use them for spouses.” Kyllo says this travel expense was a major consideration behind his decision to run for provincial office.

“Obviously, there’s a remuneration package as far as salary, but a big part of the discussion was the fact that I was going to be away from Georgina a lot more,” said Kyllo. “And that was definitely one of the main items that we talked about, as far as wanting to make sure we’re able to spend more time together with the large amount of travel that’s involved.”

Kyllo notes the accompanying person travel expense, approved through legislation, has been around for a while, and it’s only the recording of it that’s new. He said his expenses are due to the proximity of the Shuswap riding to Victoria, and because of  “the number of committees I’m sitting on, which requires me to be away a lot more than a lot of others.”

“I know I was talking with a federal minister not too long ago, and he indicated about 10 years ago the divorce rate among elected officials was something like three times the national average,” said Kyllo. “The efforts of government, I think both federal and provincial, have gone a long way to make sure families have the ability to spend more time together.”

BC Liberal MLA and Speaker of the House Linda Reid is under fire for abusing the separate, Speaker Approval Travel expense category, which totalled $55,922 for the last reporting period. This included $5,500 for business-class airfare for Reid’s to accompany her to a conference in South Africa. BC NDP MLA and deputy-speaker Raj Chouhan is in the same boat, having spent $2,200 for an economy class ticket for his spouse to accompany him to the same conference. Both have since committed to repaying the  expenses.