BC Liberal MLA Linda Reid defends spending as accepted ‘practice’
Speaker of the House Linda Reid says she has reimbursed tax coffers for her hubsand’s business class flight to South Africa with her to attend a conference last summer. (PHOTO FROM TWITTER)
The speaker of the B.C. legislature says she has repaid more than $5,500 in taxpayers’ money spent flying her husband to South Africa for a conference she was attending.
BC Liberal MLA Linda Reid attempted some damage control Tuesday with a press conference held just hours after telling a Vancouver Sun reporter the public paid for her husband Sheldon Friesen to join her at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference last August.
Reid said she was told if she could find two plane tickets for the price of an upgraded one she could bring her spouse. She is also looking for other trip expenses that may have to be reimbursed.
Reid defended the initial billing — to fly business class — as normal accepted behaviour.
“It’s a practice, what this place has always done,” Reid told reporters. “I’m happy to lead on changing as we go forward.”
When pressed, Reid told reporters BC NDP MLA Raj Chouhan also made the trip and brought his wife at taxpayers’ expense.
Chouhan was not speaking to media Tuesday, but fellow NDP MLA Shane Simpson said Chouhan went economy class with his wife and the whole trip cost $6,300 for both of them.
“In Raj’s case he offered to pay for her; they told her ‘no, you don’t have to do that,’” Simpson said. “I know now he’ll probably be having a conversation with the speaker about that.”
Reid had posted photos on Twitter of her husband petting a giraffe during the trip.
Dermod Travis of the watchdog group IntegrityBC said the trip represents a pattern with politicians.
“They don’t seem to learn,” Travis said.
Travis also questioned the need for even taking the trip.
“I can accept an argument when an elected official is going on a flight that is longer than four hours that they have to upgrade ... if when they get off of that plane they are going immediately to work,” he said. “Based on the photos I’ve seen it doesn’t strike me like it was a particularly stressful working conference.”
Reid was under fire recently spending $48,000 on desk upgrades and $700 for a muffin rack.
Last week, BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan took a leave of absence after it was revealed her husband paid for the couple’s trips using tax dollars through a Vancouver non-profit.
Kwan said her estranged husband had told her the money was theirs, not the society’s.