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Two Interior MPs spend big on taxpayer funded spousal flights

Mel Arnold and his wife Linda Arnold.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Mel Arnold
September 20, 2019 - 5:30 PM

Two of the region's MPs have spent over $230,000 of taxpayer's money on travel expenses for their partners over the last four years.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold spent $121,138 on travel expenses for his wife Linda Arnold, while Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod spent $110,035 on travel expenses for her husband Robert McLeod.

The Tory MPs' expenses put them in the top five in the country out of the 333 Members of Parliament. McLeod's expense claims come in fifth place, while Arnold's come in fourth, one place behind former Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould who spent $125,754 on travel expenses for her spouse.

Under House of Commons rules, members of parliament are allowed to list a spouse as a designated traveller. According to the 245-page Members’ Allowances and Services Manual, an MP's designated traveller is entitled to "travel resources in order to support or represent the Member in their parliamentary functions."

While Arnold's and McLeod's travel expenses for their spouses may be some of the highest in the country, their spending doesn't break any parliamentary rules and falls within parliamentary guidelines.

MPs throughout Canada aren't given a monetary budget for flights to and from Ottawa and instead use a 'travel points' system. The Allowances and Services Manual says the points system ensures MPs have the same transportation resources regardless of where their constituency is located in Canada.

While McLeod and Arnold spent big bucks flying their partners to see them, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative MP Dan Albas spent just $9,398 on travel for his wife Tara, in his four years in office.

Almost as frugal was South Okanagan-West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings who spent $12,230 in his first four years in parliament.

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr did not register anyone under the designated traveller program and told the Kelowna Daily Courier that when his partner had flown out to Ottawa he just paid for the costs himself.

While it's not totally clear from the expense report as to how many flights the partners of the MPs took, it appears both Albas and Cannings' partners took three flights between April 1, 2018, and Mar. 31, 2019, while Mel Arnold's wife took 34 flights and McLeod's husband 24 flights.

The basic salary for a Member of Parliament is $178,900.

Neither Mel Arnold or Cathy McLeod were immediately available for comment.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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