EDITORIAL: Food fight breaks out in B.C. Legislature

Private members bill would eliminate $61-a-day per diem for local MLAs in Greater Victoria

A rookie Liberal MLA is starting a food fight in the B.C. Legislature.

Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar introduced a private member’s bill that would eliminate the per diem that some MLAs who live nearby the legislature can claim. The reason it is some, is that Milobar’s bill would strip the $61-a-day per diem for the seven MLA who represent ridings in the Capital Region, but it would exempt the two dozen or so B.C. Liberals who have homes (or other living arrangements) in the area but represent a different region of the province.

It’s clear it hasn’t taken Milobar long to learn the political ropes – being able to come across as holier-than-thou while saving a place at the trough for his political colleagues is no easy feat.

If the B.C. Liberals were serious about cutting back on expenses, the bill should target all MLAs who have accommodations in the region. Or better yet, simply ask all MLAs to pay for their meals on their own dime – the $105,882 basic salary, along with an out-of-town living allowance of between $12,000 and $17,000, should be more than enough to keep them in Happy Meals.

To suggest an MLA who represents the Capital Region has time to pack themselves a peanut butter sandwich lunch before work, but those renting a home possibly even closer to the Legislature do not, simply defies logic.

And it really is peanuts that we’re talking here. Premier John Horgan has claimed $1,684.50 for meals, Finance Minister Carole James has eaten up $1,587, Education Minister Rob Fleming has chowed down to the tune of $1,462.50 and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has claimed $1,221. Saanich South’s MLA Lana Popham has not submitted any per diem claims.

While we are impressed by the agriculture minister’s frugality, we question the need for legislation making home cooking mandatory for MLAs. Is a bill designed to save taxpayers some $6,000 worth having our elected representatives be forced to cut an evening meeting short so they can rush home to throw a Lean Cuisine into the oven?

Of course not. But that was never the purpose. The bill was meant to score some cheap political points while keeping a space for himself and his colleagues on the gravy train.

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