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The two Liberal MPs who represent western Newfoundland in Ottawa say there’s one good reason — or maybe one bad one — why their public spending is among the highest of any Commons members from across Canada.
It’s the same reason why Liberal MPs from all over Eastern Canada have spent the most among their party colleagues.
The culprit is the sky-high cost of airfare.
The amount these members spend was made public as part of the Liberal Party of Canada’s policy of proactive disclosure, through which the spending of all Liberal MPs will be publicized quarterly throughout the year.
The spending of each Liberal MP can be viewed on the party’s website by clicking on the words “Proactive Disclosure” found on the profile of each representative.
Judy Foote, the Liberal Commons member for Random–Burin–St. George's, spent $22,131.68 on travel costs in the last quarter of 2013. Gerry Byrne, the Liberal Commons member for Humber–St. Barbe–Baie Verte, spent $21,470.22 during that time.
The breakdown of their travel spending reveals that it usually costs these MPs more than $2,000 to make each return trip from their ridings to Ottawa to attend Parliamentary sessions and other business.
Both Byrne and Foote say all MPs do what they can to lower their travel costs. Both of them now purchase economy flight passes that permits them to get multiple flights at a lower cost.
“That results in, on average, a 20 per cent reduction in airline fares,” said Byrne. “ But, the unfortunate reality of living in the most easternmost province of Canada is that our expenses will come in much higher than those MPs from Montreal, Toronto or the nation’s capital.”
He said it would be inappropriate for anyone to think MPs from elsewhere in the country are more fiscally responsible just from simply looking at the bottom lines of their travel expenses.
Foote may have the most unhandy riding in the entire country, with its geography taking in a chunk of southwestern Newfoundland and jumping over to portions of the south and east coast.
She said it is important for an MP to be present in Ottawa and to visit the people in their riding, even if it is a difficult one geographically as hers certainly is.
“If you don’t get out around your riding, how can you serve the people who elected you?” Foote asked.
“We do a lot by phone and that’s important too, but there are people who really want to see you because there are things they want to show you. So, it’s important to have that presence in the communities you represent as well.”