62 MLAs claimed over $1 million combined in accommodation expenses last year
Last week, I wrote an article related to MLAs claiming the Edmonton accommodation allowance. It was pretty anti-capitalist, which, unsurprisingly, resulted in significant pushback.
As a result, I decided to do another article related to the Edmonton accommodation allowance, but one that was less anti-capitalist and more encompassing.
The Edmonton accommodation allowance is a budgeted amount that MLAs who reside at least 60 km outside of Edmonton can claim accommodation expenses against, related to their work while in the legislature. These MLAs are allowed to claim up to $193 per day that they’re in Edmonton during a sitting legislature or otherwise in Edmonton on official political business, or up to $1,930 per month if they own or lease a temporary residence in the Edmonton area. It has a annual maximum limit of $23,160.
I recently searched through the expense claims for all the MLAs and found 62 MLAs who expensed any amount under this allowance during the 2019–2020 fiscal year. I’ve listed them below, including how much of the maximum amount they claimed.
So there are a few things that seem interesting. Of the 62 MLAs, 61 claimed less than the maximum amount. The only one who claimed the maximum was Leela Aheer, MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore and the minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women. Except technically, she didn’t claim the maximum of $23,160; she claimed $24,125, which was 104.17% above the maximum.
The smallest amount claimed was $538.52 by Dale Nally, MLA for Morinville-St. Albert, which less than 3% of the maximum amount. Interestingly, Nally lives in St. Albert, which is less than 60 km from Edmonton.
Now, the allowance also includes “overnight accommodation costs to a maximum of 10 overnight stays in a fiscal year”, provided that the MLA has to travel more than 60 km from their home and the Legislature Building. Morinville-St. Albert includes everything in Sturgeon County, east of Highway 2. The community furthest east in Sturgeon County is Redwater, which is more than 60 km from both St. Albert and the Legislature Building, and there are several hotels in Redwater. Except the only hotel receipts I could find of his for Edmonton accommodations allowance weren’t for Redwater: they were actually for hotels in Edmonton: one stay on the 19th of June ($185.02), one on the 25th ($176.75), and one on the 26th ($176.75). Two of the claims has no hotel name, but one of them is the Westin in Edmonton, which is only about 20 km from St. Albert.
Anyhow, onto everyone else. Here’s a graph showing the amounts everyone claimed.
On average, the 4 NDP MLAs on the list claimed 88.14% of the maximum amount. The 58 UCP MLAs claimed an average of 74.87% of the maximum amount.
There were 5 MLAs other than Nally who claimed under $10,000: Matt Jones of Calgary-South East at $7,451.40; Tanya Fir of Calgary-Peigan at $6,530.25; Miranda Rosin of Banff-Kananaskis at $6,380.17; Devinder Toor of Calgary-Falconridge at $5,383.72; and Shane Getson of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland at $1,019.61. None of the MLAs claiming under $10,000 were NDP.
Another 25 MLAs spent between $10,000 and $20,000. This includes 25% of the NDP MLAs who claimed the allowance and 41% of the UCP MLAs.
The rest-30 MLAs in total-claimed above $20,000: the other 75% of the NDP MLAs and remaining 48% of the UCP MLAs.
Combined, these 62 MLAs claimed $1,087,556.44 in the Edmonton accommodation allowance, about 75% of the total amount budgeted.
Nathan Neudorf (UCP) and Shannon Phillips (NDP)-the two MLAs in Lethbridge, where I live-were 18th and 25th place, respectively, in highest amount claimed. If you account for duplicate amounts (2 MLAs claimed $22,719.32 and 8 claimed $22,195), they actually place 10th and 17th highest). Irfan Sabir, spent the most of all the NDP MLAs, at $22,195, tied for 7th place.
Jason Kenney, the premier, claimed 75% of the maximum amount; 22 MLAs in total claimed 75% or less: all UCP. Only 8 MLAs claimed under 50% of the maximum amount: again, all UCP. And 3 claimed under 25%: also all UCP.
So, the majority of the UCP MLAs claimed under $20,000, and the majority of the NDP claimed over $20,000.
A couple of things to keep in mind. First, the UCP have the most seats; because 72.4% of the MLAs are UCP, they’re likely going to be the majority in any expense claims. As well, 83% of the NDP MLAs are in Edmonton, so very few of the NDP MLAs will be expensing the Edmonton accommodation allowance.
So few NDP MLAs expensing the allowance makes it difficult to extrapolate much that’s useful from the data, at least as far as that party is concerned.
Originally published at kimsiever.ca on 5 May 2020.