Expenses list a good first step

Travelling the province is an integral part of an MLA’s job in B.C. We get that.

Travelling the province is an integral part of an MLA’s job in B.C. We get that.

But when the travel expenses of a minister who lives in the same town as the legislature are third-highest of any government cabinet member — Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong — it causes us to raise our eyebrows.

The expense information on Chong and other ministers was available — if you knew where to look — prior to the Liberal government’s introduction last week of its DataBC website. But it took the government’s example, that similar information for all B.C. MLAs can now readily be found by the public, for us to take more notice of spending by cabinet ministers.

The increased transparency on MLA spending is a step in the right direction. While the bills chalked up by other Capital Region politicians in their duties as MLAs didn’t raise any red flags, the fact that anyone can now access such information is a better public service.

It’s important also that transparency in government be taken further. B.C. still lags behind other provinces in terms of availability of receipts and other more detailed expense accounts.

Since there is no real watchdog in B.C. for appropriate expenditures by elected representatives, it’s up to the public to keep watch on such things. And it’s also up to the public and taxpayer lobby groups to keep up the pressure on government to open up the accounts to more public scrutiny.

The perception of secrecy in government is one of the key ingredients in a denigration of trust in government. Moving to make the accounting by elected individuals, as well as government as a whole, more transparent is the surest way to gain favour with the electorate.

That’s something current and future administrations in B.C. may wish to take a closer look at as they head toward election time.