Speaker repays husband’s South Africa airfare

Legislature Speaker Linda Reid has paid back the $5,528 cost of her husband's flight to South Africa

Richmond East MLA Linda Reid was elected speaker of the B.C. legislature last summer.

VICTORIA – Legislature Speaker Linda Reid has paid back the $5,528 cost of her husband’s flight to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in South Africa.

Reid said Tuesday there is a long-standing practice of spouses accompanying B.C. officials on such trips, but the B.C. legislature’s internal financial standards are evolving in light of public expectations.

“I traveled in my capacity as speaker,” Reid told reporters Tuesday after being questioned about the trip. “I attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. It is important work on behalf of democracy.”

Reid and her husband flew business class to Johannesburg in August. NDP MLA Raj Chouhan, the assistant deputy speaker, was also on the trip with his wife.

NDP caucus chair Shane Simpson said the Chouhans flew economy and stayed at a budget hotel in Johannesburg, so their combined cost to taxpayers was about $6,300. Chouhan offered to pay for his wife but was told by Reid spouses were invited on such trips, Simpson said.

When MLAs began reporting their expenses in 2012, Skeena MLA Robin Austin briefly rose to the top of the list thanks to a $19,000 trip to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Speakers, deputy speakers and legislative clerks typically attend these conferences, aimed at strengthening parliamentary practices around the world.