So Ida Chong is not alone.

New Democrat MLAs from Greater Victoria are also living high on the hog at taxpayers’ expense.

There is no other way to interpret their rush to defend Chong, who as a Liberal cabinet minister is normally their foe.

Or to interpret their refusal to reveal how much they claim for meal expenses while working in their hometown.

Chong claimed $5,921 last year.

If the New Democrats were models of austerity – like Murray Coell, who claimed $1,321 for food – they would likely be eager to condemn Chong’s expenses and come clean on their own.

Their refusal is telling.

MLAs living in Greater Victoria are allowed to claim up to $61 a day for meals when working at the legislature or travelling on business.

They do not need to submit receipts; simply claiming the money is good enough.

They could bring lunches from home or limit their spending to $10 and still claim that $61.

If they play the game that way, they can give themselves a tax-free boost to their incomes.

It’s all gravy, one might say.

There is a chance that the MLAs are not taking advantage of the feeding frenzy.

In fact, we hope that most of them are not.

We hope that they are claiming as little as they can, because surely they know that the money is coming from the pockets of their constituents.

Surely they know that individual taxpayers have been feeling financial pain in the past couple of years; the downturn has hurt even worse than indigestion.

And they know – or at least, we hope they do – that government cutbacks have caused a lot of grief for people who could never dream of spending $61 on meals for one person in one day.

They also should know that the arrival of the harmonzied sales tax has made restaurant meals more expensive – and that pain is worse for people who actually have to pay for their own food.

But as long as they won’t reveal their spending, we can only assume the worst.

The arrogance being shown by Greater Victoria’s MLAs – other than Coell, that is – is appalling.

That the New Democrats are defending Chong is, well, icing on the cake.

CCC BLOG reprint:

NDP joins Chong at table

Victoria Times Colonist:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Page A16




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