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HomeBusinessUnlike B.C., Ottawa speaker spouses still enjoy taxpayer-funded travel 

Unlike B.C., Ottawa speaker spouses still enjoy taxpayer-funded travel 

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Bob Mackin 

Nine years since the speaker of B.C.’s Legislative Assembly apologized for charging taxpayers when her husband accompanied her to South Africa, the two Liberal speakers in Ottawa dinged Canadians almost $31,000 to bring their wives to Australia.

Canadian Speakers Anthony Rota and George Frey in Australia (CSPOC/Twitter)

Then-Senate Speaker George Furey and Karen Furey and House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota and Chantal Piche Rota traveled to the Jan. 3-6 Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth in capital city Canberra. They were half of Canada’s eight-person delegation that spent more than $150,000. 

Furey was named to the Senate in 1999 by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and became speaker in the upper chamber in 2015 after Justin Trudeau led the Liberals back to power with a majority. Rota Is the Liberal MP for Nipissing-Timiskaming who became House of Commons speaker after the 2019 election.

“After eight years of Trudeau, it is clear he and his Liberal government never miss an opportunity to jet-set around the world to visit global elites and stay in fancy hotels,” said a statement from Michael Barrett, the Conservative shadow minister for Ethics and Accountable Government. ”Canadians are struggling to put food on the table or afford a place to live, but the Liberals continue to add to the inflationary fires with their wining and dining on the tax payer’s dime.” 

George Furey spent $23,234.13 and Karen Furey $19,441.98 on airfare, accommodation and daily allowances, more than Anthony Rota’s $15,246.24 and Chantal Piche Rota’s $11,398.45. The Fureys charged taxpayers $17,972.92 each for airfare alone. 

Karen Furey received $1,469.19 in daily allowances and Chantal Piche Rota $1,387.63. 

“When the speaker’s spouse accompanies him on an international trip to represent Canada, her travel and accommodation expenses are paid by the House of Commons, and she receives a per diem because she is considered a member of the delegation,” said Amelie Crosson, director of communications in Speaker Rota’s office.

“For international trips such as these, the House of Commons only pays travel expenses for the spouse of the speaker and does not pay travel expenses for the spouse of any other member of parliament or employee.”

The expensive junket, originally reported by Blacklock’s Reporter, also included ex-Clerk Charles Robert, who was listed as “parliamentary staff” and charged taxpayers $21,170.42.

(Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth 2023

Robert took leave of absence in mid-November but quit in early December after denying allegations of misconduct — including showing pro-Liberal bias.

The entourage also included Senate Clerk Gerald Lafreniere ($19,997.85), Furey’s Chief of Staff Vince MacNeil ($19,130.29) and Rota’s Chief of Staff Alexandre Mattard-Michaud ($20,280.16). 

Rota chairs the Board of Internal Economy, which sets spending rules in the House of Commons. Liberals hold the five-vote majority on the nine-member committee, which also includes two Conservatives and one each from the NDP and Bloc Québécois.

“Instead of controlling the costs of government which drive up the cost of everything else, this out of touch Liberal government is taxing Canadians more in order to spend more on itself,” Barrett said. “Canadians are out of money and this Liberal government is out of touch.”

In August 2013, then-BC Liberal Speaker Linda Reid charged taxpayers for her husband’s business class airfare, meals and hotel when she attended a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in South Africa. In March 2014, when Reid was exposed, she said she reimbursed the public treasury for her husband’s $5,528.16 airfare. She did not respond to repeated requests from a reporter to see the proof of repayment. The B.C. Legislative Assembly remains exempt from B.C.’s freedom of information law, despite NDP Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth’s 2019 promise. 

One of Reid’s successors, Darryl Plecas, became speaker in 2017 and blew the whistle on lavish spending by globetrotting, BC Liberal-appointed Clerk Craig James. In 2017, James racked-up $51,649 in expenses on top of his $347,090 salary.

One of Plecas’s legacies is the the Legislative Assembly Management Committee’s 2019 policy on employee travel, that includes an explicit ban on reimbursement for costs incurred by a spouse. 

Plecas called in the RCMP after finding waste and corruption, including James’s unnecessary overseas trips, purchases of watches and gifts, failure to report and pay duties to Canada customs, the purchase of a wood splitter kept at James’s house and a $257,000 retirement allowance James decided to give himself in 2012. James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended in November 2018 and both retired in disgrace the following year. 

In May 2022, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found James guilty of fraud and breach of trust. He was sentenced to a month of house arrest and two months of curfew for spending $1,886.72 of taxpayers’ money on custom shirts and suits for personal use. 

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