Reynolds fends off questions about travel expenses 

Wilson, Liberals take aim at Conservative incumbent

The campaign in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding got a little livelier last week when Liberal candidate Blair Wilson ran with news of an investigation into the travel costs of Conservative MP John Reynolds.

The investigation was initiated by, Elbert K. Paul, a Liberal supporter and a chartered accountant from Bowen Island who wrote a letter to Auditor General Sheila Fraser asking her to "determine whether there is a basis for an audit" of Reynolds’s travel costs.

Paul compared the travel costs of Reynolds to Keith Martin, who is a former Canadian Alliance MP in B.C. now running as a Liberal, and, according to Paul, the difference was $140,000.

"I was greatly concerned to discover that the travel costs of my elected representative, John Reynolds, were $193,184 for fiscal March 2003 and $192,198 for fiscal March 2002," wrote Paul in his letter to Fraser.

"In comparison the travel costs for the Honourable Keith Martin were $49,554 and $58,368 for fiscal March 2003 and March 2002."

Paul said in an interview later that he was angry that, despite his travel costs, Reynolds had not visited Bowen Island since the 2000 election.

He added that he had also taken grave exception to Reynolds’s harsh comments on former Prime Minister Joe Clark.

"All I want to know is, from the perspective of the financial administration act, whether they’re eligible expenses or whether there could be improvements for a taxpayer or a constituent and if there’s not, then there’s not a problem," he said.

Paul admitted he had worked with the auditor general’s department and as a consultant to the treasury board.

Paul forwarded copies of his letter to several media organizations in the corridor as well as Wilson’s campaign office, but he did not send a copy to Reynolds’s office.

Wilson’s campaign issued a release referring to Paul’s letter and Wilson raised questions about Reynolds’ travel costs in media interviews.

Reynolds was in Whistler last Monday and was happy to address Paul’s letter and Wilson’s campaign tactics.

"It’s a set up from Mr. Paul and Mr. Wilson to try and embarrass me but they did not give out all the facts," said Reynolds.

"I read Mr. Wilson’s comments in the paper this morning about how you can spend that much money travelling. Well he obviously hasn’t looked at the speaker’s list, which is published every year and every year MPs in British Columbia are highest on the list, especially those who work hard.

"There is at least half a dozen Liberals that are much higher than I am – some as high as $300,000 a year – and it’s interesting to me that Mr. Wilson didn’t think that their travel was undue.

"He compared me to Keith Martin over on the island, well Keith hasn’t made a vote in the House of Commons in the first six months of this year and I regularly attend.

"You know, it’s politics – when you don’t want to talk about the sponsorship scandal and corruption in your own government and then you try and attack somebody."

A spokesperson for the auditor general’s office said an investigation of Reynolds’ expenses was done but because the request came from a private individual the results remain private.

Rather than investigate his travel expenses Reynolds said he wanted to see the outcome of the sponsorship scandal.

"It’s one thing for the auditor general to check my expenses but I want the answer to her question as to where the $250 million went in the sponsorship scandal," he said.

"Why did they call the election before we got the results of that? The government’s corrupt and they’re going to use anything they can to try and smear good people’s reputation, but they’re not going to win.

"If the best thing Mr. Wilson’s got is my travel then I feel really sorry for him."

Wilson maintained that he did not know about Reynolds’s travel costs until Paul released his letter.

"The real issue hear is accountability," said Wilson.

He said his phone had been "ringing off the hook" because a number of constituents were concerned with Paul’s letter.

Wilson suggested the government should publish their expense reports on the Internet so the public would be able to see exactly what their elected officials are spending their money on.

"I think changing the way elected officials spend money would depend on how and when they have to file their expense reports," he said.

"I think you’ll find that if the reports were made public the costs of governing would go down."

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