“If you contact every MLA in this province... find out if they don’t rent from supporters.”
I’ve been surprised this story and interview with Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster hasn’t attracted more attention.
Especially his claim that MLAs routinely make a point of renting office space - with tax dollars - from people who contribute to their campaign.
Foster has been criticized by the auditor general for having taxpayers pick up the bills for a near-total renovation of the building he chose for his constituency office.
Especially as the building was bought just before the election by a family that contributed to his campaign. One of the co-owners was also hired by Foster as his constituency assistant.
It looks bad, especially as Foster rejected the less costly office occupied by his Liberal predecessor.
Taxpayers cover leasehold improvements for constituency offices - usually things like creating a meeting room or replacing worn-out flooring.
But Foster acknowledges that he chose a building that was bsically a shell. Taxpayers, the auditor general noted, paid for “purchasing and installing a complete forced air heating/cooling system including a four-ton heat pump and 75,000 BTU furnace, replacing the building's wiring system, installing vapour barriers in exterior walls and purchasing and installing a new double paned 18-foot by nine-foot storefront window and new plumbing including gas piping."
That’s a great deal for the landlords. Their property is worth a lot more thanks to major renovations.
Not so good for taxpayers.
Foster talked with Marshall Jones of Info-Tel news about the deal. The legislature comptroller approved it, he says.
Asked about the appearance of preferential treatment for a donor to his campaign, Foster was unrepentant.
“Why would you rent from somebody who didn’t support you?” he asked.
“If you contact every MLA in this province and ask them who they rent from, find out if they don’t rent from supporters,” he said.
Any business person is going to buy from someone who supports their business, he added.
Except, of course, the businesspeople are spending their own money.
Anon makes a good point in the comments.
If you want to spend more than $25,000 on goods or services in government, you are required to go through a competitive bidding process. It’s a away of getting the best deal and avoiding favoritism or corruption.
But MLAs don’t believe the rules that apply to everyone else in government should apply to them.
Which inevitably raises the question - why not?