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Weston spending ranks fifth among MP's

Large riding, emphasis on communications account for costs



In the sport of most expensive MP, John Weston falls just short of the podium.

The member for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country carried a cost of $604,053.10 between April 1, 2009 and March 31 of this year, according to expenditures filed with the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy. That placed Weston fifth in spending among all MPs.

The expenditures took note of costs such as MP salaries and service contracts; travel; advertising; printing; and office expenses including constituency office leases, furniture and telecommunication services. The expenditures also accounted for hospitality, events and advertising.

Reached in Ottawa Monday, Weston said people need to take into account the size of his riding. At 129,241 people it's the biggest riding in British Columbia, as per the 2006 federal census.

"This is the biggest riding in terms of population, one of the largest by geography," he said. "It's one of the few that has three offices in the riding plus Ottawa because of the challenging nature of the different communities and the population base and the geography."

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country is not the largest riding in the country in terms of area but it includes several different and disparate communities, many of them separated by water.

Alberta's Peace River riding measures 162,872 square kilometres, with a population of 138,009 people, as per the 2006 census. Peace River MP Chris Warkentin's spending was $488,125.23 for the same period, $115,927 less than Weston's.

"You're looking at someone with about 35 per cent less population and number of households," Weston said. "So if you're doing something per person, on a per capita basis, then the person with the 60 per cent of the population is going to come out lower."

Weston's spending on printing stands out. He spent $118,184 on flyers, almost all of it on "householders" and "10-percenters."

He spent $30,021.79 on householders, which are quarterly, tabloid-size flyers meant to provide constituents with information on specific government programs.

Weston ranked seventh among spenders on householders, behind MPs Brian Murray, Alex Mendes, Tony Martin, Marlene Jennings, Laurie Hawn and Raymonde Folco.

Weston also spent $87,407.26 on 10 percenters, flyers that are distributed to 10 per cent of a riding's population and are more partisan in nature. Just last week some constituents in this riding received flyers asking them to check off which political leader is best suited to carry the country forward - Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton.

He came 10 th among spenders on 10 percenters, behind Vic Toews, Lee Richardson, Guy Lauzon, Peter Kent, Brian Jean, Laurie Hawn, Gary Goodyear, Patrick Brown and Leon Benoit - all of them members of the governing Conservative Party.

Asked why he spent so much money on mailed flyers, Weston said it's part of a commitment to communication with his constituents.

"I've heard time and again that people wanted their MP to relate to them what they're doing and they wanted the MP to listen," he said. "Both the householders and the 10 percenters enable me to communicate what we're doing, get feedback from people and operate on that feedback.

"Because we've been in such close communications, that's a bigger reason why our riding was favoured under the Economic Action Plan."

Asked whether partisan and informational flyers sent to his constituents had anything at all to do with the money that the riding got under the Economic Action Plan, Weston said the emphasis of his flyers was on economic investment.

"That's clearly where we put our emphasis in communicating, because that's the number one priority for people in the riding," he said. "I think because our government and in our riding's case, I'm communicating with people. That's why we're leading the world in terms of recovering from the economy."

Daniel Veniez, the Liberal candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country in the next federal election, felt differently.

"I ask myself, whether on those quarterly householders, whether we're getting value for our money when we see these things in our mailboxes," he said. "They're riddled with pictures of Weston shaking hands with various people. My answer is no."

The Liberals, however, have in the past made much use of 10 percenters in ridings that aren't even their own. Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh previously sent 10 percenters to Whistler mailboxes touting his party's message.

Asked about the Liberals sending such flyers to ridings they don't hold, Veniez didn't absolve his party.

"I don't think it's defensible," he said. "I just don't think that use of taxpayers' money for that kind of stuff is in any way justifiable, whether Liberal, NDP or Conservative."