Big spenders on the front bench

By Sabrina Nanji July 13, 2020

Ontario’s ethics watchdog J. David Wake was busier than ever this year when it comes to MPP expenses, reviewing 1,507 claims from 259 ministers, parliamentary assistants and their staffers in 2019-20 — a 74 per cent per cent jump from the year before. 
All the claims — typically for travel, meals and hospitality expenses related to doing the job — were compliant with the rules, Wake said in his annual report last month. 
Ten PC ministers each billed more than $5,000 in expenses, according to the publicly available data. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Greg Rickford: $32,418

    • Rickford charged $3,247 for his visit to BP-Husky Toledo refinery in Oregon, another $1,743 to attend a Quebec Mines and Energié event, $1,380 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Borden Mine in Chapleau, and $1,187 for a groundbreaking event for the East West Tie transmission line and tour of Greenstone Gold Mine.

  • Vic Fedeli: $25,734

    • Fedeli billed $7,555 for his trade mission to the U.K., France and Germany during his final days as finance minister last June (he returned home just in time for Ford’s cabinet shuffle, which demoted him to economic development minister). In his current role, he spent $2,500 to tour various automotive facilities. 

      • Both Fedeli and Rickford hail from northern ridings, which may account for their relatively higher expenses.  

  • Lisa MacLeod: $24,189

    • The tourism and culture minister’s biggest ticket item was a $2,500 outreach tour with the film and television sector last October; she also spent $944 to hop on Porter Airlines’ inaugural summer flight to Muskoka and $487 to attend a Pride event and present a scroll on behalf of the premier last June.

  • Todd Smith: $17,681 

    • Back when he was economic development minister, Smith dropped $5,469 in expenses for his business mission to India last spring. In his current social services portfolio, the minister claimed $3,552 to tour northern communities and make a funding announcement benefitting First Nations. 

  • Ernie Hardeman: $10,316 

    • Hardeman’s spendy items include $5,419 for last fall’s trade mission to South Korea and Japan, and $2,090 for the Tri-National Agricultural Accord meeting in Winnipeg.  

  • Rod Phillips: $9,861

  • John Yakabuski: $9,365

  • Merrilee Fullerton: $8,229 

  • Caroline Mulroney: $5,509 

  • Monte McNaughton: $5,300 

Premier Doug Ford expensed $3,925 last year. His big ticket expenses are mostly related to travel outside Ontario’s borders, including a bill for $1,015 to attend the Calgary Stampede and meetings led by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ahead of last summer’s Council of the Federation gathering. 
Ian Todd, Ontario’s trade representative to the United States, spent over $43,000 last year, mainly on trips to meet with stakeholders and government officials in Texas, Massachusetts, California and New York City.

Todd, who is based in Washington, D.C., also invoiced $1,677 to attend the Collision tech conference in Toronto. Todd was an adviser on Ford’s 2018 election campaign and earned about $350,000 last year, according to the Sunshine List.