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NDP’s Raj Chouhan to reimburse province for wife’s air fare

NDP MLA Raj Chouhan, left, with colleagues Dawn Black and Carole James in Vancouver. He has committed to reimbursing the province for the cost of his wife’s plane fare to South Africa.

RICHARD LAM/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Another B.C. MLA is belatedly repaying the fare for his spouse's flight on a taxpayer-funded trip to South Africa last summer.

One day after an embarrassed Linda Reid, Speaker of the House, returned the cost of her husband's $5,500 airfare to join her at a Commonwealth parliamentary conference, New Democrat Raj Chouhan said that he, too, will reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his wife's economy-class fare on the same trip.

Mr. Chouhan, the deputy Speaker of the House and MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds, defended his attendance at the meeting, saying such conferences are valuable for parliamentary exchanges.

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However he said he expects the B.C. Legislature will tighten up rules that allow spouses to accompany MLAs on such business trips.

"I'm not trying to justify it . . . Even though the policy is in place, people's expectations are changing," he said in an interview. He noted that he initially offered to pay his wife Inder Chouhan's $2,200 airfare, but was assured at the time by Ms. Reid that it was not necessary.

"I thought I did everything right. I asked the Speaker how it should be done. Now I feel part of something I should not be."

He said he wanted his wife to travel with him because they had been apart in the spring, during the provincial election campaign. But he said he expects the legislative committee that sets the policy for such travel will look at stricter rules regarding what taxpayers will pay for when members meet next week.

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