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Time to clip some wings and trim some salaries at B.C. legislature

Three highest paid staff in the BC legislature earn more than their counterparts in Ottawa.

With travel costs doubling and salary expenses up by more than 15 per cent since 2009-10, it's time to rein-in some of the free-spending ways of some staff at the B.C. legislature, according to IntegrityBC.

In 2013-14, the clerk of the B.C. legislature, Craig James, saw his salary increase by more than $30,000.

James now earns $289,984 or at least $61,184 more than the clerk of the House of Commons, Audrey O'Brien and $70,587 more than the clerk of the Ontario legislature, Deborah Deller.

James's deputy Kathleen Ryan-Lloyd has seen her salary steadily rise from $116,979 in 2009-10, as a committee clerk, to $199,682 last year as deputy clerk. Ryan-Lloyd earns at least $26,382 more than the deputy clerk of the House of Commons.

B.C.'s sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz took home $175,474 in 2013-14, at least $2,000 more than Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons.

“Something is amiss when the B.C. legislature is one of the provincial legislatures that meets the least and, yet, its three highest paid staff earn more than their counterparts in Ottawa,” said Integrity BC executive director Dermod Travis.

James also topped off the list of frequent flyers at the legislature, racking up $71,873 in travel expenses in 2013-14, more than any other employee in the B.C. government. Ben Chin, the premier's executive director of communications, was in eighth place at $51,554.

James' travel expenses last year worked out to a weekly average of $1,382. In the last five years, he's claimed $277,000 in travel expenses.

Together, James, Ryan-Lloyd and Lenz billed $114,016 in travel expenses for 2013-14, roughly a quarter of the total travel expenses for staff at the legislature.

In 2013, B.C.'s auditor general disclosed that secret, tax-free benefits of $660,000 had been paid out in 2012 to four legislative staff in what the auditor general termed "unusual compensation arrangements."

James confirmed to The Province that he was one of the four employees, but did not disclose how much he had received.

As acting chief electoral officer, James rewrote the travel policy at Elections B.C. so that his wife could accompany him to the 2010 Commonwealth Parliamentary conference in Kenya at the expense of taxpayers.

The policy has since reverted to the one in place before James rewrote it.