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Cash or plastic? A peek at the B.C. government’s credit card charges in 2017/18

BY DERMOD TRAVIS

Integrity BC

Governments must dread the day they have to post their credit card charges online. Thousands of charges totalling in the millions of dollars, it’s a sure bet someone will find something to highlight.

The 2017/18 charges didn’t disappoint: 94,726 records totalling $59.7 million.

It’s tough to always get a handle on the smallest charge, but it would seem to be 50 cents for parking in Victoria. The largest, hands down, was $35,000 with Diversified Expo by International Trade.

The Office of the Premier (former) charged $368 at Christian Book and Music, while the office (current) spent $347 with Samsonite.

The more popular modes of transportation included Air Canada ($5 million), Helijet ($2.3 million), Harbour Air ($1.4 million) and B.C. Ferries ($296,000).

Half-expecting to see the Legislative Assembly next to the $423 charge at the Savoy Hotel, but this one is in Nelson, B.C., and besides, the legislature doesn’t release its credit card charges, so far at least.

Environment billed $185 at Grammarly, while Toastmasters was down for $4,292 from the Finance Ministry and $3,793 from Citizen Services.

After a long day with the scissors, the former ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction seems to have kicked back with the latest copy of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Two ministries charged a total of $100 at That’s a Wrap, two others spent $560 at It’s About Time, while the Attorney General was out $313 with It’s Great News.

Ministries charged $12,647 at car washes across the province and cars weren’t the only thing that got a wash. Environment charged $78 at Suds & Pups, as in canines.

The Attorney General spent $1,198 at Ancestry.ca for something old, 17 ministries billed $11,144 at Best Buy for something new, a charge of $20.25 at the Abbotsford Community Library appears, presumably, for something borrowed and three ministries were down for $4,145 at Blue Horizon Hotel for something blue.

Municipal affairs and housing charged $11,000 at the Croatian Cultural Centre.

Transportation charged $668 at Phantom Snow, while the finance ministry racked up $5,758 in charges at Phantom Couriers.

Value Village saw a total of $443 from five ministries, while Citizen Services charged $326 at The Gap.

Six ministries were down a total of $2,670 for ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato.

The Attorney General and Public Safety ministries charged $2,399 at Canada Luggage. They should have called the clerk’s office.

Transportation spent $10 at Clever Cupcakes, charged $103 at Victoria’s Be Love restaurant and $76,778 at various restaurants in Kamloops.

Forest, Lands and Natural Resources dropped $523 at 1012 Miami Inc, as in the one in Florida.

Children and Family Development can always be counted on for some charges that scream bad optics. The $21 at Tan de Soleil, a tanning salon in Coquitlam, would fall into that category.

Naked Lunch ($1,309) – the name of a Squamish restaurant, not the recommended dress code – is growing in popularity with the ministry. They also dropped $1,300 with Kelowna’s Bake Naked Kitchens, while three other ministries charged $543 at WholeWheat&Honey.ca.

The health ministry charged $1,088 – cue the outrage – at Tides Canada.

Leaving us in suspense, three ministries charged $3,680 at the “Western Institute for.”

Seven ministries charged a total of $49,486 with Psychometrics Canada, a firm that conducts personality assessments.

The irony may have escaped the ministry, but Public Safety was down for $267 at Trapped, which bills itself as “a real-life room escape game,” while Finance preferred the real-life rooms at the Union Club ($3,872) in Victoria.

Two ministries may have had a good idea, though. They hung the Gone Fishin ($7,092) sign in the window.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that if receipts, such as the credit card charges, are posted online all will be well in the government expense world.

Not much point to posting, though, if no one ever looks, as journalist Bob Mackin showed when he recently reported that Parksville-based Motiontide Media has been invoicing Opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson’s Vancouver-Quilchena constituency office $2,929 monthly for a digital marketing plan that no one will discuss.

The closest either of B.C.’s two other party leaders come to something similar is the $75 that NDP Premier John Horgan’s constituency office spends for website updates.

If it’s our money, then surely our politicians should be ready to discuss the details. Unless they have something to hide?

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC www.integritybc.ca