Travel expenses for Fraser’s staff totalled $40,543.66 for the last fiscal year, higher than any of the country’s MPs, according to parliamentary figures.
Fraser has cited a couple of factors in particular for making his office’s travel expenses higher than normal: his work on the government’s medical assistance in dying bill and his own private member’s bill to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday. For both, he said, he required extra support in Ottawa.
Fraser has only one staff person in Ottawa full-time. Most MPs would have more, he said, but most also only have one constituency office, while Fraser has two (one in Yarmouth, one in Middleton).
MPs decide how to structure their offices, he said, based on how they feel they can be most effective in responding to the needs of their riding as well as their parliamentary duties.
“The way I felt best to do it was to focus on having really good representation in the riding, but also, when needed, have staff travel to Ottawa with me,” Fraser said.
Road travel within the riding would have contributed to the expense total too, he said.
In an open letter to Fraser, Hannah Dawson-Murphy – who recently announced her intention to seek the Conservative nomination in West Nova for the next federal election – said she had “some serious questions” for Fraser’s office about his staff’s travel bill and that she was “absolutely appalled” by the numbers when she saw the detailed travel report for Fraser’s staff.
Fraser said he appreciates Dawson-Murphy’s concern but said she is the only person to contact him about his staff’s travel expenses since the figures were made public June 13. Neither did anyone contact him, he said, after the Chronicle Herald ran a related article July 7.
Acknowledging that his office’s travel expenses were higher than normal for the past fiscal year due to the factors cited earlier, Fraser said the travel bill should be considered in a broader context.
“We’re always mindful of keeping expenses down,” he said, “but if you just look at one category and not the whole picture, I think it can sometimes be a little misleading, but certainly we’ll be focusing on keeping expenses down and making sure that we’re balancing that against effectively representing the area.”