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Ranking Nova Scotia MLAs by reported expenses – Halifax

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A direct correlation can be drawn between factors, such as mileage and living accommodations, and the higher-end costs taxpayers are shelling out for MLA expenses.

The most recent six-month MLA expense report covers the period between April and September of this year and shows a bill of $1,586,836.48 was picked up by Nova Scotians.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia MLAs expensed $175,000 in advertising over 6-month period

Each member’s expenses are broken down into categories, such as constituency expenses and travel expenses.

MLAs whose ridings are situated more than 100 kilometres away from Province House are also eligible to claim living expenses, which cover lodging, parking, electricity, cable, phone, and internet charges.

Members who incur those additional costs make up the first 19 places of the 51-person list, although there are several, such as Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster and Victoria-The Lakes MLA Keith Bain, who are further down the list than a number of HRM-area representatives.

“We are committed to transparency, and are the first government to make cabinet ministers’ expenses available online,” said the Liberal Caucus Office in a statement.

Glace Bay Liberal MLA Geoff MacLellan topped the list at $48,617.89, followed by NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre, Tammy Martin, with $45,925.84.

The PC’s Chris d’Entremont, who represents Argyle-Barrington, rounded out the podium, charging $43,251.49 to taxpayers.

Just over 20 per cent of MacLellan’s costs came from living expenses with $10,200 solely spent on six months of rent. Another $5,707.25 was listed under the travel heading.

Martin’s expenses include $8,374.50 in living costs, which are made up of electricity and cable charges, along with a $1,250 per month apartment rental. The Cape Breton Centre MLA’s living expenses are the lowest of the three, while her travel costs top them at $6,864.45.

D’Entremont’s living expenses of $8,628.29 are made up of one NS Power bill, a pair of Eastlink bundle charges and $1,375 in monthly rent. Travel charges reached $6,189.73.

WATCH: Here’s how much your Nova Scotia MLA is costing you






Liberal members occupy the final two top five spots; Gordon Wilson of Clare-Digby and Lloyd Hines of Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie each expensed over $42,000.

“As the representative for Cape Breton Centre, I live further away than almost any other MLA, which means there are higher travel costs to get to and from Halifax for meetings,” said NDP MLA Tammy Martin. “I wish more government meetings actually took place in Cape Breton instead of always being in the city.”

When a comparison is done of the distance between constituency offices and Province House, MacLellan and Martin are tied for the longest journey at 424 kilometres each.

PC MLA for Northside-Westmount Eddie Orrell ranks third with a 406 kilometre trip every time he heads to the legislature, although he is barely above the average amount spent at $32,911.77, landing him at 18th on the list.

The PC’s own the fourth farthest riding from the capital as well. Victoria-The Lakes MLA Keith Bain is one kilometre short of 400 away, but despite the sprawling constituency and the long drive to Province House, Bain only cost taxpayers $30,402.96 this time around, resulting in him ranking 29th.

Liberal MLA Derek Mombourquette, who represents Sydney-Whitney Pier, is just shy of that distance with a 397 kilometre one-way trip. It is the fifth furthest away. He landed seventh in costs by expensing $40,930.27.

Nova Scotia Premier and MLA for Annapolis, Stephen McNeil, sits in the middle of the pack at 26th. New PC Leader Tim Houston ranks just outside the top ten at 12th, while NDP Leader Gary Burrill, the only party leader with a Halifax-region seat, landed in 35th.

The PC Party indicated that in some instances, geographic size of constituencies can require MLAs to hold two consituency offices but that “PC MLAs take great care to ensure their expenses fall within the rules and are approved by the Speaker’s Office.”

The PC’s hold three of the five least expensed rankings, including the two lowest amounts.

Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA Barbara Adams charged the least to taxpayers with a total of $18,748.15 spent, while Larry Harrison of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley expensed $19,634.28.

Liberal MLAs Chuck Porter and Kelly Regan were third and fourth lowest, with PC MLA for Dartmouth East Tim Halman rounding out the bottom five.

Follow @Jeremy_Keefe

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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