Foreign governments paid for two international trips taken by Harry Bloy - the government's liaison to the Korean community - covering most of the cost of a third. But the provincial Liberal backbencher has said he's never felt uncomfortable, "cornered or concerned" during those trips. According to the backbencher's disclosure statement, local authorities in Nanning and Mianyang picked up the tab for Mr. Bloy to visit the two Chinese cities. Those trips were valued at $3,500 and $4,000 and happened in October 2009 and September 2010 respectively.
Mr. Bloy also visited Korea in June 2008 as a Canadian representative during ceremonies marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War. His riding association contributed $1,800 toward that $4,000 trip, with the country's government covering the remainder. The association also donated $700 toward a $4,000 trip to Ninbgo. The Canada Asia Business Network shouldered the rest of the price tag for that visit.
In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Bloy explained he went to Nanning and Ninbgo to accompany local business delegations travelling to those cities.
"They wanted me to go along as a government representative. We went to trade shows and business conferences and introduced British Columbia businesses to Chinese businesses."
As for his visit to Mianyang, the backbencher said he was invited to tour that city.
Asked about the perception of foreign governments paying for such trips, Mr. Bloy said, "When I go on these trips and I've met the local mayor and friendship committee, we talk generalities about British Columbia being the gateway to Canada and all of that. But I don't talk to them afterwards. It's not like I have an ongoing rapport. None of them have ever really called me afterwards."
"Really, it all comes down to business" for those governments, he continued. "How can they do business somewhere? They want to meet certain industries. And these trips, I gather, are going on all over North America. I've always felt comfortable. I've never felt embarrassed about it. I've never felt cornered or concerned about who I've been talking to."
This isn't the first time the Burnaby-Lougheed MLA has made international trips on someone else's dime:
* in October 2007, Mr. Bloy went to Korea with the Canada Korea Business Association. The $4,500 price tag for that trip was picked up by Tomorrow Consulting;
* in December 2007, Mr. Bloy and his wife took a $7,5000 trip to China with Canada-China Friendship Asssociation at the expense of Across International Business Exchange Ltd.; and
* in October 2008, Mr. Bloy's constituency association contributed $2,200 toward a trip to Korea.
24 hours' Bob Mackin first reported on the MLA's most recent trips to Asia earlier today.