The MLA for Red Deer South says $5,000 was a reasonable price to provide fresh coffee for people visiting her office during her term.
New Democratic Party member Barb Miller, who took office after general election on May 5, 2015, has come under fire from a neighbouring MLA for burning up nearly $5,000 of her expense budget on Keurig-compatible (K-cups) coffee cups for her office.
Wildrose Party member Don MacIntyre, elected in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding, has called Miller’s coffee purchase an indication of “systemic NDP fiscal recklessness.”
In a letter to the editor published on Thursday, he states: “If our calculations are correct, it appears she is paying up to two dollars per cup, which is almost three times more than these units cost at Costco.”
Miller begs to differ.
In an interview with the Red Deer Advocate on Wednesday, she argued that the purchase saves money and energy and that all leftover coffee grounds are composted in her garden. The plastic cups themselves are recycled with a company that uses them in an alternative energy source.
She and her grandchildren do the dirty work.
“It’s real easy. The lids just pull off and you pull out the little paper filter that’s in there and we have a little pail that it goes in.”
The bulk purchase made through a government supplier includes a standard discount along with a deal that further reduced the cost per cup to less than 50 cents, said Miller, who recently moved to a street-front office site on Alexander Way, a few doors down from the former suite in Parkland Square.
The Parkland Square suite had a very small space, said Miller, so there was no way to use a drip-style coffee pot. If a pot of coffee was made, it often turned to sludge and had to be poured out, wasting both coffee and the energy to keep it warm. By using K-cups, she is able to offer fresh coffee on demand for meetings and to anyone else stopping by her office.
“I think a constituent is worth 50 cents. I’ve got the signage in my window that it’s a safe space, so anybody who is need can get to my office. I’m here representing the people of Alberta. If don’t care if they’re not from Red Deer South. They could be from Peace River, the could be from Pincher Creek. If they need help, my office is open.
The purchase has provided the Red Deer constituency office with enough coffee to last her entire term in office and the K-cups have a “best by” dates at the end of 2018, she said.
“I don’t want to give people sludge. That just looks bad and it smells bad. It was a convenience thing. You can’t not have something for a constituent when they come in, and it was the best value. After I purchased it, they did got up in price. That’s when coffee took that big spike when they had the crop failure down in South America.”
Miller said she ordered the coffee at the end of January and deliveries were made during February.
She said MacIntyre is welcome to have a coffee at the grand opening of her new office, toward the end of September.
He did not reply to the request for a telephone interview with the Advocate on Thursday.