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André Arthur: The MP who moonlights as a bus driver

When he ruled the Quebec City airwaves as a controversial radio host, he was known as "Roi Arthur" - King Arthur.

Earlier this month, in dismissing a class-action defamation suit, the Supreme Court ruled his tirades on air against Haitian and Arab cab drivers, while legal, were "racist and contemptuous."

Mr. Arthur's surprise election victory in 2006 as an independent MP for the riding of Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier didn't seem to get in the way of his reign as a media star. For a year between 2008 and 2009, he hosted a popular TV talk on the TQS network - much to the dismay of some of his fellow MPs.

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"We were sitting in Parliament and he was being paid by TQS," said NDP whip Yvon Godin, who sits on the House affairs committee that tried unsuccessfully to look into the amount of time Mr. Arthur spent away from Parliament.

When his TV career ended, Mr. Arthur returned to a long time passion of his, taking up a sideline job as a tour bus driver.

He told the Globe and Mail that he gets paid to drive a bus about once a week for the Intercar company - usually on weekends and mostly in Quebec, but occasionally outside the province, including Florida.

"It's grounding in reality that is absolutely marvellous," he said, suggesting other MPs would find it "enlightening" to pick up a second job that put them in touch with ordinary people.

In March 2009, Mr. Arthur made headlines when he took several days off to drive a football team down to Florida -although he managed to make it back in time to vote on the budget.

"It's totally unacceptable, it's shameful," said Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. "He's a phantom deputy."

In an interview, Mr. Arthur at first denied he had been away from the House of Commons very frequently. "When there are votes, usually I am there," he said. "I was there for each vote."

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But when his voting record was pointed out to him - he has missed one third of the votes in the past four years - Mr. Arthur was unapologetic.

He said as an independent, he does not have to attend party caucuses or other partisan events, giving him more time to lobby for his constituents. "It's not worth it for me to sit in parliament and listen to speeches that I am supposed to applaud or not," he said. "I am much more effective in the offices of cabinet ministers."

Asked if his MP's salary of $157,000 plus expenses did not require a full-time commitment, Mr. Arthur replied: "It's not a job, it's a function."

"A job you owe your time to your employer. A function is a role you fill and you have to fill it to the best of your abilities," he said.

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