Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Council Expenses: What are we getting in return?

Posted by auroracitizen on March 15, 2009

It was good to see that Council is not using their full expense allowance — in fact they have voted to reduce the allowance for the coming budget year.

However, it was interesting to note that the bulk of the expenses submitted were for attending conferences. One must wonder what value the town receives from having Councillors attend these events. It has been a trend that seems to have come into vogue this term. An examination of past terms would indicate that generally Councillors did not attend these events — yet in 2008, in addition to the Mayor, Councillors McRoberts, Granger, Wilson, Gallo all attended. Why?

And why are Councillors McRoberts and Gallo attending in 2009? Why can’t the Mayor attend on behalf of Council and report back any new learning that is appropriate?

Private sector business is cancelling travel, meetings and conferences, yet our politicians are still attending. It would be interesting to know what value was received by the town for these expenses. Or is this a perk of office for their own personal development? What do you think?

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9 Responses to “Council Expenses: What are we getting in return?”

  1. Razie said

    Councilors and mayor are elected for a term. They should not attend any conferences. Staff should be sent to conferences and report to council and mayor.

    The experience and learnings from the conferences simply must transcend election terms.

    In case your wondering, I’m a private sector guy and don’t much like bureaucrats, but when things make sense, they make sense!

  2. Goodie Two Shoes said

    Time for a new post!

  3. Anonymous said

    Dear Aurora Citizen,
    Have you lost interest in this blog?
    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of energy or effort so maybe it is losing steam?
    Too bad. I enjoyed it.

  4. Anonymous said

    I would like to know what patronage in this budget that Buck speaks about.
    For the question as to what Wilson and Grainger did at the convention, well who else would carry the mayor’s bags

  5. aurora 5 by 5 said

    In our business, we have cut back on virtually everything. It’s gotten to the point that we’re counting pencils (no word of a lie!). I cannot even imagine submitting a request to attend a conference at a cost of a thousand or two thousand bucks!!

    Recognizing the economic climate we are in, I think it is simply irresponsible (dare I say unethical?)for any councillor to attend a conference this year on the tax payer’s dime – especially any member of council that has already previously attended one, mayor included. Speaking of the mayor (the real one, not the “co” mayor),for all her talk about “turning over every penny twice”, the fact that the Mayor was/is all to quick to trundle up to the trough and attend yet another conference at taxpayers’ expense speaks volumes about her true nature.

    I say, if members of Council want to go, they should pay for it themselves!

    harumph!!

    just my two cents…

  6. Evelyn Buck said

    I have not attended a conference since being re-elected in 2003.Over the years however I attended dozens and always learned something Just visiting the many cities and small municipalities in Canada was an education in itself. Meeting councillors from communities of all sizes who were always interested in sharing their experiences was worthwhile.
    As for bringing back what I learned to colleagues. I might have done that in a contribution to a debate on this or that but not in any more formal way than that.Hhhaving to write a report to prove you learned something is an assinine idea. Either you have elected a responsible individual or you haven’t. Don;t ask them to fake it because they will.

    Over the years, there were always councillors who couldn’t take time from jobs or business to attend conferences but no-one ever suggested it was time or money wasted.
    I can’t speak for anyone else but I feel it helped to make me a better a better informed councillor.
    I have registered for the Ontario Municipal Association conference in Ottawa this summer.
    Time was when the government never passed any legislation involving municipalities without getting full input from municipal staff, They don’t do that any more. It’s more important now than ever that councils should be aware of what’s being contemplated and have their input. It’s not always listened to.That doesn’t make it less important.
    I must admit though, I used to enjoy the planning and public works conferences best. There was definitely less political grandstanding and more informative presentations.
    We have a clause in the Code of Ethics that requires councillors to attend workshops and education sessions to better inform themselves.
    I think with registration and hotel expenses and transportation $3,000 is probably not enough to
    cover the cost so I don’t think it should be cut. Considering all the “patronage” in this budget I don’t think it’s particularly useful for councillors to reduce this allowance. If it’s not used it stays in the treasury. Councillors should not be discouraged from broadening their
    experience.
    At election time, we hear a lot about what qualifications a candidate should have. Why should any citizen be made to feel they do not qualify to represent themselves and their neighbours on the basis of qualifications.That’s going back in time when only men of property were entitled to vote.
    It makes far more sense to provide the opportunity to successful candidates to acquire whatever education is available to be a better informed representative.

  7. Anonymous said

    Was curious. What convention did Granger attend and what value did it bring to the taxpayers of Aurora. Likewise Al Wilson.

  8. Robert the Bruce said

    I have been to conferences for my line of business. Any time a conference was scheduled, the employer (that is funding the expense) would send someone that did not go the previous conference. There is no need to go to a conference every year. They would also limit the number of people going to a conference. It is a complete waste of money to have more than one person attending the same conference session from the same place.

    I don’t know about the municipal conferences, but any of the conferences that I have attended the last few years provide each attendee a copy of the speakers’ notes on CD.

    I would suggest that the Town take a page out of industry as well. When I have attended a conference, I had to write a report to digest the sessions that I attended into a document for others to learn from. Heaven knows that Town staff are asked to write reports, why not conference attendees?

    As a tax payer, I would like to see the agenda and a public report of what sessions that they attend at a conference too. It is my money that they are spending on this.

    I would also suggest that conference attendance should be curtailed during the last half of a council term. Let’s be honest, things that they learn would not be put into practical use as the last half of the term is typically lame duck anyways. Education of council members during the first year of the term would be advantageous. I would also be concerned that money spent on conferences during the last half may be wasted if the council member does not run for re-election or is defeated. Of course, if they return to private life, it’s a nice line on their resume too.

    Fuimus

  9. Anonymous said

    I am sure that Councillors are limited to the amount of Confereces they attend by the money a lotted to them for such expenses. I think that they should get there info first hand. Councillors need to educate themselves on the issues. I don’t think it’s the Mayor’s job to give them this information. It is always a good idea to have more then one person attend a meeting. We all interpret info differently.

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