Is travel to big annual conferences by elected officials worth the cost?

Comedian Jay Leno showed up one day at a company called MTT, which hand makes a jet turbine powered motorcycle.
Jet engines can be quite small, but still very powerful. You can even buy a model airplane with a real jet engine. The motorcycle has a list price of $175,000. Leno is a fan of anything with wheels. He has a huge collection of machines. He also has his own TV show called Jay Leno’s Garage.
Where are we going with this? Well, according to Jay himself, he showed up at MTT and said, “Hi! I’m a member of the ‘More Money than Brains Club’. I want to buy one of your bikes.”
This story came to mind when we heard about the money to be spent sending local town and county councillors off to the FCM conference in Halifax.

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A former High Prairie mayor, John Brodrick, usually thought it was a good idea to save taxpayer’s money. Not always, but usually.
He once thought that councillors and staff heading off to conferences should not only carpool, but also share hotel rooms. The rest of council never let him get to the point where he was going to say Tim Hortons and McDonald’s Happy Meals would be best choices for food.
Meanwhile, it isn’t unusual for councils of any sort to send all their members off to a meeting, conference or retreat, all at the expense of the whole community. If the meeting is in Newfoundland or Victoria, instead of Slave Lake or Edmonton, so much the better! Costs for such meetings, by the time you add up travel, rooms, honourarium and fees, can easily top $1,000 to $1,500 per day. Per person.
Ah but, we get back so much valuable information don’t we? Don’t we?

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There is a FoxNews TV show host who keeps asking a simple question. The question is, if immigration is so great at making a country like America richer [because almost all immigrants to America are poor, un-educated and unskilled] why isn’t Mexico one of the richest countries in the world?
So, if travel to conferences is so great, why don’t our councillors send, perhaps not themselves, but local members of the community? Why not our religious leaders, community organization members, and just about anybody interested in improving our communities?
If travel is so wonderful for our councils, it should be wonderful for everybody. Especially those who don’t have the opportunity, right?
And of course, since our councillors keep telling us how much they get out of these trips, can you imagine how fantastic our communities would be if even more people went?
Absolutely fabulous! Especially when paid by someone else!

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Taking this all a step further, last week, it was decided in one Alberta town that taxpayers foot the bill for custom tailored suits for councillors.
Wow! Talk about a clothing allowance!
There are lots of online services that say they will custom make a suit for between $500 and $1,000. This town went out of its way to get a local seamstress to knit out the councillors at $620 per head, er, per body. Cheap at the local’s price of $20 per hour, including material.
Gee! Free travel on the taxpayer’s dime. Food. Money for “serving the community.” Even pensions, to tide over the poor hard done by councillors who gave so much for so little reward.
Well, in this case it isn’t all bad.
This particular “clothing allowance” is at the Town of Vulcan in southern Alberta. If you don’t know, Vulcan bills itself as the “Home World” of Mr. Spock and other such aliens from the Star Trek universe. They like the theme, and have used the whole gimmick to promote Vulcan as a welcoming community and tourist attraction for a few decades.
The clothes for the councillors? Federation uniforms, of course!
According to news reports, the original uniforms are getting worn out. Some have been around for 17 years, passed from willing councillor to willing councillor.
All in all, in this case, we figure not a bad investment.
Not bad at all!

THIS IS THE ORIGINAL NEWS STORY

Chris Clegg
High Prairie, Alberta South Peace News

Big Lakes County has set aside $48,609 to send its nine councillors to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax May 31 to June.

However, if the cost of adding two staff members is included, the cost balloons to $59,411.

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk said at council’s Jan. 30 meeting that the county was planning to send 11 people to Halifax. South Peace News inquired about the cost and received a prompt reply from county CAO Roy Brideau, and confirmation that all nine councillors “are planning to attend”.

“Cost includes honourarium, meals not covered by the conference registration, registration fee, mileage to and from the airport, airfare and hotel accomodations,” wrote Brideau.

The county sends anyone to the conference who wishes to attend, regardless of location. Their policy is contrary to the Town of High Prairie, who sends a maximum of two councillors when the conference is located outside Alberta. If the conference is in Alberta, everyone can attend.

However, the town’s policy may be changed despite the opposition from one councillor to send anyone at all. At the Jan. 30 meeting meeting, Mayor Brian Panasiuk and Councillor Debbie Rose opposed Donna Deynaka’s motion to send no one. They said there was value in attending the conference, and hinted they may be willing to change policy to allow three or four councillors to attend from the current two.

Assuming the cost to town council is the same, it will cost town taxpayers $10,802 to send two, $16,203 to send three, or $21,604 to send four. No cost was provided by town administration during debate.

If the county does send 11, and the town four, the total cost to area taxpayers may be $81,015.

 
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