Charlottetown could soon follow Summerside’s lead by posting councillors’ expenses online in an effort to boost transparency in how tax dollars are spent.
Coun. Cecil Villard, who chairs the city’s administrative services committee, said all levels of government need to be more accountable and transparent with how they spend taxpayers’ money.
“If we have the opportunity to do that at the municipal level we have an obligation to do that,” he said.
Villard said he will bring the issue to the next committee meeting to start the process of getting those expenses posted on Charlottetown’s website. From there it will require a council vote, but Villard said he doesn’t expect much opposition to the idea.
“It’s not going to be something that’s contentious among members of council,” he said.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15.
Earlier this year, Summerside City Council decided to start posting its travel and entertainment expenses online, retroactive to January. Those expenses outline claims ranging from a few dollars to thousands spent on government business and trips around the country.
In Charlottetown, those expenses are nowhere to be found on the city’s website and taxpayers don’t have access to how councillors are spending that money.
Villard said once the city gets to the point that it goes online with the expenses, they would be posted as soon as they are available.
“There’s not that much travel that actually occurs so it’s not something that will be overly taxing to ensure that it gets online,” he said.
As for why the city hasn’t already taken steps to post the expenses online, Villard, who was first elected in 2003, said council isn’t a full-time job and agendas change frequently so there are things that fall off the radar.
Coun. Jason Coady, who is in his first term on council, agrees that the expenses should go online and thinks the city should go further than just money spent on travel by posting every expense.
“If you’re spending taxpayers’ money, put it on the website and have it so that people can view it,” he said.
Coady said he thinks the city could post past expenses from a year ago or even as far back as when the current council started so taxpayers could see what was already spent.
“Going forward then we’ve got things to compare it to,” he said.
For Coady, he said the expenses would show money that could be reallocated to other priorities the city has said it couldn’t afford, such as the recent issue of police officers in schools.
“Maybe we’ve got to take some money from our travel budget and put it in an account to pay officers to go in the school, if that’s where we think the resources should be,” he said.