Charlottetown City Hall
Mayor Clifford Lee and the 10 city councillors have spent more than $31,000 of taxpayers’ money on travel expenses so far this year.
The City of Charlottetown officially posted the list of expenses on its website on Tuesday, the first time it has done so since last September.
Coun. Cecil Villard leads the way, spending more than $6,600 to attend meetings that include the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Niagara, Ont., and Canadian Capital Cities meetings in Ottawa. Villard sits on the board of both organizations.
At the other end of the spectrum, Couns. Eddie Rice and Danny Redmond didn’t spend a dime of taxpayers’ money, according to the report.
Lee ran up a tab of $4,386.53 to attend the Atlantic Mayors Congress, Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities meetings in Charlottetown and Kensington, as well as the national federation meeting in Niagara, Ont. Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume also hosted a meeting with Lee this year. That trip, and Lee’s attendance at the Confederation Centre board meetings, cost $1,488.15.
In an effort to be more transparent, the city announced in September 2013 that it would post how much the mayors and councillors were charging taxpayers on a quarterly basis.
Villard, chairman of administrative services, acknowledged that hasn’t happened but there’s a reason for it.
“One of the reason why it is only coming out now is because, up until this point in time, there wouldn’t be an awful lot of travelling taking place,’’ Villard said. ‘It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.’’
The administrative services chairman explains that it makes more sense to wait until there is enough to report, put it on the website and let the public judge for themselves.
As for his own expenses, Villard said sitting on two national committees means he’s going to travel as much, if not more, than the mayor himself.
“Obviously I have an interest in what is going on on the national scene, plus I’m very interested in issues pertaining to how we collaborate with the other levels of government. I’m the only one from the city that attends those meetings.’’
While the list does indicate how much it cost taxpayers to send their elected representatives on work trips, it does not tell the whole story. There is no breakdown on what the money was spent on while they were there.
Villard said councillors receive a $125 per diem when they attend a full-day meeting to cover meals and incidentals. Other costs the expenses cover include flights and other modes of transportation, accommodations and registration which, at national conferences, can run about $700 per person.
Villard said in his trips to Niagara, he had to fly into Toronto and take a shuttle to the conference in Niagara.
Villard said he plans on talking to Roy Main, the city’s chief administrative officer, about releasing the expenses list on a more regular basis and a more detailed explanation as to what the money was spent on.
“I don’t think there is a problem in breaking it down. I personally believe that we should be completely open and accountable to the public. I know it sounds cliché but I actually do believe that.’’