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Travelling to conferences may cost city money but Charlottetown councillors say it creates opportunities

Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard, left, chairman of public works, urban beautification and the youth advisory committee, says travelling to various conferences may cost the city money but they are invaluable tools for municipal politicians. Also pictured is Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy.
Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard, left, chairman of public works, urban beautification and the youth advisory committee, says travelling to various conferences may cost the city money but they are invaluable tools for municipal politicians. Also pictured is Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy. - Dave Stewart

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Going to conferences across Canada and North America is a tremendous educational opportunity, says Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard.

The City of Charlottetown recently released the 2017 list of travel expenses for all 10 councillors and Mayor Clifford Lee.

While Lee spent the most at $23,099, Bernard led all 10 councillors. He spent $12,129.05.

Bernard’s travels took him to Toronto, Orlando, St. John’s and Moncton, as well as to three conferences here on the Island.

“This money is budgeted in the different committees,’’ Bernard told The Guardian. “I find that the conferences, for me, are a very good tool for municipal politicians. They should all be going.’’

Related: What they spent in 2017: City of Charlottetown posts travel expenses

 

What council spent

  • 2017 - $65,076
  • 2016 - $49,022
  • 2015 - $85,187
  • 2014 - $44,160
  • 2013 - $79,505

 

At first glance, it seems off that Bernard, chairman of the public works committee, would travel to Orlando for an athletic business conference, but the councillor is quick to note that he also chairs the youth advisory committee and sits on the parks and recreation committee. The Orlando trip cost the city $3,949.97.

His role as youth chairman also saw Bernard travel to Calgary for a conference that focused on building resilience for children, youth and families.

Pointers he picks up at the conferences helped lead to the teen zone in Charlottetown.

“These conferences consist of a number of classroom sessions, so there are multiple sessions going on at one time, you get your schedule and you choose the ones that will benefit you. So, for me, I found these very helpful, not just about creating partnerships with people from other jurisdictions but you find out how they deal with similar problems,’’ Bernard said.

To cite one example, Bernard spoke about running into a provincial minister at one conference and finding out about a dog park that was created in another province. When Bernard got back, he helped create the public dog park in his ward.

“Quite honestly, council attends conferences for educational purposes, it’s as simple as that.’’
-Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee

Coun. Kevin Ramsay agrees the conferences afford councillors valuable networking time with other municipal offices and experts in a variety of fields.

Ramsay’s expenses included a $2,895 trip to Ottawa where the chairman of advanced planning, priorities and special projects attended the Communities in Bloom symposium. While Ramsay isn’t on the urban beautification committee, he said he was subbing for Bernard, who is the chairman.

“It’s always good to have city representation there,’’ Ramsay said. “You can pick up more ideas for your city and see how other cities do their projects for urban beautification.’’

Coming in last on the expense scale was Coun. Bob Doiron who didn’t expense a single penny.

“I believe in trying to save as much money as I can in tax dollars,’’ said Doiron. “I just don’t feel like I should be putting in travel on the backs of (taxpayers) that put me there. That’s what I feel, but every councillor is different. I can get a seminar online . . . I don’t need to spend three or four or $5,000 to go somewhere.’’

Doiron said he likely will be attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Halifax this year.

Overall, the nine councillors and the mayor ran up travel expenses totalling $65,076.10.

That’s about where Lee says it should be.

“Quite honestly, council attends conferences for educational purposes, it’s as simple as that,’’ Lee said.

 

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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