Local politicians off to resort town for municipalities conference

Jason Malloy
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TRURO - Ten municipal politicians and a pair of chief administrative officers are heading for a ski town in the Canadian Rockies.
The representatives are attending the Federation of the Canadian Municipalities conference in Whistler, B.C. from Friday to Monday.
Some are already out West while the rest leave today. Politicians told the Truro Daily News on Wednesday the conference is a good opportunity to confer with their counterparts from across the country.
"The biggest thing for me is meeting the mayors and councillors from other parts of the country to find out what the trends are in their communities," said Truro Mayor Bill Mills. "There are a lot of similarities, as far as problems across the country, but what I find out is there are some pretty interesting ways to deal with these problems.
"We try to glean from some of the best of the best."
Mills said there are always things to be learned from these conferences. He looks for the high impact, low maintenance projects.
"There may be some obscure program that I haven't heard about yet that might make available funds for something we're doing here," Mills said.
"You're going looking for some information to help with the bottom line. You're looking for contacts. Rather than us reinventing the wheel we may find something we're looking at is already being done somewhere else."
The fact that the conference is in a posh ski resort community and an Olympic venue located on the other end of the country is not lost on the politicians. But they say it is good use of taxpayers' money.
"If we can get one idea that saves us money in the long run, I think it's more than worth it," Mills said.
Exact figures of what the trip will cost were not available yesterday but is expected to be clarified in the few weeks following the conference when all the bills are in.
Colchester Mayor Bob Taylor said he has gone to three conferences in his 12 years on council. The flight to Whistler is actually costing less than the flight to St. John's a few years ago, he said. County staff, he added, have been working hard to keep the costs down and be frugal with the taxpayers' money.
He said there are many benefits of the
conference.
"It makes a big difference around the table when people can see what's going on in other communities," Taylor said, adding the council has trained staff but "we don't do too much to train our councillors."
Presentations on training for skilled trades, sustainability, infrastructure development, landfill development, rural health care, wastewater and a slew of other topics have caught the eye of the local political leaders.

jmalloy@trurodaily.com

Organizations: Canadian Rockies, Federation of the Canadian Municipalities, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Whistler, Colchester, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Anderson
    January 18, 2010 - 10:18

    I am informed and I can tell you that this is NOT a waste of money.

    We expect our elected officials to preside over a multi-million dollar corporation that is responsible for the necessary infrastructure for our lives, to do so in a climate where they are always portrayed as self-interested idiots, and then we want to nickel and dime them when they have a good opportunity to go, network, learn and recharge.

    Perks like this allow us to retain qualified people (and they are qualified even if we don't always agree with them) at a pay which is lower than their work deserves.

  • livi
    January 18, 2010 - 10:11

    If we want new ideas for our town, conferences are a great way to motivate our leaders and learn how similar communities across the country are coping/managing similar issues. Does it need to be on the other side of the country? Good question. Are there similar conferences closer to home? Possibly.

  • bruce
    January 18, 2010 - 10:11

    'If we can get one idea that saves us money in the long run, I think its more than worth it,' Mills said.
    Exact figures of what the trip will cost were not available yesterday but is expected to be clarified in the few weeks following the conference when all the bills are in.
    do the delegates leave with blank cheques?
    These questions ,as to costing this jaunt, have been asked repeatedly by the public.
    Excerpts from editorial in TDN,Jan2009
    In 2008, Colchester County council voted to send five representatives to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference that was held in Quebec City. The cost to taxpayers for the mayor, CAO and three councillors was $12,300.
    county council discussed the expense of sending eight representatives across the country and credit goes to members who challenged the motion to send so many delegates. It is, after all, on the publics dime.
    Mayor Bob Taylor has been downplaying the public expense suggesting it could cost an extra $3,000 to $4,000 more than sending a contingent to Quebec City last year. The mayor says his estimate is a ballpark figure.
    We agree and further suggest $4,000 is a conservative figure.
    still can't get a straight answer in 6 months
    Bob indicated and never challenged the figures in 6 months that this convention will cost in the neighborhood of $16,400.00.
    I say that true figure won't be in the same province,let alone neighborhood.
    I've been to conventions and on vacations,in both cases knew how much I'd spend on either.
    Hokum ,Bill and Bob, you both get away with too much of it!
    Could be a hot time in the old town and county when these folks sheepishly produce their accounts of what this junket cost the citizenry and then submit the accounts of the costs of this learning experience.

  • craig
    January 18, 2010 - 10:04

    Mr. Anderson, I can appreciate your support for our noble leaders, but I regret to inform you that this is not done every couple years a few of our Elected officials go to the conference every year, and as far as their perks? Have a look at their cell phone bills, their medical benifits, their laptops, when was the last time one of them got a parking or speeding ticket. How many free meals do they get a month? Not to mention the bi weekly cheque they recieve. I guaruntee you that the bill for this conference will exceed $15,000.
    The only part I am impressed with is that they didn't hire a consultant to conduct a study to determine weather or not they should attend this conference.

  • Flogger
    January 18, 2010 - 09:47

    Bill Mills won't learn a thing. There are plenty of ideas and PRIORITIES around here that should be addressed before he would consider heading out west for a taxpayer-funded vacation.

    Why are we citizens so complacent?

  • Anderson
    January 18, 2010 - 09:46

    This isn't a waste - this is the sort of thing we should be paying for. We're expecting our mayors and counselors to manage this municipality on far less pay than their private, provincial and federal counterparts...

    ...and we expect them to do it with no training or opportunities to learn from each other?

    So they spend a few days doing meetings and networking every couple of years. It's a good incentive, at a relatively low cost, to keep a few good people running for these offices.

    And for those who complain about the mayor and counselors - if you think you can do any better then run - I'm sure you'd be the first to buy tickets for the next plane.

  • Truro Boy
    January 18, 2010 - 09:41

    This is a complete waste of taxer payers money. This is what happens when no new quality people run for public office. You don't need to go to BC to a resort to figure out what needs fixin here.

  • Don
    January 18, 2010 - 09:38

    Bob and Bill would have us believe they are mayors with no access to what is happening in other municipalities . Don't they read the newspapers ? and the various magazines specifically geared to the municipal council reader ? What about teleconferencing ?
    Anyone that has access to the minutes of Town and County council meetings is aware of what is happening locally - but too many of you don't take the time to be informed . the Voter turnout in the last municipal election was very poor . You get that which you allow to be voted in . The pay is pretty good these days - the rates are available online for anyone interested in running . And there are perks to the job . Running a municipality is little different from running a business - the public is the customer - not the councillors self interest as we have seen too often in the past .