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A delegate uses an iPhone to take a photo of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau after he gave the keynote speech at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference in Vancouver on June 2, 2013. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A delegate uses an iPhone to take a photo of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau after he gave the keynote speech at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference in Vancouver on June 2, 2013. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

How councillors’ budgets stack up in the wake of the Conflab controversy Add to ...

Five Coquitlam councillors and the mayor are under fire for staying at a hotel only an hour’s drive away in Vancouver during the recent annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Those officials stayed at the downtown Fairmont Waterfront hotel, reportedly for more than $200 a night, as did members of a delegation from Surrey.

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The move has prompted complaints from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and other observers that they wasted taxpayer funds.

But Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart has no regrets. He says he wanted councillors “fully engaged” for 16-hour days of meetings and networking without worrying about rush hour.

“I’ve seen too many cases where we don’t get the full value of having the councillor down there.”

Conferences such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) provide an opportunity to make the case to provincial and federal ministers for municipal needs, Mr. Steward said. “I begged them to get down there and stay down there.”

To put this all in some perspective, here’s a look at compensation for elected officials in some Lower Mainland municipalities – with a few outside the region – as well as policies on attending such meetings.

VANCOUVER

Mayor: $149,503 a year

Councillor: $65,860 a year

Conference and professional-development expenses:

There’s a local-expense budget of 10 per cent of salary for expenses in the Lower Mainland while representing the city that can cover parking, transportation, business meetings, community events, and memberships. A separate travelling and training expense budget covers meetings, conferences and events outside the Lower Mainland. However, councillors have to obtain council approval to attend these events.

COQUITLAM

Mayor: $123,696

Councillor: $53,835

Conferences and professional-development expenses:

Council reviews and vets travel costs. In addition to such basics as transportation and accommodation, council members are eligible for up to $15 a day to cover incidental costs. In the case of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, meeting, meals were covered by the conference registration.

CALGARY

Mayor: $208,459 plus benefits that include a city vehicle

Aldermen: $111,066

Conferences and professional-development expenses:

Councillors have access to $10,000 a year for travel from a ward budget of up to $174,455 to pay for staff, miscellaneous expenses, communications, research and office projects.

SURREY

Mayor: $120,659

Councillors: $61,049

Conferences and professional-development expenses:

The mayor is preauthorized to spend up to $700 per seminar, course and business meeting outside Surrey and a resolution is required for anything beyond that. Councillors are preauthorized to spend up to $200 with a resolution required for anything beyond that.

TORONTO

Mayor: $175,395

Councillor: $104,147

Conferences and professional-development expenses:

Councillors are entitled to recover travel costs incurred while fulfilling their “official capacity” with a “municipal organization” such as the FCM, United Cities and Local Governments, and Ontario Good Roads Association. In particular, councillors who incur travel costs associated with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference are entitled to full recovery of these costs from council’s business-travel budget. Councillors are provided with an annual $30,000 office expense budget that can be spent on various needs, including travel to conferences.

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