Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Michael's Musings

Minding the public purse responsibly right here in Cranbrook

By Michael J Morris

Although the expenses of politicians in Canada at all levels of government have dominated the news for over a year now, Cranbrook city council at a December 2013 regular meeting declined to delete a section of its policy and procedures manual covering spousal/partner travel and expense costs.

Perhaps, given the most recent revelations involving BC Liberal MPP Linda Reid, who is also the Speaker of the British Columbia legislature and BCNDP MP Jenny Kwan, Cranbrook council will revisit its policy.

In Reid's case she has just recently repaid over $5,500, the cost of her husband's flight to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in South Africa, which had originally been paid by BC taxpayers.

Reid was attending in her capacity as speaker, in comments on the situation, noting that "It is important work on behalf of democracy."

Maybe so, but working on behalf of democracy also means minding the public purse responsibly.

In Kwan's case, she recently repaid $35,000 to the Portland Hotel Society, an agency that provides health and social services, housing, and drug treatment in Vancouver's notorious Lower East Side. It is part of Kwan's riding and apparently she has a long connection with the society.

An audit discovered that the society had paid expenses for a Kwan family trip to Europe and another to Disneyland.

No matter that these two politicians, along with the continuing investigation into members of the Senate of Canada involving expenses, the citizens of this province who are also Canadian citizens, deserve better from those they elect to public office at all levels.

Which brings us back to Cranbrook.

Councillor Sharon Cross introduced a motion at the December council meeting to amend Policy Number 40-301 of the city's policy and procedures manual titled travel expense claims to amend it by deleting a paragraph which reads "Spousal/partner travel and event costs shall be reimbursed upon approval of the Mayor for members of council, volunteers and the CAO"

and "Spousal/partner travel and event costs shall be reimbursed for city personnel upon approval of the CAO."

Unbelievably, in 2014, given the uproar over travel and expense claims by politicians, council chose not to support the motion by Councillor Cross, to delete the section. Apparently, there have been no requests during the term of this council for spousal/partner travel and event costs reimbursement, but it seems like council wanted to keep the policy in place just in case.

Or maybe they thought that Cranbook politicians live in splendid isolation from the rest of Canada

Cranbrook council would show it gets the message that public expectations are that the gravy train on travel costs by politicians must end by revisiting this policy and deleting that section. Otherwise, it is fair question to ask those who seek re-election later this year, "Why not delete it?"  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

DISCLOSURE: Sharon Cross and I have been personal friends for almost 25 years, but in no way has she influenced me in any way in the writing of this column. In 50 years of journalism, I have strived to follow the words of Dennis Adkin, editor of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, that a good reporter has "no friends and no enemies." Just tell the story.
 






3 comments:

  1. Michael, was there a recorded vote on this matter? I think the citizens should be informed as to which councillors voted against the motion by Sharon Cross.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comment Joe. You are not alone today in posing that question to me. I looked at the minutes of the regular council meeting of Dec 9,2013 which show that the motion was made by Councillor Sharon Cross "and seconded" but the name of the seconder is not included. Then it only shows "motion defeated" but no recorded vote. The mayor and all councillors were present according to the minutes. I suggest those interested contact members of council.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Michael J MorrisApril 1, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Further to my above comment I have learned that only Councillor Cross voted for the motion. Apparently the others felt because the Mayor and CAO respectively would have to approve council, staff, that was good enough. If so they missed the point. Spouses/partners should not be travelling on the public dime.

    ReplyDelete