- BC Games
Value to be found in overnight stays at UBCM
Taxpayers may feel they are being taken advantage of, with three members of Langley Township council staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel to attend the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last month, but it’s important to look at the whole picture.
Only one councillor, Grant Ward, stayed for five nights. He says he was attending early morning sessions, and that’s why he stayed.
Councillor Bob Long spent two nights at the hotel and stayed for part of the convention with friends. He did something similar when attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention, held at the same location in June.
Councillor Bev Dornan stayed for one night at the Pan Pacific. I spoke with her during that week at the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce meeting, and she told me she was driving back and forth to UBCM. As anyone who regularly travels to Vancouver or Burnaby knows, that can be a long drive during the rush hour.
Councillor Steve Ferguson also drove back and forth each day, and said he was quite willing to stay at home and miss some aspects of the convention.
I’m a bit surprised that Dornan and Ferguson didn’t try the 555 express bus from the Carvolth park and ride. My daughter used that bus all summer to get to her job in downtown Vancouver, and her travel time was almost always under an hour each way. The bus runs into the evening, with last departure from Braid station somewhere around 10 p.m.
From Langley, it is a good alternative to get to the downtown area, and it’s quicker than driving.
Ward makes a good point in saying that it is important to attend early-morning sessions. At overnight meetings I’ve attended, there is often some useful information shared at breakfast events. In a way it’s unfortunate, because some participants aren’t at their best at that time of day, but many more are charged and ready to go.
The fact that only four of the nine members of Township council attended is responsible, in my view. Often, too many members of council attend these events, and the cost is high. Those who do go should be preparing (at the least) reports for all the other members of council to read, and be prepared to answer questions.
It would also be nice if taxpayers were given a brief report at a council meeting by from one member of council (likely Ward, as he attended the most sessions), so they know just how their tax dollars are being spent.
Langley City council members were more frugal than Township members. Acting mayor Ted Schaffer and Councillor Dave Hall attended portions of the UBCM convention, but neither stayed overnight in Vancouver.
In the past, City councillors who attended these events have been reluctant to report on what they learned. Hopefully, Schaffer and Hall will ignore those precedents and report at an open council meeting on their experiences.
Most taxpayers have no problem with elected officials attending conventions, if there is some tangible purpose for going to such gatherings. Accountability and reporting back show that there is a purpose, and in some cases, there are some savings to be gained from attending these types of conventions.