Hotels for Vancouver convention cost Township taxpayers $2,800

Councillors say travel time and busy schedule required overnight stay

The Township of Langley spent $2,800 plus tax to rent hotel rooms for the four councillors who attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Annual Conference and Trade Show from May 31 to June 3 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

That’s based on figures released by the Township Tuesday (June 4).

Councillor Steve Ferguson stayed in a Vancouver hotel for one day, Councillor Bob Long found free accommodation for two of the four days, and councillors Grant Ward and Michelle Sparrow stayed four days at Township expense.

Although some politicians in other Metro Vancouver communities opted to sleep in their own homes and commute to the FCM event, the Langley delegates said the length of the trip coupled with a busy schedule justified the overnight accommodation.

Ferguson’s lone night in a hotel cost the Township $239 plus taxes.

He said he opted to commute on the other three days.

“I’m down about 10 hours lost sleep [as a result],” Ferguson told The Times.

Ferguson refused to criticize the other councillors who opted for hotel rooms.

“I don’t have any objection to anyone taking the time to stay [overnight],” Ferguson said.

Ward, whose four nights cost $239 a day plus taxes, said it takes about an hour-and-a-half to travel from his home to the Vancouver convention, where the days could run 12 hours.

“It doesn’t leave you with time to go home and freshen up,” Ward said.

“Those are very full days.”

He said the total cost of his hotel stay ($956 plus taxes) works out to roughly “10 cents a taxpayer.”

Sparrow spent four nights at $267.62 per night for a total of $1070.48.

Like her colleagues, Sparrow said the travel time would have been prohibitive.

“I probably would have to be up at 5 a.m. [to make it in time for the morning sessions],” Sparrow said.

She said it was important for the Township to participate in the FCM, which represents cities in talks with the federal government.

“There’s actual decisions being made,” Sparrow said.

“I think there’s definitely great value [in attending].”

Long, who lives in Aldergrove, stayed for two nights for $274 plus taxes, for a total cost of $548 and taxes.

For the other two days, he managed to find free accommodation with a friend from Ontario who was renting a hotel suite.

“I’m a member of the [FCM] board of directors. I’m expected to be first in and I’m last out,” Long said.

“They’re extremely long days.”

According to an email from Township staff, the FCM was expected to reimburse the Township for Long’s accommodations because he is a director.

Long said he hopes the interest in the cost of hotel accommodation for the councillors “doesn’t overshadow the really important work that the FCM does.”

The last FCM conference was in Saskatoon, which required the Township to pay for travel costs as well as accommodation for delegates.

The FCM website notes the organization “has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901.”

It has close to 2,000 members, including the country’s largest cities, many small urban and rural communities, and 21 provincial and territorial municipal associations.

No City of Langley councillors attended the Vancouver FCM event.

City CAO Francis Cheung said “two to three” Langley City council members usually attend the FCM but this year, for a variety of reasons, none were able to go.

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