Peel Councillors Expensed $41,000 for AMO Conferences
We recently reported on the conference in Ottawa held by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and outlined the disagreement between the politicians at Queen's Park and the mayors of Peel Region. But it was not only Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey who attended; eight other councillors from Peel Region also attended along with the two mayors.
But it does cost money to send councillors off to these 'networking and educational' conferences, and the expenses for each councillor who went have been posted online on the Region of Peel's website.
Five Mississauga councillors alongside Mayor Crombie attended the conference and their expenses for the AMO fee are listed below:
Mayor Bonnie Crombie: $702.31
Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey: $753.61
Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras: $753.61
Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr: $753.61
Ward 8 Councillor Matt Mahoney: $753.61
Ward 10 Councillor Sue McFadden: $753.61
Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey was in attendance in Ottawa, although her expenses have yet to be posted online. insauga asked her communications advisor what the amount for her was, but we did not receive a response at the time of this writing. Jeffrey's other colleagues from Brampton City Council also attended and their expenses are posted online:
These expenses totalled up to around $7,400. According to an email from Melanie Parzei, the community and council relations officer for the Peel Regional Chair Frank Dale, this amount is the total for the 2017 AMO Conference. This number will increase once the remainder of the expenses are posted online. The councillors term allowance statements are updated every three months, and the next update should be around October.
Parzei also stated that many other expenses associated with the conference, such as hotel accommodations, mileage, etc., are not referenced in the statements, and more specific information would require one to file a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. In total, the amount of expenses filed for the 2017 conference and preceding AMO conferences in Windsor and Niagara Falls in 2016 and 2015, respectively, are around $41,000 according to Parzei. She also confirmed via email that Peel Region also pays $15,000 to register as a member of AMO.
It's not like this money is going to waste. If you're wondering what Peel councillors are going to these conferences for, the Region provides all the briefing notes and slides that are presented to the three parties and the representatives in the various government departments. For the 2017 AMO Conference:
Briefing notes for Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing focused on 'smart growth' and building denser, 'transit oriented' communities.
Briefing notes for Ministry of Infrastructure focused the discussion on affordable housing and wastewater infrastructure.
Since the Ontario Liberals are currently in government, the briefing notes for the ministerial departments most likely counted as the briefings for the governing party. The notes for the Ontario NDP and Ontario PCs were much longer, because they mostly lumped in together all the briefing notes that were given to the various departments.
I think one section of the report that would appeal to PC leader Patrick Brown would be the part on 'Improving Goods Movement,' by referencing how $6 billion of lost economic productivity is lost every year because of congestion. Brown has a personal connection with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and he was said to be very impressed with how Modi in his former role as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat ensured that adequate road infrastructure was there to get trucks of goods moving around in India.
While a future PC government may not be as enthused about local projects such as light rail transit as the Liberals are, perhaps they could be convinced to do something to improve road capacity in order to ensure a region centred around a major transportation hub like Pearson Airport can maintain a smooth flow of goods and services across the GTA.
As for the NDP, they seem to have rebranded themselves more on the side of working families, so the Families First Program, affordable housing, and improving the seniors residence at Peel Manor could be seen as appealing to their party. The references to a common 'climate change' mandate across ministries may appeal to the environmental wing of the NDP, although climate change always gets sacrificed at some point in the face of needed government cutbacks and pragmatism.
AMO isn't something that is on the radar of the average taxpaying resident, but now at least you know a little more about it and what the money went to. What do you think, money well spent?
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