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Seat sale dampens councillor's attempt to save money

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - A big seat sale thwarted one city councillor's attempt to save the taxpayers some money on a recent conference trip to Calgary.

What they spent:

These are the expense totals that Yellowknife city councillors submitted following their trip to Calgary to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting:

  • Mark Heyck - 2,585.82
  • Dave McCann - $2,456.57
  • Lydia Bardak - $2,426.14
  • David Wind - $2,397.48
  • Kevin Kennedy - $2,393.99
  • Shelagh Montgomery - $2,374.23
  • Bob Brooks - unavailable
  • In March, Coun. Kevin Kennedy announced he would be taking the bus and staying in a hostel on a trip to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Calgary in June. He said he would be saving taxpayers' some money, and helping to reduce greenhouse emissions at the same time.

    "I guess in this case we can have our cake and eat it too," he said.

    While Kennedy still came in with among the lowest expenses of council attendees to the conference, the gap was not exactly a chasm: he saved $3.49 more than the next lowest-spending councillor.

    The culprit: a seat sale that saw councillors paying about $450-$500 for their plane tickets - a steal in the North. Kennedy, meanwhile, spent around $600 - $294.76 for a bus ticket south and $304.33 for gas when he hitched a ride with a family back north.

    Reached while on a bike trip to Vancouver, Kennedy said he was a little frustrated about the monetary result, but that he had no regrets.

    "It did work out as far as I am concerned," he said. "I saved the money I expected to save, and I saved the greenhouse gas emissions that I wanted to.

    "I didn't save a great deal of money on the bus trip because there was seat sale on."

    Thanks in part to the sale, every councillor at the meeting managed to stay well below the $3,334 budgeted for the trip, according to expense forms submitted thus far. While Kennedy spent $2,393.99, Coun. David Wind spent $2,397.48, Coun. Dave McCann paid out $2,456.57, Coun. Lydia Bardak spent $2,426.14 and Coun. Mark Heyck spent $2,585.82.

    Coun. Shelagh Montgomery, meanwhile, spent the least at $2,374.23 - thanks in part to her hotel costs being covered through another conference.

    The amounts also include the councillors' $260 per day honorarium. Expenditures from Coun. Bob Brooks were not available at press time.

    At the Calgary conference, David Wind said he scheduled his flight to take advantage of the seat sale and stayed in a motel outside of the downtown core to save money.

    "It was quite convenient to use Calgary's light rail system," he said."I think it's a victory for everyone an council," Kennedy said of the totals.

    During the recent NWT Association of Communities conference in Norman Wells, Kennedy spent the most of any councillor at $2,859.66, Bardak spent $2,658.46, McCann spent $2194.94, and Mayor Gord Van Tighem spent $1,593.76 - as chair of the association, his flight costs were covered.

    In that case, Kennedy said he had no option but to take the plane.

    As for having the highest expenses, he said wasn't sure what happened, but it might come down to his inexperience with claiming costs for city trips.

    "This is new territory for me, anyways," he said.

    Kennedy said it was "unfair" that his attempts to save money and the environment were being called into question, and that he plans to keep avoiding planes whenever possible, seats sales or no.

    "I did ride on the bus for 30 hours to save taxpayers a bit of money," he said. "I don't know how I could possibly have saved more money than I did."