Blowback over Metro Vancouver mayors’ Europe trip as taxpayers pickup sewage plant bill

A week after Delta Mayor and Metro Vancouver Board Chair George Harvie pulled out of a trip to Amsterdam for a conference, four other Metro Vancouver mayors have jetted off to the same event.

Mayors Mike Hurley of Burnaby, Brad West of Port Coquitlam, Malcolm Brodie of Richmond and John McEawan of Anmore along with three regional district staff departed Friday to attend the International Conference on Urban Drainage.

Click to play video: 'Delta mayor cancels Amsterdam trip amid travel expense controversy'

Delta mayor cancels Amsterdam trip amid travel expense controversy

The trip comes amid the fallout of the $3-billion cost overrun on Metro Vancouver’s North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Story continues below advertisement

With the costs of that ballooning budget being borne by taxpayers, New Westminster City Councillor Daniel Fontaine argued it was improper for the regional district’s leaders to be jetting off on an international trip.

“The timing on this is just absolutely atrocious,” Fontaine said.

“I think the public assumed when Mayor Harvie cancelled that trip to Amsterdam that would be the last time we would be hearing about politicians headed to Europe on a junket.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Fontaine said it was particularly difficult to justify political leaders, who have no expertise in the subject matter at hand, to participate in such a trip.

But he said even city staff, who do need to stay abreast of best practices in areas such as dikes and drainage, should also be looking at whether that information can be gathered in a way that doesn’t involve costly trips.

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver households to foot bill for $4B North Shore wastewater plant'

Metro Vancouver households to foot bill for $4B North Shore wastewater plant

Those efforts should be particularly incumbent on a governing body that has declared a climate emergency, he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“People are going to lose faith in our Metro Vancouver governance if they are not walking the walk on these types of things,” Fontaine said.

Fontaine is one of four municipal leaders who have called on the province to initiate a governance review of Metro Vancouver, with an eye to seeing the regional district’s directors elected rather than appointed.

On Friday, Eby said the province had raised its concerns about procurement processes on the North Shore plant and other capital projects.

“It’s vital that Metro Vancouver maintains the confidence of municipalities that it serves and I expect as do the municipalities, as does the federal government, that Metro Vancouver will work in a way to protect and where necessary restore that confidence,” he said.

With regards to matters like international travel, Eby said the mayors and other elected municipal leaders are ultimately accountable to their voters for their spending.

Click to play video: 'Former Delta mayor calls for George Harvie’s resignation'

Former Delta mayor calls for George Harvie’s resignation

Metro Vancouver’s own reporting shows board expenses for 2023 had nearly doubled from pre-pandemic years, with about 60 per cent coming from just four members, three of whom are on the Amsterdam trip.

Story continues below advertisement

In a statement, Metro Vancouver stressed the conference is a “beneficial learning opportunity” for the entire region.

The entire cost for the trip won’t be calculated until its conclusion when all expense claims are filed.

Fontaine, meanwhile, said the trip sends the wrong message.

“It really seems like they are just disconnected from the average voter who is facing higher gas prices, inflation, higher mortgage prices, the list goes on and on,” he said.

More on Politics

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.