Brodie rode Canada Line, but defends hotel stays

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he chose to use the Canada Line to commute back and forth to a recent municipal convention in downtown Vancouver.

However, he says how far away and how busy politicians are can change the equation.

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Brodie was responding to criticism of five Coquitlam politicians who were being chastised by a fellow councillor for staying at Vancouver hotels during the conference.

Coquitlam Coun. Lou Sekora has blown the whistle on his colleagues $225-per-night accommodations while they attended a municipal conference.

Theres no two ways about it. Taxpayers are treated as a bottomless well. Councillors and mayors have got to come down to Earth, he said.

Brodie argued that staying in Vancouver is sometimes justified.

I was on the convention committee four years ago, and I was working from early in the morning to late at night, so I stayed downtown, said Brodie. You look at Surrey - someone might live right by the border, and thats a long way back and forth each day.

Brodie said one Richmond councillor chose to stay in a Vancouver hotel, but picked up the hotel tab herself.

Some 2,000 municipal politicians from across Canada attended the four-day Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference to discuss civic business on the weekend.

The conference occurred in the wake of a new report that criticized ever-growing municipal taxes. The report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business showed an average 55-per-cent increase in property taxes over the last 12 years, several times the rate of increases from population growth and inflation.

Sekora, who commuted to the conference by car, criticized his colleagues for taking rooms at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel when Coquitlam is only about 45 minutes away.

The taxpayers are taxed and taxed. Theyre sick and tired. This was an open ticket to blow as much money as they wanted to, he said.

Complaints go in one ear and out the other. Sharing a cab or carpooling would have been very simple. I could have taken three people.

Coquitlam politicians staying overnight included councillors Mae Reid, Terry ONeill, Neal Nicholson and Craig Hodge; and Mayor Richard Stewart.

Stewart said he anticipated criticism, but said enormous benefits were reaped by being close by.

Staying downtown wasnt a hundred-fold better, it was a thousand-fold better, he said. I would much rather have slept at home, but $100 million in senior government funding wouldnt have come our way (in past years) if we hadnt been able to build these relationships. Its not a social conference, its a working conference.

You end up attending sporadically if youre not staying downtown. Days ended at midnight and began again at 7 a.m.

Hodge said the full value of the $770 conference fee was only realized by being present all the time.

Councillors driving back and forth were picking and choosing. Were paying for the functions. They were all wrapped up in the price of a ticket, he said.

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