Council gets update on expense figures. (Contributed)

Council gets update on expense figures. (Contributed)

Speirs leading the way on Maple Ridge council for expenses

Attends conferences, takes notes, updates others

Three years into their four-year term and Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs is leading the pack when it comes to expenses charged by city councillors.

However, Speirs doesn’t mind being the top spender and says other councillors should also attend more conferences to represent Maple Ridge electors.

For the years 2015 to 2017, Speirs’s expenses totalled $26,869. Second highest was Coun. Kiersten Duncan at $18,096, then Mayor Nicole Read at $16,333.

Those figures included expenses for attending conferences, seminars, community events, cellphones and iPads.

Councillors are allowed $5,000 each year to cover travel, hotel and fee expenses for conferences, such as the Union of B.C. Municipalities and other seminars. The mayor is allotted $6,500 per year.

They’re also allowed additional amounts for car mileage and parking and cellphone and iPad fees. However, those come out of separate budgets.

It’s not clear what is the maximum that can be claimed for those amounts.

Speirs was also entitled to expenses adding up to $3,500 per year to attend outside committees when he was a member, in 2015, of an FCM committee.

Speirs usually attends the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conventions that take place each year in different cities across the country. This year, the conference is in Halifax, N.S. His wife usually accompanies him, but Speirs himself pays those extra costs.

“Anything else we do is on our own hook.”

He says other councillors should get to conferences whenever possible.

“I think it’s really important that we have someone there. People think it’s a big holiday, but it’s work. When you go there, you have to pay attention.”

He’ll take notes on each session and brief council upon return.

He said it’s important to talk with other city politicians about the pressing issues and says he learns a lot. Politicians should be constantly learning about municipal issues, he added.

“The only way you learn anything is by experiencing other person’s strategies.”

Other councillors are not using their full training allowance.

Speirs said he’s about $1,000 over per year on his conference budget.

“You want to slam me around for that, go for it.”

Total expenses by all councillors for each of the three years are all within budget. The total yearly amount budgeted for conferences alone is $36,500.

But in 2015, all of council’s expenses totalled $29,247; in 2016, council’s total expenses were $35,683; and in 2017, $26,308.

The expenses incurred by the remaining councillors in the three years between 2015 and 2017 are:

• Coun. Corisa Bell: $12,020;

• Coun. Tyler Shymkiw: $7,854;

• Coun. Gordy Robson: $6,352 ;

• Coun. Bob Masse: $3,714.

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