City council passed a resolution Jan. 30 approving the attendance of Mayor Tim Johnston, Coun. Charlene Lafreniere and City Manager Gary Ceppetelli at the 2012 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) International Convention in Toronto from March 4-7.
The resolution, however was not passed without some friction, and questioning from council members. The cost for the five-night stay includes: return flights from Thompson to Winnipeg, along with return flights from Winnipeg to Toronto, hotel accommodations, taxi fares and meals.
The total cost of the trip will be $11,280.49, but it is to be noted that Ceppetelli's travel costs are incurred under his departmental budget, which is approximately $3,817.86.
Thompson has not had representation at the conference since 2007, and traditionally Manitoba Mines funded communities for their attendance on a rotational basis.
“My question is, what communication have we had with Manitoba Mines, do they still fund a community?” said Coun. Judy Kolada, “they funded one person from a community and I have a question as to why we need three people, the mayor always represented the community.”
Mayor Johnston explained that the city's attendance at the PDAC conferences were largely dependent upon the feedback from Vale.
“I've always followed the rule, where we have consulted with Vale or Inco first and foremost to find out if there was a need for the city of Thompson to support,” said Johnston.
Johnston made note that the request was coming largely through the Thompson Economic Diversification Working Group (TEDWG) project management committee, which is comprised of the three members of council who would be making the trip.
“The working group, the project management committee, representatives from Vale and rePlan met and discussed and saw there would likely be a value for the TEDWG project management team to be in attendance at PDAC, largely to convey the work that TEDWG has conducted since November 2010,” said Johnston.
It is not confirmed whether TEDWG will be providing any subsequent funding but Johnston says he is certain that it is something that will be called upon.
Coun. Penny Byer addressed Johnson about her concern of the trip being solely focused on TEDWG, and the city being looked at to foot the bill.
“In your explanation about the reason for going Mayor Johnston, it was TEDWG each time, and I feel very strongly that if that's what is going to be showcased and held up to look at, then that's where the funding should be coming from,” said Byer, “I see the value of the City of Thompson having a presence at PDAC, but if the focus is going to be on TEDWG and less on our efforts, I'd like to see them pick up the lion's portion of the funding.”
A motion to table the resolution was brought forth by Coun. Luke Robinson, who later withdrew his motion when it was made clear that registration for the conference was time sensitive and there would not be enough time for TEDWG to meet and discuss funding and then bring the motion back to council.
Johnston laid out that in essence the funding was being requested for one additional person, as funding was always provided for the mayor, and that Ceppetelli's costs would be coming out of his own departmental budget.
The resolution was amended, and passed subject to one third of the cost being provided by external sources
Coun. Stella Locker summed up that pre-planning for trips such as this in the future would be beneficial in saving time and stress.
“From now on, let's do all our planning for all of our meetings ahead of time,” said Locker, “we don't want to be discussing it the meeting before (the event) we don't want to make it uncomfortable for us.”