Anyone headed to downtown Vancouver today for a conference or even just a getaway could expect to pay between $150/night to, well, a lot more than $150/night for a hotel room; something that includes another digit.
Which leads us to the question: Did Summerside city councillors pay too much for their rooms, estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $350/night, when they went to the West Coast in May for meetings of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities?
An optimist would say that considering the usual posted rate at the high-end Fairmount Pacific Rim hotel is about $500 and up they got a good deal. A stay at a swanky downtown hotel with all the bells and whistles for the reduced conference rate of $360 sounds pretty sweet.
A more reasonable person, perhaps better stated as a more frugal (or cheap) person, might suggest the Days Inn a couple of blocks away might have been a better choice at a starting rate of as low as $101/night.
Since it is over and done (water under the bridge, or more aptly clichéd: money down the drain) what does it matter now? It matters because councillors here have developed a predilection for these conferences.
The mayor, rightfully, maintains that the sessions are a worthwhile expense. The meetings of the Canadian Federations of Municipalities offer a valuable exchange of ideas and workshops where great ideas are born and shared. Summerside has indeed benefitted from these conferences in the past. But that is not the point.
The point is that council is spending too much on these conferences, first by sending too many representatives, and secondly by paying too much for related expenses, as this year’s junket, with a price tag of just over $20,000, clearly indicates.
The city should indeed send representatives, even when the conference is on the other side of the continent. But it ought to send only one elected official and one staff member, and it should do so regardless of where the conference is held.
The claim of missing an important opportunity is weak and no excuse for sending so many delegates. Two people, over the course of four days, could potentially attend 16 workshops, assuming each sat in on two each day. If that’s not enough perhaps we are sending (or electing) the wrong people.
As for the hotel expenses, no one expects people travelling on city business to stay at the Fleapit Motel, but at least look for the nearest establishment for less than $200 a night. There are lots of hotel chains that offer comfortable, clean rooms with breakfast and Internet access for less.
All this without even considering airfare savings…