City council is reporting its highest annual travel expenses in the past five years.
Overall travel bills racked up by Mayor Sam Katz and councillors, and paid from the public purse, hit $107,936.37 last year -- up nearly $40,000 from their tab for 2004, according to records obtained by the Sun.
"Spending this excessively, and especially during an election year, is irresponsible," Adrienne Batra, Manitoba head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, told the Sun yesterday.
Check out the reaction of one of the Councillors when he's told he broke the bank on travel:
Pagtakhan, Katz's deputy mayor, surpassed Steeves this year to become the heftiest spender with a bill of $17,909.96.
"I actually beat Gord this year -- oh my God," Pagtakhan said, noting Steeves racks up big airline tabs as a vice-president with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
Doesn't that seem a little glib and sarcastic for a guy who's flying to Manila, Mexico and the Middle East on taxpayer dime?
Pagtakhan goes on...
"I sort of feel bad that it's so high. From a public perspective, it may look bad. But we're learning and we're benchmarking. Overall the travel is good, as long as it's above board."
You know what "from a public perspective, it may look bad" is code for? What he means is that the rubes, the unwashed masses, the monkeys in the electorate may "think" this is bad...but that's because they aren't capable of understanding how important I am, and how important my "professional development" is.
When politicians dismissively say "it may look bad" they are showing their contempt for the electorate.
But there is always a bright light...
Steeves and other councillors defend the travel as necessary for their jobs, though Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) charges the bills for 2005 have gone overboard.
"This is a travel club. They should stay in Winnipeg and do their jobs as councillors, not just travel all over the place," said Smith, who took a single trip to a St. John's, N.L. conference at a cost of $1,927.68.
"They should tone it down. And they should remember that this is an election year."