Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann wants the mayor and all city councillors to publicly report money they spend doing city business – even if they pay for it with their own funds.
Landry-Altmann's motion, presented at Tuesday's city council meeting, calls for a report on a new policy modelled on one used in Toronto. While charity work wouldn't be affected, she said residents deserve to have a better idea of how their representatives spend money.
It has nothing to do with donations to charity – only with expenses that result from councillors doing their job.
“This motion is about disclosure,” Landry-Altmann said at Tuesday's council meeting.
Currently, each councillor has an office budget of $10,489 a year, while Mayor Marianne Matichuk's is $31,358. From that fund, councillors pay for office and travel expenses, among other costs. Spending is reported online, so voters can track how the funds are being spent.
"Our budgets have proven to be generous, as we collectively reported under expenditures," in each of the last seven years, Landry-Altmann said.
However, she said current rules allow councillors to use their own money to pay for expenses, artificially giving voters the impression they are careful spenders, “when in fact they have exceeded their budgets.”
Worse, they may use their own money to give them an advantage come election time others don't have. In Toronto, they have outlawed that sort of spending in the name of fairness, she said.
“There should be a level playing field among all councillors, irrespective of personal financial circumstances,” Landry-Altmann said. “Just because you have more personal resources, you can't exceed the budget that has been established. Hence the need for disclosure.”
“It also exposes any expenses incurred by a lobbyist or the councillor.”
Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli said he never claims mileage, but that doesn't mean he has an advantage over other councillors. But he said he'd support the report to see exactly what the policy would entail.
“I don't have an issue with full disclosure,” he said. “I have no problems seeing the report. I have nothing to hide.”
Ward 10 Coun. Fran Caldarelli wondered how far the policy would extend, since it's one thing not to claim mileage, another to pay for newsletters for your ward.
“This is very simple,” Laundry-Altmann said. “This is disclosure. That's all this is.”
The motion passed easily, with Mayor Marianne Matichuk commenting that these sorts of issues could be handled by an integrity commissioner, should council vote to hire one. A report is expected by January.
Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the mayor's office budget as $36,358, when the correct figure is $31,358. Northern Life apologizes for the error.