City councillor blasts taxpayer-funded trip to Sweden - Metro US

City councillor blasts taxpayer-funded trip to Sweden

The manager of HRM’s sustainable environment office says officials have “to get outside of our own sandbox” to learn how to improve the municipality as a whole – and that includes an upcoming trip to Sweden.

“There’s absolutely no way we’re going to continue to be a leader in sustainability if we don’t continue to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities from elsewhere,” Andy Fillmore said yesterday.

Fillmore was reacting to recent concerns raised by Coun. Linda Mosher of Purcell’s Cove-Armdale that the municipality shouldn’t be spending $20,000 to send “a large delegation” to a foreign country during tough economic times.

“It’s council’s duty to be cognizant of taxpayer funds,” Mosher reiterated yesterday.

Mosher said she’s also “very disappointed” councillors didn’t find out about the overseas trip until late last week, via an internal e-mail.

“Although this didn’t have to come to council, the optics are certainly not, in my opinion, positive.”

But Fillmore, who is one of about a half dozen city staffers who are making the journey for 10 days in October, called it “a chance of a lifetime” to learn from some of the most forward-thinking municipalities in the world. He said one city councillor will also be attending.

Fillmore said the invitation came from a Swedish sustainability expert who visited Halifax last fall, adding city staffers will not only be learning, but will also be teaching communities what they know about public consultation.

Mosher said she understands “you can’t learn everything sitting home at your desk,” but added she only sees the merit in sending two people.

Mayor Peter Kelly, who isn’t going on the trip, agreed yesterday HRM has “to make sure that if we’re going anywhere, it’s done for the right reasons.”

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