By Cole Parkinson
Vauxhall town council is continuing to evaluate the benefits Canadian Badlands brings to the municipality.
With Mayor Margaret Plumtree sitting on the board, she brought forward a question to council around whether or not they would be okay with financial compensation for drive time or mileage when attending meetings.
“Some committees, when you go onto their board, they pay you and others do not. It turns out Canadian Badlands is one that does not. I’m asking council if they would be interested in paying for either time or mileage for my attendance of the meetings,” said Plumtree, who offered to declare a pecuniary interest and step out of the room during discussion at council’s regular meeting on Aug. 20. “Right now, our policy is that I am allowed to go to any Canadian Badlands events but if I go and take on a separate committee, it has to go to council for approval.”
While councillors understood the request, many viewed it more as a way to gauge whether or not they wanted to continue as a member with Canadian Badlands.
“I’m not sure that is necessary (for Plumtree to step out). I think the real question comes down to if we feel it is important for us to be involved in Canadian Badlands, then we ought to be covering the expenses according to our policy for reimbursement, whichever councillor is involved. I think it is really that simple,” replied Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips. “You must believe it is bringing value otherwise you wouldn’t have volunteered to stand your name forward.”
In the town’s Council Remuneration Policy, meeting rates are one-hour minimum, $25 per hour, paid in 30-minute increments and to a max of $200. Attendance at appointed board, committee, foundation or society meetings are the same as committee of council meetings except that travel time is included in time durations.
“I’ll be as blunt and fair as possible. Being on it, will it bring a lot of benefits to Vauxhall? Honestly, I don’t know. What I am trying to do by being on the board is I am trying to get more things happening in the south and get more things happening in smaller communities. Canadian Badlands has decided they are only doing their big conference every second year instead of every year. With them doing smaller events, why can’t a place like Taber host it?” asked Plumtree. “Will it bring 100 per cent more tourism to Vauxhall? That I really can’t say.”
As a community not full of tourist attractions, Phillips pointed to that fact as a reason not to expect high tourist numbers in the town.
“In the absence of a tourist attraction, it is hard to say we are going to have a lot of tourists in the area,” he explained.“My point is, simply, economic development and tourism are not synonymous. If you are somewhere close to some beautiful destination like Banff, your odds of drawing in tourist dollars are much greater than if you are a wonderful little business centre, which we are. We’re off the normal tourist path.”
As far as reimbursement for Plumtree attending the meetings, council was on board.
“My opinion is, I’m good with doing this for a while but I don’t necessarily think it is a four-year ticket to carry on. I think we need to re-evaluate after six, eight or 12 months and say are we really getting value out of this? If we are, carry on, if not, we haven’t invested too much,” said Phillips.
A motion was made and carried to cover time and mileage reimbursement and to re-evaluate in 2020.
Plumtree abstained from the vote and Coun. Ray Coad was absent from the meeting.