Councillors lock horns over trip funding

Councillor Dave Stockdale doesn’t believe councillor Dave Austin should attend the world’s largest mining conference in Vancouver, BC,…

Councillor Dave Stockdale doesn’t believe councillor Dave Austin should attend the world’s largest mining conference in Vancouver, BC, January 29 to February 1, on the city’s dime.

Although he declined an interview, on Monday Stockdale told council the city drained its $6,000 collective fund for councillors to attend conferences last year.

He thinks attending the mining conference, dubbed The Cordilleran Roundup 2007, is a waste of money and doesn’t benefit the city.

Dave Austin, who worked in the mining industry for years before he became councillor, is attending the meeting out of personal interest rather than to bring back valuable information or contacts for the city of Whitehorse, he said.

“I didn’t want to bring it up at city council, so I don’t want to comment on it at all,” said Stockdale on Tuesday.

Austin has been backed by mayor Bev Buckway, councillor Florence Roberts and economic development and tourism department staffer Sheila Dodd.

“We’re more noticed by our absence than our presence down there,” said Austin on Tuesday.

“You have the Yukon Chamber of Mines down there; you have the Yukon Chamber of Commerce down there … you certainly have a number of government branches down there promoting mineral development and economic development — we’re certainly noticed by our absence if we’re not there.”

Austin didn’t appreciate getting bushwacked by Stockdale at Monday’s meeting.

 “What I really don’t like is getting ambushed in the middle of the (council) meeting,” he said.

 “What I would like is, if Stockdale has a problem with any of this, is to come to me before the meeting and say, ‘Look I don’t agree with this, I’m going to bring it up,’ rather than blind-siding somebody.”

Austin couldn’t care less whether the money for his trip down south comes from his $3,750 personal travel expense fund or the city’s collective funds, he said.

City manager Dennis Shewfelt said that Austin’s trip would cost the city the price of airfare, hotel and meals.

Councillor Roberts volunteered to give Austin a portion of her own personal travel budget to help him attend the event.

“Yes, I think it’s important to have the city of Whitehorse at the Cordilleran because mining is such a part of the territory that I think we should make our presence known, especially for the hub that we are becoming — we’re becoming quite a supply hub for a lot of things now,” said Roberts on Tuesday.

“I don’t think council has ever made a bad decision on the value of our representation.

“Really no matter where it is, our representation means something.,

“It may not come back to us, to city council, in dollars and cents but it always comes back to the community.”

It doesn’t make any difference what fund Austin’s trip comes out of as long as “we sit down and discuss it,” said Roberts.

The trip should come out of Austin’s personal expense budget, said Buckway, who supported the trip.

“He’s gone (to the event) for a number of years and I think that if this is something he thinks is important to go to then he should take that expense out of his own personal travel budget,” she said.

“Everybody likes the Cordilleran Roundup; it takes somebody like Dave Austin to go to it because he used to work in the mining industry,” said Dodd.

“Some people think, ‘Oh wow, how does that affect the city of Whitehorse because it isn’t actually happening here?’ but mining activity affects everybody and everything.”

The McPherson Rental company, which supplies mining operations, is based in Whitehorse and is one example of how we are affected by mining, said Dodd.

The Association for Mineral Exploration in BC is hosting the Cordilleran Roundup 2007.

The Roundup consists of a trade show, technical programs, social programs and other meetings and presentations.

Mineral Exploration Roundup 2007 will highlight both Canadian and International exploration activities and mineral projects at all stages of development.