Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis’s upcoming all-expenses-paid trip to China came under scrutiny at last night’s council meeting.
City council was set to vote on approving two trips for Curtis. One is to Edmonton in early April, to attend a mayor’s conference on reducing poverty. The other is to Zhengzhou, China, in May to attend an international mayor’s forum on tourism.
The City would be on the hook for Curtis’s travel expenses to Edmonton, but not to China, where sponsors have offered to foot the bill entirely.
Last night, councillor Samson Hartland said he felt uncomfortable approving the travel without knowing the sponsors, or what their intentions were.
“I’m a little conflicted with an all-expenses-paid trip to China,” he said.
“And I’m a little uncomfortable with both trips being wrapped up in the same recommendation, because I might have different feelings about each of those trips.
“As we know, nothing’s free in life.”
Coun. Dan Boyd proposed an amendment that would split up the recommendations. The first would authorize travel expenses for Curtis’s trip to Edmonton, while the second would authorize travel only to China.
The amendment was defeated in a 4-3 vote.
Curtis went on the defensive and assured the rest of council that the trip didn’t imply anything nefarious.
“I’m not in the pocket of the tobacco companies,” he said.
“They won’t be fracking in the Yukon because I’m going to this international mayor’s forum on tourism. I’m fine if you just remove China, I’ll tell the people that we’re not going to go.
“I feel like this is a quick decision, we’ve had a few weeks to discuss it and I don’t understand why we’re waiting until now.”
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said she supported the mayor’s trip to China, adding that it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase the City to a much wider, international audience.
“How many opportunities happen where this is offered?” she said.
In the end, council voted unanimously to approve both trips.
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