Delta mayor under fire over planned trip, travel expenses

Click to play video: 'Delta mayor’s travel expenses questioned'
Delta mayor’s travel expenses questioned
There are growing calls for Delta Mayor George Harvie to cancel his upcoming trip to the Netherlands. He's already rung up tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses this year, and critics say enough is enough. Catherine Urquhart has the story – May 24, 2024

Delta Mayor George Harvie is refusing calls to cancel a planned June trip to Amsterdam.

The move comes despite his own councillors voting him off Metro Vancouver’s board.

Now, his newly released expenses for the first few months of 2024 are prompting more outrage and questions about accountability at the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

Click to play video: 'Delta mayor George Harvie’s travel expenses questioned'
Delta mayor George Harvie’s travel expenses questioned

“Mayor Harvie should absolutely cancel his trip to Amsterdam,” said Carson Binda, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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“It’s unacceptable for this mayor who has already been removed from his position at Metro Vancouver to be billing taxpayers to jet to the Netherlands, there’s absolutely no value in this as far as we can see.”

Despite his removal from the Metro Vancouver board, Harvie was permitted to stay on until July 1, so he could attend a conference in Amsterdam about diking systems.

In an email, Harvie’s office said in part, “he will remain a member of the Mayors’ Committee, where the learnings from the trip will continue to be valuable to the region.”

New Westminster City Councillor Daniel Fontaine said Metro Vancouver board members should step in.

“They still have the opportunity to kibosh this and send a message to Metro Vancouver taxpayers that they actually care even about expenses like this,” he said.

Click to play video: 'New West councillors question mayor’s overseas trip'
New West councillors question mayor’s overseas trip

Data from Metro Vancouver shows Harvie has already incurred more than $32,000 in expenses this year.

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He claimed more than $21,000 for a flight to Asia plus $2,700 for accommodation and per diems.

There’s also a bill for nearly $1,300 for accommodation at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria, as well as the upcoming trip to Amsterdam. The airfare was $5,300.

Jerry Dobrovolny, Metro Vancouver’s Chief Administrative Officer, has billed $37,000 in expenses so far this year.

This follows revelations by Metro Vancouver about astronomical cost overruns on the wastewater treatment facility in North Vancouver.

Click to play video: 'Court documents shed light on wastewater treatment plant dispute'
Court documents shed light on wastewater treatment plant dispute

In 2018, public backlash forced Metro Vancouver board members to reverse retirement payments they had given themselves. The district’s chair at the time, Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, billed more than $80,000 in travel expenses over five years.

“We think the provincial government needs to bring back the local government auditor general,” Binda said.

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“This was a position that existed until the NDP defunded it and eventually eliminated it altogether.”

Fontaine agreed.

“It just makes the public shake their head and say, if there’s no financial oversight on those types of activities, is there any wonder that these mega budgets are so much over budget?” he said.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs said the public can always lodge complaints about public expenditures.

“If a person has concerns of an unauthorized expenditure or other financial irregularity, they can make a complaint to the auditor who must report back on that complaint,” the ministry said in a statement.

“And local governments must submit annual audited financial statements and other requested financial information to the Province.”

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