Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Councillor expenses: Calgary city council Q1 costs tallied up

Full first quarter Calgary city councillor expenses were posted this week, and all in all, it’s a pretty clean set of books.

There aren’t any $20 orange juices or dubious FCM ‘hosting fees’ in this set of councillor expenses.

But we won’t let them get off scot free. Someone’s always watching…

Councillor expenses – overview

In Q1, the average total expenditure for councillors, including ward staff salaries was $53,318. The bulk of the Wards, 9 out of 14, ranged from between $50,008 and $59,544 for total expenditures.

Raj Dhaliwal and Andre Chabot had the lowest expenditures at $33,077 and $38,689, respectively. While Richard Pootmans and Sean Chu had the highest expenditures at $63,373 and $65,848.

Each ward has a budget of $278,400, for a total of $3,897,600. To date, $746,447 or about 19 per cent of that budget has been spent.

(Aryn Toombs gathered the data and produced the graphics.)

Comms a big expense

So far this year, communications have made up the bulk of expenses outside of salaries. Across all wards, councillors have spent $8,040 for communications and $3,623 for postage costs for mailers.

Of the $8,040, $3,000 was spent by Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer on editing and proofreading and communications from a pair of vendors. Also, $1,908 was rung up by Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal on a hall rental at the Genesis Centre for an upcoming youth employment event.

The entire $3,623 for postage was spent by Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian on New Years mailers to constituents.

Spencer told LiveWire Calgary that as a rookie councillor with a rookie team, he wanted to make sure they effectively mapped out a communications plan. Thus, they needed outside expertise.

"Everyone in my office is very keen, community minded, a constituent facing, good crew," he said.

"We just knew early on that this would be an area that would pay dividends down the road."

We did ask if, after the proofreading charge, there were any mistakes in the material. Spencer said no, he didn't believe so.

More expense outliers

IT, telecommunications, and wireless phone charges totalled $5,423 across those three categories. All councillors expense $10 per month by user for wireless phone plans, $13 per month for wireless data plan charges, and $25 per month for remote IT access.

External business meetings totalled at $1,112, along with business travel at $878. The majority of expenditures for business meetings, at $919, came from Ward 7 councillor Terry Wong, who held a Ward 7 communities and BIA event for 70 guests in March.

A total of $878 in business travel was expended by Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra for an AirBnB rental in Canmore from March 3–5 for Ward 9 meetings with Ward 9 chief of staff Devon LeClair, along with communications and community liaisons Jessica Thorburn and Alex Ramadan.

Carra said his Canmore trip removed his team from their busy world to focus on a plan to deliver their legislative agenda.

"We talked about how do we get the hell out of dodge away from our families, away from the constantly ringing phones and actually do the work that we need to do in order to achieve the objectives that I promised to achieve," Carra told LiveWire Calgary.

They sequestered themselves for three days, cooked their own meals and "got a shitload of work done."

"If anyone is interested in elected officials achieving what they set out to achieve, regardless of whether they agree with them or not, and particularly if they do agree with them, then I think $900 to feed and absorb 24 hours a day attention from four of their employees is good value for money," he said.

Two councillors used $1,023 for community sponsorship. Ward 4 councillor Sean Chu made a $600 donation to the Rosemont Community Association for adjusting rink lighting. Ward 6 councillor Richard Pootmans spent $423 on Ward 6 promotional pencils.

Finally, there were a pair of intriguing expenses in Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean's office. McLean had subscribed to both the Calgary Herald and the Sun (whom work in the same building and produce strikingly similar news stories.) We did not see a subscription to any independent media in Calgary. (Maybe we need to publish more columns on him, perhaps?)

Expenses by Ward

As always, the stellar work of Aryn Toombs neatly breaks down the expense categories into brilliant graphics.