OUR VIEW: Trade missions can be beneficial, but maybe it’s time for Skype

It’s hard not to warm to Surrey mayoral candidate Doug McCallum’s promise to ban city council members from traveling overseas on the taxpayers’ dime if he wins office in the November elections (see news story on page 15).

Mayors and councillors heading out on these junkets might swear up and down that they’re hard at work on our behalf and not simply touring around at taxpayers’ expense.

But of course, this is difficult for the taxpayer to monitor and ultimately we are called on as citizens to trust our elected officials to serve our interests and not theirs.

There likely are times when trade missions are beneficial to the city.

But at a time when Joe and Jill Regular find themselves paying more taxes and increasingly higher bills while their salaries stagnate – and have but to open the pages of a newspaper, flip on the TV or listen to the radio to hear about politicians at all levels of government spending money like it grows on trees – these trips are an increasingly hard sell.

Surrey’s current city council is not the only one to have jetted around the world on city business. This has been going on for decades.

Yet under current mayor Dianne Watts’ watch, jetting around became a growth industry at a time when technological advancements have made video-conferencing and other forms of instant global communications a snap.

Were city council members’ crusades to Israel, Ottawa, New York, Italy, Puerto Rico, England, Columbia, China and India really necessary?

One wonders if our civic leaders have forgotten that they’re running a city, not a country.

Was it really necessary for Watts, the city’s fire chief, Surrey RCMP’s chief and a couple of criminologists to fly to New York and then to Puerto Rico, staying at a five-star hotel, to learn about closed circuit television cameras?

That trip cost taxpayers $17,875.38.

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