By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The recent trip by regional councillors and staff to Europe was originally supposed to be only for members of Durham’s works committee.
However, The Oshawa Express has learned that those in charge of the trip approved for a non-committee member to take part.
According to documents obtained by The Oshawa Express under a Municipal Freedom of Information request, Adrian Foster, Clarington’s mayor, was given the green light to attend the taxpayer-funded trip.
“Councillor (Willie) Woo forwarded your email to Mayor Foster who is asking 1) if his attendance was overlooked, 2) if not, due to his interest in this topic and the possibility that this facility could be built in Clarington. Mayor Foster would like to participate in this tour,” Melodee Smart, an administrative assistant for the regional works department, wrote in an April 21 email to Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner.
“The Mayor’s EA did advise that this was an invitation to Works Committee members, which I confirmed was correct. I advised that you and Mirka (Januszkiewicz) were meeting this morning and I would ask that this also be discussed at your meeting.”
Three days later, following a meeting with Regional Chair Roger Anderson, Curtis gave the green light for Foster to attend.
However, just a few hours later, Foster backed out. In other emails, it was noted Foster was unable to attend due to prior commitments, including the Mayor’s Golf Classic, held on July 7.
When asked as to why he wished to attend the trip, Foster says that with the possibility that a future anaerobic digester – which would use compost to generate biogas – could be in Clarington, it would make sense for the town’s mayor to be there.
“It’s a big issue, an interesting issue. When you look at the records, I’ve been interested for a while, but didn’t know much about it,” he says.
“One of the issues with anaerobic digestion is odour. Given that the region has land at the (Durham York Energy Centre)…I’d be surprised if a site down there isn’t one of the ones proposed. On that point of view, we’ve got a pretty controversial issue on our hands.”
Second trip in a year
While reviewing the documents for this story, The Oshawa Express learned that another trip to Europe was undertaken by staff last year to sites in Germany, Holland and France.
“There was a week-and-a-half long trip last year by staff,” Curtis says, adding he took part in this trip as well.
According to an email from Tania Laverty, manager of corporate communication at the region, the taxpayer-funded trip cost more than $40,000.
When asked why the trip was not made public, Curtis replied that the cost of the trip was given the go ahead by council.
“It was approved in the budget. Not as a line item, but the overall project was approved.”