The Thompson-Nicola Regional District board has amended its hospitality policy to prohibit the purchase of alcohol using taxpayer dollars at TNRD-hosted events.
The board also plans to continue with its Union of BC Municipalities hospitality event, which in the past was hosted at high-end eateries like the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler.
Last summer, the board voted to put in place a taxpayer-funded two-drink limit on TNRD-hosted events. That two-drink limit has now been nixed.
The amended policy, approved on March 25, applies to staff, directors and guests for events hosted by the regional district, such as its annual Union of BC Municipalities function. Alcohol may still be offered at events hosted by the TNRD, but it would be purchased at one’s own cost.
TNRD Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) director Mel Rothenburger brought forward the motion, but said his intention was for it to encompass all TNRD events, not only TNRD-hosted events.
TNRD director of legislative services Deanna Campbell said the board’s hospitality policy encompasses TNRD-hosted events and suggested a policy review committee, recently reconvened, could review further revisions should gaps be identified by the board.
The board also approved appointments to that policy review committee, which has not met since 2018 and will begin meeting again at an unknown time.
TNRD finance director Doug Rae said he is not aware of policies that would cover events not hosted by the regional district.
Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh asked about per diems received by directors and whether they could include purchase of alcoholic beverages. Rae said, as it stands, directors are entitled to their per diem to cover meals and incidentals and, should alcohol be purchased, it doesn’t increase one’s per diem.
Meanwhile, TNRD Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) director Sally Watson suggested the regional district also nix the annual UBCM event it hosts each year during the annual conference. She said the TNRD has a tradition of hosting a “very large, very expensive” dinner at the UBCM.
The regional district skips a $100-a-head event hosted by the UBCM in lieu of hosting its own networking event, to which it invites MLAs.
Those events in recent years included an $8,000 tab at the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler in 2018, which board chair Ken Gillis previously conceded would have involved purchasing alcohol.
Rothenburger said the high cost of those events comes from the large number of individuals invited.
Watson argued it would be cheaper for the regional district to attend the UBCM event because the regional district wouldn’t be responsible for paying the dinner tabs of municipal directors and MLAs, due to policy in place charging such expenditures to the respective communities.
In that case, the regional district would be on the hook for 10 directors, at a cost of about $1,000 — some $7,000 less than the Bearfoot Bistro event.
Beyond cost, some debate occurred about the value of such an event. On one side, an argument the UBCM event is too big and too loud to have conversations with people. On the other side, a suggestion no work was done at the TNRD’s events, but rather they were more about getting together.
Gillis said that, if the board voted to discontinue the event, he wouldn’t bother attending the banquet.
Singh said when the board meets and breaks bread together, it does not have to include expensive wine, but he argued such gatherings do have benefits for a board that includes 26 people. He suggested the event could be dialled back.
Others argued eliminating alcohol charged to the TNRD, via Rothenburger’s motion, would reduce the costs of such events in the future.
Watson’s motion failed, meaning the regional district will continue its practice of hosting its own event at the UBCM convention.
In favour of Watson’s motion were Watson,,Rothenburger, Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass, Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman, Area I director (Blue Sky Country) Steven Rice and kamloops Coun. Kathy Sinclair.
Vice-chair Bill Kershaw suggested there may be a rethink in the future of how many directors attend the annual event — something that may be going to the policy committee — and said it was too early to make the decision.