By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Area P, TNRD
Should taxpayers pay for the alcohol consumed by directors at events hosted by the TNRD? If so, how much?
Those were questions faced by regional district directors Thursday (July 16, 2020) at our regular meeting.
The upshot is a two-drink limit at future events hosted by the TNRD. The decision came after a spirited debate on tidying up the board’s hospitality policy that raised the question of how much wine and beer directors should be allowed at TNRD-hosted events.
It came up as part of a two-part recommendation, the first of which was to clarify whether the TNRD should pay for attendance of directors’ spouses at such events. The answer to that one was a no-brainer: no. Directors must pay for attendance of spouses out of their own pockets.
That, in fact, has already been the practice but the next part was harder. The second recommendation stated, “Amend the Hospitality Policy so that alcohol is restricted to beer and wine only for all hosted events, including the UBCM hosted dinner, and that such approval shall be at the discretion of the Board Chair and Vice Chair only.”
That prompted a comment from Director Sally Watson summing up opposition from a number of directors to the concept of taxpayers paying for board members’ alcohol. “I can’t believe we’re considering this,” she said.
I agreed with her, and moved an amendment to the recommendation that “alcohol at TNRD-hosted events will be by cash bar only.”
Directors who didn’t like that approach argued that cracking down on alcohol would make the TNRD seem niggardly when we’re hosting others and that such events are important for networking. I should clarify that there aren’t a lot of these events. The main example is a dinner hosted by the TNRD at the annual UBCM convention. My understanding is that this dinner was established many years ago as a substitute for a UBCM banquet for all delegates, the tickets for which are quite pricey.
Instead, the TNRD hosts our MLAs, council reps from municipalities within its boundaries and some staff at a restaurant. Not all directors attend.
I think a Christmas social and the occasional reception are the only other gatherings that would bring the policy into play.
I know where directors who support open bars are coming from but, as Director Watson said, it comes down to whether taxpayers should be on the hook for it.
Vote totals and individual votes by directors aren’t usually tallied but I asked for a roll-call vote, with my amendment being defeated 14-11.
Director Al Raine (Sun Peaks), who supported my amendment, then suggested that the policy state alcohol should be provided only in “modest” amounts. Director Robin Smith (Logan Lake), who opposed my amendment, put that into her own motion to amend with the word “moderate” but the discussion turned to how to define moderate and who would decide.
That’s where the idea of a two-drink limit was raised, and it prevailed after further debate. Some directors felt it also addresses liability concerns. Directors who voted against it were split between those who thought it should be higher, and those who thought it should be zero.
Those of us who oppose the TNRD paying for alcohol at events can, of course, pay for their drinks ourselves or simply not drink.
I have a feeling the issue might well come up for reconsideration in future. I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts taxpayers might have on it.