Calgary

Nenshi defends Toronto flight freebie

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has issued a statement defending his decision to let a private company pay for his recent flight to Toronto.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has issued a statement defending his decision to let a privately owned architectural firm pay for his recent flight to Toronto.

Nenshi, who is in Toronto on a four-day trip for a series of speaking engagements and meetings with local mayors, was responding to criticisms from some aldermen about the optics of the deal.

"The majority of this trip is paid for by my office's budget. But, to offset expenses for the benefit of the taxpayer, my flight there and back was paid for by Kasian [Architecture], who invited me to speak at their Healthy Cities Symposium," Nenshi said in the release.

'It is perfectly standard practice to offer transport costs.'—David Dick, business ethics chairman

"It is normal for the host of such an event to reimburse a speaker for their travel expenses so the cost does not fall on the taxpayer."

The total cost of the economy seat was $721.51, Nenshi's statement said.

He added that he would be speaking at an event in Vancouver next week, hosted by the Local Government Leadership Academy. It paid for Nenshi's flight, which cost $659.14.

David Dick, a chairman of business ethics at the University of Calgary, said these aren't unusual deals.

"It is perfectly standard practice to offer transport costs and even accommodation to people you invite to speak out," said Dick. "I myself do it in the speakers' series that I run here at the University of Calgary."

Dick said there would be some concern if the city and Kasian were engaged in any business contracts.

But Nenshi said there are no business deals that he is aware of between the city and Kasian, so there is no conflict.

"These are not gifts — they are ways to offset costs that would otherwise be shouldered by the taxpayer," Nenshi said.

Nenshi said prior to the trip, which started Tuesday, he disclosed that the firm paid for the flight. He said he was surprised by criticisms from some aldermen, "given that they themselves did not disclose their donors during the election."

"Given their comments, I expect that they will support the campaign finance reform and transparency that I have advocated for years," Nenshi said.

He has already received positive feedback from many of Toronto's business and community leaders, Nenshi said.

"A tour like this is part of the role of mayor," he said. "A mayor must be a champion for the city at home and abroad."

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