Mayor sheds light on expenses

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Mayor for the Town of Port Hawkesbury says despite having the third highest expense claim for mayors and wardens in the 2019 fiscal year, she’s been advocating for the town on multiple fronts and building important connections with decision-makers.

Brenda Chisholm-Beaton highlighted during the 2019-20 fiscal year the town was on the move and so was she – she was engaged in regional collaboration, economic development projects, and exploring housing opportunities.

“Building relationships with federal and provincial decision-makers, to advocate for projects and funding for our town, is extremely important,” she said. “As a business owner, I am always aware of how important it is to watch the bottom line.”

From presenting a gateway project, which will aim to revitalize the entrance to Cape Breton at the Canso Causeway, and meeting with stakeholders regarding the future of the Allan J. MacEachen Regional Airport, to understanding new opportunities for their waterfront or discussing potential housing opportunities – Chisholm-Beaton said she has Port Hawkesbury at the heart of every decision.

“I think it’s important to look beyond the numbers and at the work that was done, and the quality and significance of what was achieved,” she said about her $15,930 expense claim. “I view it as being a testament to the life of a busy and engaged mayor who is working hard to improve the town and region.”

Chisholm-Beaton’s expense claim for the fiscal year of 2018-19 was $12,083, in 2017-18 it was $7,634, and in 2016-17 it was $1,308 for a total of $36,955 in her term as mayor – an average of $9,238.87 per year.

In comparison, former mayor Billy Joe Maclean’s expenses topped $156,043 during his term as mayor, and in 2008-09 his expense claim for the year was $25,757 alone.

Maclean’s average expense claim total per term was $78,021, which also holds an average per year claim at $19,505.33 – 111 per cent higher than Chisholm-Beaton’s – however, Maclean’s numbers weren’t public.

In the first year municipalities were required to make their numbers public, municipal officials across Nova Scotia were reimbursed for more than $1.5 million in expenses in 2019.

Another local mayor, Cecil Clarke, of Cape Breton Regional Municipality topped the list with a $37,716 expense claim.

The new regulations from the Municipal Affairs Department came after a 2016 ombudsman’s report on Richmond County and frivolous spending by other municipalities.

The town’s CAO, Terry Doyle, pre-approves all of the mayor’s travel, and council members have the opportunity to ask any questions about expenses at every public meeting in an open and transparent way – something that’s been their practice since 2016.

“I represent 3,200 citizens in this town, and the busy agenda I’ve maintained demonstrates that I have worked hard on many important files to benefit each and every one of you,” Chisholm-Beaton added. “I’m proud of my work record for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and I know our citizens will see the value in what I have done and what I can do.”