Councillor spending needs monitoring

Would you spend over $1,000 on a high backed leather office chair?

Perhaps, if — like Ward 44 Coun. Ron Moeser, who bought that chair earlier this year — you had $53,100 from the public purse at your disposal and very few measures to control how it’s spent.

Councillors in Toronto are coming under fire as expense reports roll into the city clerk’s office, selections of which are posted on Coun. Rob Ford’s personal website,

Ford, councillor for Etobicoke North, is one of the city’s most frugal representatives. He’d spent only $1,123 of his allotted budget at the end of September, tens of thousands of dollars less than many of his colleagues.

Ford and fellow Coun. Doug Holyday, who spent $1,882 in the same period, are calling for an audit. On Dec. 3, Holyday asked the auditor general and Integrity Commissioner to randomly check up on the spending of four councillors per quarter.

Both frugal councillors were investigated after council voted to have them checked out for “spending too little.”

Moeser isn’t the only councillor making less-than-essential purchases. Reports of limo services, expensive, alcohol-laden meals, espresso machines and fine art paid for with public money suffuse the expense reports — so what does this say about our reps’ spending habits?

Councillors approve their own expenses, and Winnie Li, who heads up the department that monitors spending, says her staff are there to “record and track spending, not police it,” according to the Toronto Star.

Are the extravagant spending habits of some councillors enough to call for a re-evaluation of the amount budgeted for their use? In the wake of a year of financial trouble for the city, including increased taxation posed by the mayor in addition to budget and service cuts, this may be the case.

Stricter guidelines, greater accountability and random audits, as suggested by Holyday and Ford, are necessary if city officials don’t want to cut the fat.

Besides, shouldn’t their $95,000 salaries, extensive benefits, paid-for travel expenses and cell phone bills leave enough money behind to cover the cost of a big leather chair and a few glasses of wine with dinner?