06/04/2013 12:18 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Municipal politicians criticized for Vancouver hotel stay

Some Metro Vancouver politicians are defending decisions to stay in downtown Vancouver hotel rooms during the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference last weekend.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, along with four city councillors from each municipality, were put up in hotel rooms during the four-day annual conference.

Coquitlam Coun. Lou Sekora say the hotel bills are a waste of taxpayer money.

"Taxpayers are sick and tired of spend, spend, spend," said Sekora, who commuted to the conference by car.

"They could have carpooled or taken SkyTrain. I could have taken two or three with me."

Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation agrees, but says it's likely many other municipal politicians also stayed in hotels.

"I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg," he said. I think there are many more that did."

Making connections

But Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode says it was all about networking.

"We, as elected people who are serving, do have to utilize proper tools to be able to serve our residents,” she said. “I think the lens they use on us should be similar to a corporation that is providing that opportunity to employees."

Stewart says he pitched a major funding agreement to a federal minister after hours in the hotel lobby — though he can't discuss details.

"It's the kind of thing that is worth way more than the cost of the hotels — in fact, way more than the cost of the conference, just that one connection,” he said.

Thousands of people commute to Vancouver from Surrey and Coquitlam every day.