September 22, 2018

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Fire chief's frequent travel supported despite cost-cutting directive

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane.</p></p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/1/2018 (246 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

John Lane’s travel calender has been quite full since he became chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in March 2014, but he’s done so with the full support and encouragement of his superiors.

City hall released data Thursday showing Lane has attended 39 conferences or meetings since becoming chief, with 34 of those events at out-of-town locations such as Toronto, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Calif., Colorado, San Diego, San Antonio, Orlando, Nashville and Niagara Falls, Ont.

The total cost incurred by the city: $51,402.84.

Lane’s travel schedule has increased each year he’s been WFPS chief: seven conferences or meetings each in 2014 and 2015; 11 in 2016; and 14 in 2017 -- with 12 of those 14 at out-of-town destinations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/1/2018 (246 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

John Lane’s travel calender has been quite full since he became chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in March 2014, but he’s done so with the full support and encouragement of his superiors.

City hall released data Thursday showing Lane has attended 39 conferences or meetings since becoming chief, with 34 of those events at out-of-town locations such as Toronto, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Calif., Colorado, San Diego, San Antonio, Orlando, Nashville and Niagara Falls, Ont.

The total cost incurred by the city: $51,402.84.

Lane’s travel schedule has increased each year he’s been WFPS chief: seven conferences or meetings each in 2014 and 2015; 11 in 2016; and 14 in 2017 — with 12 of those 14 at out-of-town destinations.

"It does appear like a lot of travel," said Michael Jack, City of Winnipeg chief corporate services officer (formerly known as the COO) and Lane’s superior.

While some of Lane's predecessors questioned the amount of travel he has done and its value, Jack said he had reviewed each of the trips in advance with Lane, and approved them only after it was concluded it would benefit Lane or somehow showcase a WFPS program or initiative.

All of Lane’s travel in 2017 occurred after Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil announced in March he was ordering senior management to reduce unnecessary travel and conference attendance, as one way to cope with an unexpected $9.5-million shortfall in the 2017 budget.

Lane's 2017 travel numbers came as a surprise to Coun. Scott Gillingham, chairman of city council's finance committee, who questioned the necessity of the trips in the face of the announced austerity measures.

"Given the CAO had instituted cost-mitigation measures in 2017, I was surprised to learn the chief travelled 12 times," said Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston).

However, Jack said the austerity measures were accompanied by exceptions for senior staff who are board members of national or international organizations.

The data released by the city showed of the 14 events attended by Lane in 2017, nine of those were due to his membership of a national or international organization, including the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

Gillingham said he recognizes Lane's role on those organizations, but did suggest to Jack that Lane might occasionally fulfill those obligations by using "technology to participate in meetings in an effort to reduce travel costs."

Jack said Lane travels much more extensively than the heads of the other six departments who report to him (Winnipeg Police Service, legal services, community services, animal services, golf services, and the planning, property and development department) but he said he’s signed off on the travel because of Lane’s hands-on approach as chief, even while out of town or on vacation.

"Chief Lane’s work ethic is one really significant factor in that decision-making process for me," Jack said, adding Lane remains in touch with his executive team at the WFPS via cellphone and computer. "Chief Lane remains very, very engaged anywhere in the world that he’s travelling – be that work-related or on vacation. That’s a massive factor in my confidence in allowing him to attend and participate, it is not negatively impacting his duties to the City of Winnipeg."

The Free Press requested an interview with Lane but it was turned down, as a civic spokesman said Lane was unavailable because he’s on vacation.

Jack said Lane was encouraged after his hiring to actively seek appointment to boards of directors on as many organizations as would have him, adding his travel is related to his duties with those groups.

"We consider that a credit to his work, his reputation and to the City of Winnipeg, frankly, and so that appears the reason you’re seeing the reason (for increased travel) in 2017," Jack said. "We see a value in having our chief and all of our senior management involved in those types of organizations.

"There are a lot of intangible benefits we find that are brought back, but it’s certainly another indirect benefit being the promotion of the city and all of the good that we’re doing here."

Jack said he expects Lane’s travel calendar to be equally busy in 2018, as long as the chief maintains his roles on the national and international bodies.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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