Clegg’s Corner – Tough times over in town, county

There is absolutely no doubt the tough economic times are over in High Prairie and Big Lakes County.

How else do you explain the reasoning behind the two council’s decision and/or impending decisions to keep increasing the number of people it sends across Canada to conferences?

Yes, it is that time of year when councils begin planning to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference. This year it is in Halifax May 31 to June 3. Politicians across the country must be like a child on Christmas Day as they await the location of this year’s taxpayer-funded junket.

Town council’s current policy is to send up to two councillors when the conference in out of province. We all know they willingly violated the policy a few years ago when Brian Panasiuk, Debbie Rose and Linda Cox trotted off to Niagara Falls.

Now, despite ongoing concerns over limited financial resources, town council is hinting at increasing the number to three or four.

Meanwhile, across town at Big Lakes County, Panasiuk says they are sending 11 people to Halifax. Years ago, council sent only a handful. Now, it’s open season on the frustrated taxpayer. You want to go, no problem. Money is no option.

God forbid either council should have to tell anyone they can’t go!

Councillors need to understand the frustration of taxpayers over attending these trips, and avoid letting the patting of their backs from their best friends convince them this is actually a good thing.

For the last two or three years, we have heard both councils express concerns over finances. Town council certainly hasn’t got the money to toss around like the county. Many decisions are made based on available finances, and trying to keep their high taxes stable.

So why consider sending more people to Halifax?

Across town, the county is taking from reserves to keep taxes stable. It is a practice they can’t do forever, while keeping their fingers crossed that energy prices will rebound and the bank account fattens up again.

How many quotes have you read in this publication the last three years from county councillors expressing concerns over lost assessment and revenue? Perhaps it is time I trotted a few of them out and republished them?

There is never, however, restraint when it comes to attending the FCM. More people are attending then ever.

It makes you wonder if the councillors of years ago were stark raving stupid. Town council did have restraints and policies in place limiting the number to attend, and the county [former M.D.] never sent the busloads they are sending now.

Yes, policies are living, breathing documents which can be changed at a council’s whim.

Consider this, however. After being preached to for so long about tough economic times, how can these councils justify a week-long holiday across the country?

I guess when someone else is paying the bill it’s pretty easy.


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