Taxpayers don’t want a layer of affordable housing bureaucracy

Last July, Council directed staff to find 10 per cent savings in each department. Where that number came from – who knows? But it made good press and now we hear that this was a “pie in the sky” hoax being played on the taxpayers – staff recently reported this request would cause a serious decline in public services. Wow, what a surprise!

Despite the 8.5 per cent tax increase last year, staff told council that basically more money will be needed to cover some of last year’s bills, which will be carried over to this year’s tax bill. Are we to believe that no one on council thought of this last July? Obviously, none of them cared enough to ask, but now we should all hold our breath to see what this year’s tax rate will be.

At their most recent meeting, our Council heard from the founding president of the Council appointed “PEC Affordable Housing Corporation” (PECAHC). This volunteer organization was formed in January 2019 and are only now making their business plan known to our council. Not only is the founding president of PECAHC a previous councillor, but also a local real estate agent. He presented a starting budget line for this new board in the amount of $130,000, which includes payment for a “qualified” director, legal costs, insurance and office supplies.

I really can’t believe that when the call for volunteers went out for this committee, this is what our council had in mind – a “paid” director for a volunteer board? Why do we have a council and municipal staff? This is a serious question. Don’t the taxpayers already pay council for doing the work that they are now asking these volunteers to do? Why are we being asked again to pay for duplicate services?

I believe that affordable housing is an important issue for this community and it is much needed. But the way this is being handled needs to be challenged now. For affordable housing to happen here, PEC will need the support of both the federal and provincial governments. We cannot even begin to dream that we can afford this out of local taxes. It is even more ridiculous to consider a needless payment of $130,000 to a quasi-volunteer group – particularly when last year’s bills haven’t yet been paid! We don’t need a local third party like the PECAHC to take the lead on this – we have a council and staff that are very capable of doing the work, and we also have both a federal and provincial rep and all their resources to go to for help. Isn’t that why we elect and pay all of these people?

Our Council still doesn’t understand that the taxpayers don’t need nor want another layer of bureaucracy to pay for, nor to deal with. We don’t need more volunteer committees around Shire Hall – paid or otherwise. We need a Council to do the job they were elected to do and to give staff the authority to do theirs more effectively. If Council believes they are somehow being more democratic or inclusive by this approach to problem solving, then they are wrong. What they are doing is deflecting an important issue onto the shoulders of those that the public cannot hold accountable – and that we don’t need! We can’t afford the process Council has chosen. It is more expensive and less effective. The public needs a break from high taxes and from bigger local government – why doesn’t our Council get it?

Dennis Fox