Another Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference is in the history books. Over 2000 delegates and partners attended the event in Vancouver as did I. The event was well planned and the Vancouver Convention centre does not take a back seat to any venue for this sort of gathering.
Mayor Robertson and his team did a great job of making all the delegates feel welcome. Another important aspect of this event is that no matter the hour delegates could safely return to their hotels. This is important to note as in some large cities this simply would not be possible.
There are some that question the value of these conferences. Perhaps a few that do not make the effort would get very little from attending, but for the majority the experience involves at least 16 hour days, hours of travel and many days away from their family and their other responsibilities. For some, taking five days off work to attend the conference is a costly enterprise. Add this to the strain of being separated from family and the cost in some cases is quite dear. For those that strive to be the best that they can be these costs are worth it to represent their communities. The FCM is the advocate body between local government and the federal government and as such can be a powerful partner should a community need help.
The title this year for the conference was Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show. Along with infrastructure concerns, sustainability of communities is what keeps elected officials awake at night. Well some of them. Those municipal leaders that have little revenue and have inherited infrastructure that has reached beyond the limits of usefulness would fall in to this category.
Various leaders and experts in their fields came to speak to the conference. The Honourable Denis Label, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities gave a speech on how hard the federal government has worked to put together a fund to deal with the problems that plague various communities across Canada.
This may be what some refer to when they say there is money available for grants. The problem as I see it is that all during these presentations there is never any mention of actually giving the money to those that need it. There is hope though, now that the scandals in the east have taken on a life of their own, that there may be more political hay to be made by giving the money to the western municipalities in need. At least we would say thanks and use the money for water mains and such.
I hold out little hope though that this sort of funding will be attainable by Barriere in the next few years. As usual, if we want to have things done we will have to do them ourselves and pay the bill.
Speaking of paying the bills, no matter the size of the community it is the elected body that has been charged with the responsibility of managing the public purse. Currently the procedure in Barriere is that the Chief Administration Officer and the Chief Financial Officer sign the cheques, but I may have to do this if one of them is away.
I am in no way suggesting that is anything wrong. I am trying to find the best way to discharge my duties. What better time to find out what happens in other communities than when they are all gathered together at a conference?
So I asked quite a few small town mayors and CAO’s from across Canada what they do in their towns. The answer was resounding: the mayor, or another appointed elected official look at the bills and countersigns the cheques to pay them. Only in big cities was this left to staff.
So there you have it, I learned that I have been remiss in my duties. I always thought that council should know what was being spent.
They need and should have direct input into that procedure prior to the money being distributed. So along with getting rid of the Mayor’s District credit card, which is another thing I always wondered about, the cheque signing procedure will change.