Letter to the editor 5, Jan. 19, 2017
Transparency of Budgets
I read with interest that during the approval of the 2017 budget for St. Lazare, Councillor Marc-André Esculier voted against the whole budget because he could not accept, in good conscience, two or three line items, (the amount being spent on 2017 Festival au Gallop, and the amount being put aside for the proposed traffic circle on Bédard) being charged to the taxpayers. Although it should be noted that Mayor Robert Grimaudo also did not publicly approve of one line item, namely the $25,000 for leaf pick up, and maybe for that reason he should have voted against the 2017 budget, but he did not.
Transparency is one of the cornerstones of good governance and, as a taxpayer, I am curious as to why a budget of close to $30 million, generated by town employees, is pushed through approval where councillors can only vote for or against the full budget. Councillors are able to express their disapproval of any line item, but the approval has to be for the complete budget. It should be possible for councillors to ‘cherry-pick’ line items and vote only for what they think is acceptable for taxpayers to be charged for, and have their approval vote or rejections being made public.
Surely for greater transparency these councillors and mayor should be treating taxpayers’ money with greater respect and accountability, by voting on each line item of the budget, rather than treating it as a ‘omnibus bill budget’ where costly items might be included or slipped in, without being made public or voted on. A point in case being the budget for the 2017 Au Gallop, and the money being set aside for the ‘yet to be approved’ traffic circle on Bédard. Do all of the other councillors approve of these items, and are they willing to stand behind their budget votes, come the next election?
Taxpayers should know which councillors voted for which line item expenditures, so that if the councillors or mayor approve something the taxpayers think is wasteful, they can consider this at the next election. Likewise, if taxpayers find that the councillors and mayor are spending the taxpayers’ money wisely, then they might stand a better chance of being re-elected, based on their record of line item budget voting at the next election.
The Harper government were masters at pushing through 450 page ‘omnibus bills’ called budgets, which contained many hidden items/laws, but surely in our small community of St. Lazare, we should expect greater transparency as to who votes for or against every line item in these ever increasing budgets.