Monday, September 7, 2009

Backdoor Jack

On my return North, I was met with a cool reception at the Yellowknife airport.

Not only was it six degrees in Capital City, but also the scowling face of our Member of Parliament, Dennis Bevington greeted me.

“Hi Terry,” the Groucho Marxist managed and went back to pretending to read his upside-down newspaper.

Bevington, who hold the dubious distinction of having the highest travel expenses of all the MPs in Canada, was traveling to Inuvik to attend a climate change workshop with youth. I suppose scorching all the carbon credits to bring all the youth together is one thing, but for Bevington to use that as an excuse to do some campaigning was laughable.

Harper was making his annual trip across the three territories, so this was the cue for all the parties to try to “out North” each other in some pre-election campaigning.

While it rained federal money in Nunavut, the orange and red button-wearing western territories got crumbs swept from the table. The spoils of war, I suppose. That’s what you get for voting for a spectator.

In celebration of a real candidate for the Liberals in Western Arctic, even Iggy made his first appearance across the 60th parallel with a quick junket into Capital City. I suppose he had to be put up at Handley’s place, because the Libs still have bills outstanding at every Yellowknife hotel.

Handley took advantage of the situation to slam the Cons on unsigned land claims, despite having slammed the Akaitcho Chiefs for the same thing just a couple years ago.

“You haven’t signed off one word of your land claim,” Handley scolded the Chiefs. “Not one word.”

Elizabeth May might have attended the climate change youth thing too, but she ran out of train tracks in Whitehorse. After a barbeque of edamame beans, May told the wan-looking crowd of her Arctic Strategy.

“In our view, Canada’s sovereignty ... is best exemplified by commitment to communities, to environmental protection in the Arctic, to paying attention to being a constant presence in the region.”

If that makes any sense to you, you better get some seared red meat or bologna in you, stat.

Faced with party bankruptcy and the sure loss of seats for the CCF, Taliban Jack struck a backroom deal with Iggy, whereby Jack will back the Cons to avoid going to an election, so that Iggy can put on his tough boy pants for the cameras.

Following the backroom meeting at Stornoway, Comrade Jack rode the party bicycle over to 24 Sussex, where he made a backroom deal with Harper. In exchange for a wood pellet-burning day care bus for Toronto Danforth, Jack will side with the Cons to avoid an election.

“I'm not making any backroom deals with the Prime Minister,” Layton lied later to eye-rolling reporters. “There's nothing strange, or behind the scenes involved here. I'm simply suggesting that the decision about whether there's an election is the Prime Minister's decision.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Full-time pay, part-time accountability

Welcome back, dear readers.

On returning from my vacation, I was surprised to learn that Inuvik Town Council had held a special meeting to discuss and vote the issue of a full time mayor.

The special meeting was held with barely a quorum and the vote was pushed through before the three vacationing councilors returned. Although there is a precedent for electronic voting via email, that option was not allowed here.

I’ve resisted the urge to comment in my blog on issues facing town council, but since I was denied that forum, I will for the record, put my thoughts here.

The reasons Inuvik’s previous town council voted in favour of the full time mayor’s position were because of the increase in oil and gas activity in the region, the onerous duties required with presenting to the Joint Review Panel and organizing the Inuvik Petroleum Show.

The reality today, is that there is virtually no oil and gas activity taking place here, the Joint Review Panel hearings have concluded, and the mayor thinks the Inuvik Petroleum Show has run its course.

When we voted this to be a full-time position our part-time mayor, Peter Clarkson, was also providing monthly reports and bringing in new funding that far exceeded the salary proposed. If there is a need for a full-time mayor, the current council would not be aware of that, because, in truth, we don’t know how the mayor spends his time. The current mayor has filed only two reports in three years and any new funding was brought in through the initiatives of our town manager, Sara Brown.

The lack of information flowing to council prompted me to move a motion that re-established committees. Although new committees were established, regular meetings were never held. The Administration Committee met just twice over the three-year term, despite having passed three capital/operating budgets and numerous staff issues and shortages which all should have come to committee.

For a mayor who campaigned on being “open and accountable” this mayor has done more to cut off the flow of information than anything.

Although Peter and I disagreed loudly on many issues, his work ethic was never questioned. Quite the opposite in fact. We once had to rein him in for being too involved.

This contrast in two mayors illustrates another reason why this position should be part-time – the job is so dependant on the drive and ability of the individual elected.

I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, but my political position is best described as Libertarian, where the best government is no government. Why should taxpayers fund elected amateurs to manage the future of their community, when there are professionals who can do a far better job?

The money used to fund a full-time mayor could be otherwise channeled into attracting professionals to the town staff in key areas like finance and engineering. We have been without an engineer for about six years and without a finance officer for about six months.

A mayor can be a ribbon cutter and ambassador for the town or he can be a dedicated and driven workaholic. The flaw in democracy is that often the voter won’t know which until it’s too late.