Courtenay councillor defends spending

Dear editor,

In recent editions of local papers, there have been letters, etc. describing me as a wasteful spender of taxpayers' dollars.

Dear editor,

In recent editions of both our local papers, there have been letters, beefs, etc. describing me as a wasteful spender of taxpayers’ dollars.

I write this letter of rebuttal to provide some established facts that will show the true situation.

Firstly, and most importantly, no individual councillor, including me, can spend a dime of taxpayers’ money. This is because all financial decisions are made by Courtenay council, acting as an elected body.

These decisions are contained in comprehensive documents, which include the Five-Year Financial Plan and the Annual Budget, which are explained by staff to council in detail, debated at length and then voted on in public.

The approved budget forms the foundation of the coming year, any diversions from it require further council decisions each and every time, and its provisions are carefully audited.

Seeking the facts, I have checked the public record, and Courtenay council approved the 2011, 2012 and 2013 annual budgets unanimously. That is, the mayor and council voted 7-0 to approve the budgets of the past three consecutive years. Obviously I was one of those seven votes, but where is the evidence of my independent and profligate spending?

There is none, because independent councillors cannot spend a dime.

I recently made a motion, reported in the media, to maximize council participation in local government conferences such as the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities, the Union of BC Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

I, and many, many others, believe them to be excellent educational and networking opportunities, and superb venues for raising the concerns of Courtenay.

For example, increases in Gas Tax Funds and more flexible use of them came from efforts at FCM (we have received $940,000 in 2013, so cumulatively from 2005-2013 we have received just over $6 million) and we will meet with cabinet ministers at UBCM in September to push for a North Connector.

Those that criticize attendance in general are often those that fail to make the effort to get the maximum out of  their own participation.

Mayor Jangula, knowing the motion was coming forward to council, quite rightly asked staff for the most recent report on conference expenses in order to inform the debate.

The public record shows that in 2012, out of a total budget of over $50 million, Courtenay council spent $35,778.00 on participating in conferences. A breakdown of individual expenses, from that public report, follows:

1. Mayor Jangula — $9,715;

2. Coun. Anglin — $7,355;

3. Coun. Leonard — $6,724;

4. Coun. Winchester — $4,655;

5. Coun. Theos — $3,431;

6. Coun. Hillian — $2,583;

7. Coun. Ambler — $1,315.

Readers will note that Mayor Jangula spent the most on conferences, which is entirely appropriate because his role requires him to be front and centre representing the City at many forums.

Furthermore, Coun. Anglin attended a specific conference for newly elected councillors. My motion to maximize attendance, of those willing and able (i.e. those that can get time off from their day jobs) could result in the cost of conferences rising to as high as $44,000.

This motion was subsequently endorsed by council by a vote of 6-1. The fact is, once again, council as a whole, not me alone, decided to authorize greater attendance.

Finally, I offer the proven facts above to my critics, in what I realize may well be a forlorn effort to clear my name.

That said, as Aldous Huxley famously wrote: Facts don’t cease to be facts just because they are ignored.

Jon Ambler