19 September 2011
Money-Sucking TSBP Economic Development Committee Should Be Disbanded
For several years, the TSBP Economic Development Committee (EDC) has been sucking up scarce taxpayer money and providing little or nothing of value to the town in return. Now the EDC wants to expand its activities and increase its drain on the treasury. This may benefit the non-elected members of the Economic Development Committee. But it would be detrimental to the town.
The Economic Development Committee:
- is acting way outside the boundaries set by the Economic Development Services section of the Municipal act,
- is taking public positions not endorsed by council,
- is disrespectful of council and of the inhabitants of TSBP,
- has done much damage to the town (the inhabitants),
- is gearing up to do things that will do much more damage,
- has tainted the strategic plan.
To prevent further damage, The Economic Development Committee should be disbanded immediately, and the value of and need for the position of Economic Development Officer should be reviewed.
The EDC is illegitimate
Section 238 of the Municipal Act indicates that committees of council must have at least 50% council members. This is so committees of council (of representatives) remain as committees controlled by the representatives and not by some special interest group or individual or any unelected person or group. The EDC has 12 members, only 3 of which (25%) are council members. The committee falls short of the 50% requirement and so is not a legitimate committee of council. Rather than a legitimate committee of council, the EDC is a special interest group with a few councillors on it. The special interest group is 25% elected and should not have the influence of a legitimate (50% or more elected) committee. And the illegitimate special interest EDC group should not have access to tax revenues or any other town resources. The EDC should not be free to help themselves to town resources (e.g. as chair McMillan has helped himself to theEDO’s time and services.) The EDC, as an illegitimate “committee of council” should not have special influence on policy that is unavailable to other residents.
The EDC is Operating way outside the boundaries of the Municipal Act
The Municipal Act (the “Act”) is the primary governor of what municipalities can and cannot do. The Planning Act also governs.
The part of the Municipal Act that governs what kinds of Economic Development Services are permitted and what kinds of “Economic activities” are not permitted is named “Economic Development Services” in the Act, which includes paragraphs106 through 114 of the Act.
The act also defines Economic Development Services very narrowly:
“economic development services” means, in respect of a municipality, the promotion of the municipality by the municipality for any purpose by the collection and dissemination of information and the by the municipality for industrial, commercial and institutional uses
There is no mention of Economic Development activities in the Economic Development Services section of the Act. The title of the section is Economic Development Services.
Economic development services, for example small business advisory services, are permitted and encouraged by the Act. Economic development activities are generally not allowed. For example “bonusing” (supporting commercial enterprises) is not allowed per paragraph 106.
Since the Economic Development Committee is supposed to be a committee of council, one might expect the Economic Development Services section of the Act to be the basis for the EDC terms of reference.
Yet the Terms of Reference do not even mention the Municipal Act or any of the provisions of the Economic Services section of the Act. It is clear to me that the Economic Development Services section of the Act has been purposefully left out of the terms of reference because the Economic Development Services section of the Act is inconsistent with what the EDC does and what the EDC aspires to do, and in fact prohibits much of what the EDC aspires to do.
The current EDC terms of reference, unbounded by the sections of the Municipal Act, take the committee outside the bounds of the Municipal Act. The actual plans of the committee and the proposed terms of reference would take it even further out. Discussion of development of the airport, discussion of getting sewers at Sauble, plans to get a casino at Sauble – all of these are way outside the bounds of what is allowed as economic development services.
The EDC is taking public positions not endorsed by council
The EDC is taking the position that we need to grow, and is taking the position as if it is the official town position. And while it was the position of council past, it has not been formally adopted by the current council. We hear a lot of sillyness like “if we don’t grow we will perish, if we don’t grow we won’t be able to maintain infrastucture, if we don’t grow we will die”.
Conventional wisdom may be that without growth we will suffer, but there is no foundation to the notion, at least in the context of the town. What is most in the public interest is not growth, but rather security, community, adequate services, and freedom from having our money stolen and given to special interest groups like the EDC. And you get these things best from good government, not from growth.
Sauble beach is a good example. Sauble could function quite well without any commercial activity at all, and without any commercial “growth”, or even without any growth of any kind. Because Sauble is largely populated by people bringing money from jobs and pensions elsewhere, and it’s that money that pays for services. There is nothing wrong with no growth, and there is especially nothing wrong with no growth at Sauble. The inhabitants are far better off with no EDC-style growth. And the pursuit of “growth” should never be used as an excuse to impoverish some residents to the benefit of others.
The economy and growth should be largely left in the hands of the private sector, and to a small degree provincial and federal government policy. Municipal governments, especially small municipalities, do not have capability to constructively intervene in the economy. That’s why “bonusing” is prohibited by paragraph 106. Because even if Municipalities are well intentioned, if they stray outside the bounds of the Municipal Act Economic Development Services section, they will generally or always just make things worse. Municipalities have no business trying to run the economy.
The EDC is also taking the position implying that the town wants to commercially develop the airport, and the town wants sewers at Sauble. These in fact are not town positions.
The EDC is doing damage
The EDC wants to take on projects that will “positively impact the economic sustainability of the town”.
The financial health of the town is the budget and the impact of the budget on the inhabitants. The more the EDC takes from the treasury, the less sustainable the budget will be.
Pursuing growth EDC-style will actually make everyone poorer (except the EDC special interest members of course). It will make everyone poorer by consuming the town’s money (that is the inhabitants’ money) and other resources and by providing little or nothing to the town (the inhabitants) in return.
The 2010 Economic Development budget was over $300,000 with little, if anything, to show of benefit to the town (the corporation, the inhabitants).
The 2011 Economic development budget is more than $240,000, with little, if anything, to show of benefit to the town (the corporation, the inhabitants). If the grants and other giveways to the chambers are included, it’s upwards of $500,000. That’s 6.5 per cent of our property tax bills.
A 6.5% increase in property taxes can have a devastating effect on the well-being and prosperity of the inhabitants. The inhabitants would be far better off with the money left in their pockets.
So the EDC would be better named the “Economic Destruction Committee”.
The EDC want to revise the terms of reference to make them consistent with what they see themselves as and consistent with what they intend to do. They want to revise the terms to remove any constraints and boundaries.
This should not be permitted. The EDC should be disbanded instead so that they cannot do any more harm. And until they are disbanded, the EDC should focus on legitimate Economic Development services.
The EDC is disrespectful of council and of the inhabitants of TSBP
The chair of the EDC is running around telling people he is the chair of the EDC and telling people how important the EDC is. He also openly denigrates any member of the town who he feels does not support him or share his views. He has also denigrated councillors. A few other EDC members also take shots at those members of the corporate body who disagree with them. This is disrespectful. And it’s unacceptable. And it’s embarrassing.
EDC wants to do things that will do much more damage to the town
The EDC has discussed getting water and sewers at Sauble, getting a casino at Sauble, development of the airport, and much more. These things would cost the residents dearly in many ways, and would provide private benefits to some, but would provide no benefit to the “town”.
The EDC is preparing its own budget proposal on September 28. They should not have a budget. The EDC should be disbanded instead.
The EDC has tainted the strategic plan
The strategic plan is not yet drafted, but it’s already tainted. While the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the strategic plan appeared on the surface to be calling for a strategic plan for the town (the inhabitants), and should have called for a strategic plan for the town, in fact the RFP called for a strategic plan for the business and development sectors, (but financed by the inhabitants). So the strategic plan was off track right from the start. But to make it worse the special interest group EDC has worked themselves a conduit to the strategic plan consultant, and has prepared a list of things that the EDC “wants in the strategic plan”. These are things that the special interest group wants, but the list is being presented by a committee of council, making it look like it is what the people’s representatives want. But in fact the list has never been discussed or approved by council as a position of the people. This EDC maneuver has corrupted the strategic planning process and the plan even more than it already was. It has corrupted the plan so much that it is unlikely to have any value.
The EDC was not asked by council to input or direct or influence or anything to do with the strategic plan. The EDC did that on their own because they see the strategic plan as an economic development plan and therefore part of their mandate. The decision to go directly to the consultant was EDC’s choice. The EDC is way off-side.
The EDC should be disbanded and the EDC connection with the strategic plan consultant severed.
Council should dissolve the EDC. It’s doing no good for the town and by consuming and squandering resources is actually doing considerable harm.
Council should also review the role of Economic Development Officer. If the role were constrained by the Economic Development services section of the Municipal Act, as it should be, a full time person is not needed.
EDC items in the September 20 COW agenda
There are three EDC requests in the September 20, 2011 COW agenda, one for the creation of a bluewater park sub-committee, one for business cards for the EDC, and one for all available documentation, including closed meeting documentation, regarding the airport.
5.3. EDC 01-11 Bluewater Park Ad Hoc Committee
Council sets up council committees to serve a purpose and to serve the town. Many groups want to form committees, ostensibly to help out, but in fact for many the purpose is to influence policy to their benefit. The sole purpose of the proposed subcommittee is to influence public policy in favour of the members of committee. Council did not ask for this committee and staff did not ask for a committee. We already have too many illegitimate “committees of council”. The proposed subcommittee would just suck up more town resources and keep theEDOfrom doing legitimate economic development services work for the town. The request for a sub-committee should be denied.
5.4. EDC 02-11 Economic Development Committee Business Cards
The economic development committee has no mandate to contact anyone on behalf of the town, or as a representative of a town committee. Contacts for economic development services should only be made by the economic development officer, or by council. Business cards should not be issued to EDC members, or for that matter to any council committee. The request for business cards should be denied. The rules governing contacts should be made clear to the EDC.
5.5. EDC 03-11 Economic Development Committee Resolution Re: Airport
Council is already looking into the airport, mostly in closed session. The Municipal Act definition of economic development services would not include looking into the airport. Council did not ask the EDC or anyone else to look into the airport. The EDC cannot be helping theEDOby looking into the airport. The EDC has no mandate to look into the airport. No one wants the EDC to look into the airport. So they should not be looking into the airport. They should butt out. Mayor Close has already told the EDC that they can get information regarding the airport the same way and at the same time the rest of the public gets it. That’s where the discussion should have ended. The EDC request should be denied.