United we Stand…

On May 28-30 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) held its annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario. Nanaimo was well represented by Mayor Ruttan and three Councillors (Holdom, Kipp and Sherry), i.e. nearly half our Council. I am currently waiting for advice on the number of Staff who may have attended. One assumes that this was an all expenses paid event and I look forward to the reports of our representatives which can demonstrate the payoffs to citizens of their attendance. It can be noted from the program which can be found here, Program that a number of events were sponsored by firms hoping to do business with our municipalities. Thus we pay to send our representatives to them rather than they having to pay for their sales call on us. I also find it ironic that one of the workshops at the conference was entitled: “Local Government 3.0: Using the Web to cut costs and serve your citizens better”. Perhaps we would have been at least as well served by on-line attendance. We would certainly have saved money. Will our taxes be going down next year as a result of what was learned in Toronto? We shall see.

Organization such as the FCM, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC), and a host of other national, international and professional groups meet regularly to promote the interests of their municipal members. And there is nothing sinister about this, even though attendance at these events can be expensive and is rarely, if ever, examined for evidence of value for money. But perhaps even more important is what is missing from this list of organizations. There is NO organization, local, national or international, dedicated to and organized by and for the municipally governed, i.e. those who must live with the consequences and pay the bills. Local political parties can perhaps play an important role in such a structure. Perhaps an even broader force might be put together in the form of a ratepayer’s association active throughout the elective term rather than just at election times. What controls can we exert over our elected dictators in between elections and how do we institute them? I am convinced that the answer lies in some form of citizen organization rather than a reliance on the election of saints. The principle of checks and balances is out of order.

Ron Bolin