Council conflict avoided with third-party reviews

Re: Council votes for 24-per cent raise, Sept. 22.

To the Editor,

Re: Council votes for 24-per cent raise, Sept. 22.

Albeit for different reasons, Couns. Fred Pattje and Loyd Sherry state they cannot support the increase in remuneration for council members.

Support for an increase is strong among councillors and many prospective councillors, however, and the level that’s been set meshes with the norm for large cities.

On the other hand, it seems patently obvious that council should not be ruling on its own stipends – especially one might add, upon the recommendation of staff who themselves are exceptionally well paid by a method that itself has generated a good deal of controversy.  It’s just all too cozy.

But we shouldn’t become too distracted by council stipends, which are but a drop in the municipal spending bucket.

What’s really needed is an independent and rigorous review of all city spending by a highly qualified third party who does not have a vested interest in this or any other municipal establishment.

Considering that the very large and expensive Nanaimo bureaucracy has never been reviewed in such a manner, one can safely say that such an assessment is long overdue.

In the future, appropriate amendments to the Community Charter and the Local Government Act should be proposed by our council for consideration by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, which in turn should present these amendments to the government.

Such amendments would be designed to make certain that stipends are determined by a body that’s appointed and acts independently of a municipal council. That’s the only way to avoid the appearance of self-dealing.

These amendments should also mandate periodic external reviews of municipal spending throughout the province by the office of the provincial auditor general.

That’s the only way the public can be assured that its tax dollars are being spent wisely.

In the meantime, future changes in local stipend levels should be set by a respected external party, or parties, appointed by council, with council pledged to accept the outcome.

That would also be consistent with the provisions of Nanaimo’s own conflict of interest policy, which seems always to be overlooked when this particular matter comes up for consideration.

Eric Ricker