There’s always something going on in politics. If you’re lucky, whatever happens to be occupying Stephen Harper or Christy Clark or Adrian Dix — and therefore the news — is at least interesting enough to hold your attention while you finish a coffee. At the local level, we’re usually not so lucky. Our issues tend to be either mercilessly boring or too deeply convoluted — or both — to warrant the attention of any sane, thinking member of the public.
Take the recent proposal by Minister Ida Chong to create a provincial watchdog for lower levels of government — the Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG). Despite being mercilessly boring, the idea sparked controversy among local politicians, some calling it a much-needed layer of oversight, others a wasteful, treacherous plot to undermine the authority of local governments. This is where the deeply convoluted part comes in. The position has the potential to be either purely bureaucratic — and possibly redundant — or purely political, a way for the minister in power to cause problems for local politicians who don’t play ball.
You’re probably wondering why I’m wasting your time with boring, complicated provincial bureaucracy. Since this issue is one of those rare gems that causes even hardened politicians to cringe and go for the cliff notes, what better opportunity to put Victoria’s three newest members of city council to the test.
Ben Isitt said: “I don’t think that greater external oversight is a bad thing,” but added that regardless of the outcome of Chong’s proposal, he hopes that municipalities would be able to curb their own spending.
“I believe that the implementation of a Municipal AG will be good for the taxpayer,” agreed Shellie Gudgeon, saying it would result in more local accountability “... and an opportunity for municipalities to share best practices and learn from each others successes and mistakes.”
Lisa Helps was the most critical, saying: “It’s odd to create a layer of bureaucracy to curb the spending of another layer of bureaucracy. And, the AGLG will perform a strict financial audit, won’t use a full cost accounting (economic, social, environmental) approach; this is twentieth-century thinking.”
You’re going to have to decide for yourself which answers are right or wrong, but I’m going to give everyone here a point for not coming back with an, “Uh... what?” M