Last week Burns Lake council passed a questionable motion.
I say that the motion was questionable because it was carried against the recommendation of the village’s chief administrative officer and the Burns Lake mayor, who were both concerned that the motion could have a negative impact on local hard-working non-profit organizations.
The village’s chief administrative officer suggested to council that staff could prepare a report – so that councillors could fully understand the implications of approving this motion – before a decision was made. However, councillors ignored her suggestion.
What followed was a quick, unanimous vote with little discussion in favour of the motion. Some of the people in the gallery and I were definetely surprised by how this motion was approved so quickly.
Burns Lake resident Rick Pooley, a member of the Rural Post-Secondary Education Committee who was watching the council meeting, wrote a letter to the editor saying that this council action will cost local non-profit organizations a great deal of money and time, and could force them to significantly reduce the services they provide.
“This decision disrespects and devalues the amazing contribution that these organizations make in our community,” he said.
Some organizations in the Burns Lake area such as the Burns Lake Rotary Club often rely on the village to process their grant applications. By using the village to assist them, these organizations benefit from tax advantages. This means that organizations that deal with large grants could face losing a significant amount of money each year, money that would not be invested in the community.
Councillor Michael Riis-Christianson said that administering grant funds of non-governmental organizations and disbursing funds to third parties on behalf of these organizations raises a number of legal and ethical questions, some of which relate to the issue of financial transparency.
Burns Lake councillor John Illes, who proposed the motion, said all loans provided by the village should undergo some sort of public consultation to ensure the public is comfortable with the risk the municipality is accepting by providing the funds.
While financial transparency is definitely important, and these are all excellent points, the only questionable action was the way this motion was approved. Councillors could’ve waited for a staff report or even consulted with non-profit organizations before making the final call.
One would think that with such an important decision, council would’ve taken a little more time and have a little more discussion to assess the potential impact on the community.
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach, who was against the motion, said he believes this decision will prove to be “extremely financially harmful” to many volunteer groups in the Lakes District.
“Before making a quick decision on this matter, I believe council should have taken time to carefully consider the ramifications of their actions,” said Mayor Beach.