until they apply to us. (And I’m no different.)

This post is a follow up to a note in an earlier post where I made mention of the apparent discrepancy in what Parry Sound Council considered appropriate for pre-budget approval.

I think we can agree rules, regulations, and laws are a good thing. But they leave us conflicted. There are always one or more of these regulations and laws we think aren’t reasonable, or at least shouldn’t apply to us. It’s just not fair. But we of course fully understand and accept why they are necessary and should apply to others.

Earlier this year a councillor (A) brought up a proposal for pre-budget approval of a grant to Festival of the Sound for their opening weekend program. Councillor A, who had previously been a Festival board member, indicated it was a special occasion, the 10th anniversary of the Stockey Centre opening, and a decision was time sensitive. Early approval was required to ensure acknowledgement of the town’s support in the Festival brochure, which needed to be finalized in a few days. Another councillor (B) quickly shut down the discussion, arguing that council could not provide pre-budget approvals before the 2013 budget was finalized. (It still isn’t approved as of April 8th.)

From watching the dynamics of the discussion and the body language it seemed councillor B really didn’t like the idea of the grant. But rather than debate the issue on its merits, and possibly lose the argument, it was easier to cut it off by stating that pre-budget approvals were inappropriate. It seemed a reasonable and prudent rule for council to apply to a situation where the upcoming budget was tight and approving expenses prior to final budget review seemed inappropriate. Council agreed and the request was dismissed.

But was this a matter of principle, or a not so transparent tactic to unilaterally deny the request? A couple of related items that have come up in council sessions lead me to believe it might be the latter.

Just a month earlier councillor B  tried to derail the negotiated inclusion of town snow plowing services with the rental of the CP Station by Festival of the Sound. The councillor almost managed to get the contract revised, which would have led to a considerable delay in its execution. In the end, after two amendments, the rest of council recognized the inconsistency of the argument as presented by councillor B, and approved the contract as initially negotiated between town staff and the Festival. The reason for the objection to the snow plowing wasn’t obvious. Councillor B claimed it was an issue of consistency and principle, but never explained the logic of the argument. It seemed from my seat, in the audience, to be a little odd. The contract had been negotiated, and the cost to the town was minimal as they already had to plow as it provides overflow town parking. What was the real issue? A bad attitude with respect to the Festival?

More recently councillor B, seemingly haven forgotten their own no pre-budget approval ‘rule’, requested pre-budget approval for downtown flower baskets. Council approved the request. None of the other councillors suggested it was inappropriate, although a couple smiled. Poor memory or good team politics? I’m not sure. It’s worth noting that councillor B is the council representative for the Downtown Business Association who had a vested interest in ensuring the flower baskets are ordered in a timely manner.

Pre-budget approval of the flower baskets was probably the right thing to do, given the timelines. And turning down a grant to the Festival of the Sound may also have been the right thing to do. But it should only have been done after appropriate discussion and review of the merits of the issue, not by a councillor invoking a rule they had no intention of ever having apply to their own interests. Consistency is the basis of credibility.

You want rules? Then live by the rules.

Tri-Railing Parry Sound Style? (March 2013)