Another View: Is Sooke a well-run business?

Writer questions need to send so many council members to conferences

Imagine for a moment that you own your own company. You have several employees on contract for their services and although your business has some debt, year-to-year you manage to break even. One day,  four of your contract employees for the past three years, approach you six weeks before their contract is up for renewal, and request to attend a training conference at your expense. They tell you the conference would be invaluable; they will get opportunities to learn new skills and network with a lot of people in similar jobs as well as some influential people. You think to yourself, sounds good, might benefit your company, but you find yourself feeling conflicted, these have been pretty good employees, but there may be better ones, and their contract is set to expire in six weeks, and you have not decided for sure that you will be renewing their contract. Do you send one of them, some of them, all of them or none of them, do you wait until you have decided to renew their contracts for another term? What do you do?

Well, I can tell you what the taxpayers of Sooke did. As employers of our municipal council, we sent four of our councilors to a week in Whistler B.C., expenses paid, to attend the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference.

These stewards of our finances and our elected officials for the next six weeks, decided it was a very worthwhile expense, to have us pay for them to attend this annual conference. No, not just one representative from the district, not two, but more than half of our council sought fit to attend this annual gala at our expense.

Now you might say, well, ok, odds are one or two of them stand a good chance of re-election, or maybe more of them, and maybe that is true, but there is one thing for sure, and that is  two of the councillors are seeking the mayor’s chair, and there is one guarantee, and that is that one of the two is not going be in public office six weeks from now.

Watching the social media feeds of these councillors, we did learn of one positive outcome amongst all the photo-ops that seemed to be a focus of their attendance. One councillor did brag about the new changes to municipal insurance for non-profits that provide contract services to municipalities that was voted on, but please, I don’t think that Sooke’s vote was the deal breaker on that one.

Perhaps a better plan by council would have been to discuss if there were any important issues requiring Sooke’s attendance, and then elect to send one representative from Sooke to take the council’s concerns to the conference.

Of all the political hype and politicking that occurs around this event, and of all the resolutions that our towns and cities pass at these conferences (which the provincial government seems to ignore), for some reason, we don’t hear the motion from anyone, that the date of this annual conference be moved to some time after the fixed November election date to allow for the new and returning councillors with a fresh mandate to hopefully bring some benefit from these galas. Maybe they could vote to eliminate this system of the quasi farewell party of all the municipal politicians in attendance at the annual UBCM gala week.

So one question that everyone should be asking of their elected officials as we enter the election campaign of 2014, is why did the four councillors find it necessary to attend this conference? How much did it cost us? Will they be reporting back to the taxpayers of Sooke, the wealth of knowledge they gained from this annual experience so that others may benefit when they are gone? And what did they bring back to Sooke that will be of a direct benefit to the Sooke taxpayers in the next six weeks before they may be looking for a new line of work?

Remember, the District of Sooke is our company, and those that chose to run for office, work for us. Hopefully we made the right business decision for our company and invested well.

Derek Lewers

Sooke

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