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Discussion points

by Dave Adsett

There is no question plenty of discussion points are needed if this election season is to be fruitful.

Take for example the case made for council remuneration.

This is a good time of year to have the discussion. Councils choosing to offer up a different pay scale for the coming term should not be pilloried for looking ahead. Candidates should know what they are getting into and such a discussion leaves the door open to accept those terms or re-write them when the new council commences.

A nagging pet peeve continues to be the provision of benefits and, in some cases, inclusion of councillors in the OMERS pension plan. It was always our belief that those perquisites, indeed long established commitments, were for the sole benefit of paid employees - not elected officials.

But alas, self-interest won out a number of years ago and current county councillors will leave office with a tidy sum, as well as having had their teeth cleaned and medication paid at taxpayers’ expense. Anyone wishing to challenge that particular policy as the new council sits next year would be a breath of fresh air.

Locally, many councillors also have access to their township benefit plan, as if they were paid staff working full time. This hardly seems appropriate, but like much in life, they take it because they can.

It used to be that council pay was meagre, but it was just enough to trip up many people come tax time. The tax free allowance that councillors gladly pass each anniversary as required by law ensures they receive one-third of their “salary” tax free. With current rates and knowledge of the actual time invested, local politicians are getting the best of both worlds, a practice the province should eliminate.

The push for entitlements flies in the face of the historical nature of local public service. Local politics were a calling to serve community for a limited time, as opposed to a career move.

Another interesting story in this week’s Advertiser is the staff proposal in Erin to hold one council meeting per month during the day as a way to save staff time. One would think that job duties clearly recognize employees of a municipal management team would need to attend council some evenings as a function of their employment.

The notion of daytime meetings versus the public’s chances to attend, remains a long-standing issue at the County of Wellington, where little traction has been made in making the theatre of its county council meetings a more viewable event.

Traditionally committee and council meetings are held during the day, making it more difficult for citizens to attend. It would seem backward for Erin to go from being fully on display for residents, to a less open setting. Time will tell on that score whether there is appetite amongst new councillors to shake things up a bit.

With a few of these discussion points and numerous local issues of interest in each community, we hope to see some good debates this fall.

Councillors set the tone - a point the public should always remember.

Thoughts for our neighbours

Early this week, a landmark just north of the hamlet of Eramosa on Wellington Road 29 was razed to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt in a blaze that was seen for miles.

At least four fire departments attended the incident, demonstrating the severity of the situation and the capability of emergency services to assemble quickly when needed.

The Gordon farmstead, known for its quality dairy cattle and tidy appearance, suffered a great loss this week when its bank barn was destroyed.

We wish the family strength and hope for the best in the coming days, as all farm neighbours surely do, from one end of Wellington to the other.

 

September 5, 2014

 
 

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