The premium now being paid for road work in Guelph-Eramosa Township is an example of common sense coming back to haunt legislators. We have seen such clauses in local procurement bylaws lately, and frankly, it is cause for great concern.
In this case, council was painted into a corner since its own bylaw states specifically that councillors and staff are not permitted to bid on township contracts. The cost to taxpayers for such sterile arrangements is an extra $11,890. If left unchecked, such occurrences on bids will continue to happen.
If left as policy, further problems will result. The procurement clause dealing with automatic disqualification was in all likelihood an innocent idea that was not followed to its logical conclusion. In our still relatively small townships there is always an off-chance that a councillor, or staff member, or family member of those two identifiable groups could do business with the township.
Establishing a clear cut clause was an easy way to deal with conflicts and innuendo that arises from time to time. Heaven knows Guelph-Eramosa politics suffer from heady accusations regularly, but this looks a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Surely, respecting and encouraging declarations of pecuniary interest, plus the watchful eye of other politicians and staff, would be enough policing. Particularly in the case of closed tenders, there is no way to know the other competitors’ prices in advance of submitting a bid. For those who suggest better-safe-than-sorry, $11,000-plus is not chump change.
Whether recognized or not, this type of policy will eventually stifle democracy and disallow elected officials or staff from giving a “deal” to their township, should they choose. It will also mute many fine voices forced to choose between their livelihood and public service. Although the pay associated with local government has increased to a point of being a “wage,” numerous citizens would still have to stick with their business rather than contribute time to their community as a councillor.
Anyone with a possible link to township contracts would need to weigh council pay versus sales and potential sales to the township. When viewed through that lens, are we getting the best possible minds to delve through financial issues and plot a bright future, or are we simply getting the leftovers? It’s a tough call.