Don’t wait, do it now

 

 

 With the Keystone Cops still in charge at the Capital Regional District and the provincial government still refusing to produce a little slap-stick to bring the clowns to order, I’m still wondering why the reluctance. I know cabinet ministers continue to piously bleat it isn’t their duty to interfere in municipal affairs. But that’s a cop-out.

 It’s true that over the years the folks under the dome on Belleville Street have done their best to bury the junior governments most MLAs sprang from. Years ago they did away with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs as a stand-alone ministry by tucking it in with culture and sport and other odds and ends, presumably hoping out of sight would be out of mind. At the same time they re-shuffled Municipal Affairs legislation, renamed it the Local Government Act and hoped the unruly children outside the Belleville Street stockade would settle down and require less – or no – attention from their provincial parents.

 By design or accident, however, they left on the statute books clearly defined rules of parental responsibility they now seek to deny. Let it always be remembered regional districts are the children of the provincial government with the CRD brought to birth if 1966.

 The “birth certificate”, now the Local Government Act ,states a team of “detectives” under the Municipal Affairs Inspector, can be activated at any time “the inspector believes it expedient to make an inquiry into or concerning a matter connected with a municipality or the conduct of a part of its business or (b) a complaint is made to the inspector about a matter of municipal business, actual or projected.”

 The Local Government Act and the Public Inquiry Act, can be set into action at any time with the “approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council” – the Cabinet.

 And if there was ever a need for the provincial government to push the button for an inquiry into a clumsily organized, costly, municipal project, it is surely now.

 There is another force which could surely be used to, if the pun can be excused, flush out some of the cloudy reasoning as to how the current contracts were shaped; and why, like Topsy costs keep growing without explanation from “around $300 million” to “in excess of a billion”

 We now have in place in BC an Auditor General for Local Government. Ms. Basia Ruta heads that relatively new watchdog role and brings with her a rich pedigree of past accomplishments. Unfortunately her mandate appears to restrict her considerable powers to the conducting of “performance audits” and, as we have seen from other Auditor General reports, provincial and federal, that means we get the costly details of financial disasters or boondoggles after they have happened. Slamming the stable door and recommending new locks to prevent re-occurrences should not be an option.

 I do see a flicker of hope in the Legislation governing Ms. Ruta’s mandate: It says she can make sure “operations are undertaken economically, efficiently and effectively….(that) financial, human and other resources are used….with due regard to economy and efficiency…(and) the operations are effective in achieving their intended result.”

 It can be argued that other sections of the legislation governing her mandate prevent the action I’m suggesting. A pity for if ever there was a case of an ounce of prevention being better than a pound of cure our chaotic plans for wastewater/sewage disposal, present it.

 But even if the Auditor General is hamstrung, Municipal Inspectors should not be. All they need is a nudge from cabinet, and Premier Christie Clark should insist it be given. That would not be a government interfering but a government acting responsibly.

 

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