Coun. Zac de Vries opposes developing a policy around the use of council’s strategic initiatives contingency by arguing that it would put a box around a policy to help council go outside the box. (Submitted/Black Press File).

Saanich council won’t develop policy around contingency fund

Critics have in the past called the fund a ‘slush-fund’

Saanich council will not— at least for now — clarify the nature and use of a contigency fund.

Council, meeting as committee of the whole, voted 5-4 with Couns. Judy Brownoff, Susan Brice, Nathalie Chambers, and Rebecca Mersereau opposed to receive a staff report for information that asks council to “provide policy direction to staff” on the council strategic initiatives fund.

The previous council established the fund in 2017. Total contributions to the fund since then have reached $2.4 million. According to updated information, $633,000 remain unallocated. Council has also separately set aside $500,000 for projects around affordable housing.

Councillors heard during the debate from chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson that receiving the report for information signals staff not to do more work on developing a policy.

Saanich currently lacks a codified policy for the fund, which council has used for funding a wide variety of projects. The fund has been a subject of controversy in the past, with critics calling it a “slush-fund” outside existing budget control mechanisms.

“The policy is practice,” said Thorkelsson later. “All requests come to council to make a decision to provide the funding or not provide the funding. There is no other policy in place.”

RELATED: Saanich council to develop policy around contingency fund

Coun. Zac de Vries had recommended receiving the report in arguing that developing a policy would not only waste time but be of little value once developed.

It is neither practical nor necessary to develop a policy, he said. In developing a policy, council members would have to agree on spending limits and categories of eligible projects among other issues, he said. This process would not only be lengthy, but also runs the risk of tying the hands of councillors, since they do not have a “crystal ball” when it comes to issues that might require resources from the fund.

“So I can’t figure out why we would put a box around a fund that was intended for council to go outside the box and take action on things that are important?” he asked.

He instead spoke in favour of maintaining the current practice of bringing funding requests before the full council for debate and a decision, as with all issues and decisions.

“At the end you of the day, to get those votes, you need to convince your colleagues [to access resources from the fund], and we don’t need a piece of paper telling us exactly how do that,” he said.

Brownoff disagreed. Echoing comments from Mersereau, she called for guidelines that would be flexible, but nonetheless provide some clarity as a matter of accountability towards taxpayers. While the fund has supported some worthwhile initiatives, councillors are after all using taxpayers’ money, she said.

While Mayor Fred Haynes voted for receiving the report, he also raised the possibility that council might return to this issue in the future, by striking a sub-committee that would offer staff some direction for future consideration by the full council at a later date.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council approve temporary storage to extend life of Oak Bay Fire Hall

It’s cute, it’s iconic, but the picturesque Oak Bay Fire Hall is… Continue reading

Saanich dog walkers react to potential review of bylaws allowing off-leash dogs on beaches

Focus should have remained on migratory birds, not on dog behaviour, says Cadboro Bay dog walker

No dogs allowed off-leash at Luxton Fairgrounds in Langford

New sign placed by Metchosin Farmers Institute on Wednesday, Feb. 19

Scarlet fever reported at Victoria elementary school

Parents advised to look for symptoms of ‘strawberry tongue’ and rash

North Saanich’s Deep Cove Market up for sale for almost $1.8 million

Long-time owner Rosemary Scott hopes the public will understand her decision

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read