Guest opinion column from Edmonton City Councillor Jon Dziadyk
First and foremost, your taxes should fund core municipal services. Frontline workers are the ones who deliver the services you expect from your city: pothole repair, snow removal, garbage collection, and the like. There is room for other municipal services – such as economic development – but we should master our core responsibilities first and be careful how we grow as an organization.
Edmonton’s City Auditor recently released a report that confirmed some of my suspicions that our middle management is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, since 2017 frontline staff decreased by one per cent while management increased by 22 per cent. This causes me concern.
The Management Audit Report also highlights a much lower ratio of frontline staff to managers than I would expect from a municipal organization. The average ratio for all departments – except City Operations – is one manager for every 3.5 frontline staff. In fact, there are 486 managers who manage only 1-2 frontline workers each. I am not going to prescribe the ideal ratio for the city, recognizing that each department will be different. But, I believe that core services can be delivered effectively without a stack of managers interfering.
A resident who calls to follow-up on a basic permit should not have to go through multiple levels of bureaucrats to get a response. If that resident wants to build something of value, that should be encouraged. Managers managing managers does not typically equate to a faster permit or a faster pothole repair. These examples show inefficiencies. Taxpayers want results, not more process.
It is important that we remain competitive to attract talent, but the cost of salaries equates to over 50 per cent of the total City of Edmonton budget. Frontline staff decreases and yet the annual cost of salaries today is $44 million dollars higher than it was three years ago. The budget is becoming unsustainable. When our core services are not being prioritized to the levels that Edmontonians expect – let alone desire – increasing salaries and management is not the response required. I believe that there is room in middle management for realignment given we have seemingly lost sight of what we should prioritize.
I hope that focusing on frontline workers as a priority over middle managers will ensure core services are delivered faster and better. My goal is to ensure your tax dollars go towards the core services first. The nice-to-haves should come second and – quite frankly – we need to re-examine many of our priorities. No longer should it be acceptable to say “we have always done it that way.”
A post-COVID world presents an opportunity for governments to reimagine themselves, and I will push for us to be adaptive. The good news is that reorganization could have a positive impact on our budget. Coincidentally, I will be pushing for a one per cent tax cut for the year 2021, which means we will have to find $17 million in savings. I know we can do that, but Council has to agree on some tough decisions. We can find this money simply by reducing management by 6.4 per cent. This will still leave the city with a higher management ratio than we had in 2017, which suggests that we could go further.
It has been an extremely tough year for Edmontonians. You should not have to see your taxes increase and watch your service levels decrease. You should not have to call my office and wonder why the pothole that you reported twice is still not repaired. You should not have to ask when the overflowing garbage at your park will be emptied. You should not have to ask these questions and receive a higher tax bill at the same time.
This audit is a wakeup call for Council. It is also a very clear outline for how we can reduce your taxes. My hope is that the rest of Council will also wake up.
Jon Dziadyk is the Edmonton City Councillor for Ward 3
SELICK: Governments are deliberately misleading people about the pandemic severity
“It’s a numerator in search of a denominator. The only relevant statistic that would tell us whether or not the “pandemic” is getting worse would be the number of positive tests on a particular day divided by the total number of people tested on that day. “
Is there no-one in Ontario premier Doug Ford’s cabinet or caucus, or the entire civil service, who has two brain cells to rub together?
Ontarians have been given another alarming statistic this week: 700 new COVID cases. It’s a record high, the headlines shout, implying that the so-called pandemic is getting worse.
But that naked number by itself says nothing of the kind. It’s a numerator in search of a denominator. The only relevant statistic that would tell us whether or not the “pandemic” is getting worse would be the number of positive tests on a particular day divided by the total number of people tested on that day. This ratio would then have to be compared with the equivalent ratio calculated on prior days.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point. We know that the province has ramped up testing recently. The Ottawa Citizen recently reported that we were testing on average only 13,200 people per day in April and May, but we tested over 41,000 last Sunday. Surely someone must know the number of tests that have been administered on each day. If a prior week’s “case” toll of roughly 300 per day represented all the positive tests out of 10,000 tests administered that day, that would mean that 3 per cent of all the people tested had tested positive. If 700 tested positive on a different day but 100,000 tests had been administered on that day, it would mean that only 0.7 percent of the people tested were testing positive. This would be cause for declaring the “pandemic” to be virtually over, not for declaring it to have worsened.
Why are we not being given the new “case” numbers as a percentage of the people tested? Are the people governing Ontario so stupid that they can’t understand this simple mathematical example? Or is there a deliberate policy in place to force the province back in lockdown?
Note how appearances can be manipulated by focusing only on the number of positive test results, with no context in which to view them. After another forced lockdown, the province could simply stop administering as many tests, then announce that there were fewer new cases, so the lockdown policies had “clearly worked.” This would be utter balderdash, of course, but all mainstream news sources currently seem to be accepting government numbers at face value and not asking the proper question to put the numbers in context.
The issue is further complicated by the now well-established fact that many of the positive tests are false positives, and by the fact that new “cases” really don’t mean anything if they’re not harming anyone.
Let me illustrate again. If there are 700 positive test results on a given day this week but not a single one of those people ends up dying or needing hospitalization, then we are clearly in a much better situation than we would be if only 100 people tested positive but 50 of them died. But 700 still sounds scarier than 100, especially when you’re shouting “New high!”
Somebody in the Ontario government must have these numbers. Why are they not being released to the public?
Speak up, Premier Ford. Are you really stupid enough to believe that a naked test toll is meaningful, or do you just believe that everyone else in Ontario is stupid enough to unquestioningly accept the sense of alarm you are trying to impart?
Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard and a retired lawyer who now works as a freelance writer, editor, and video maker.
GEROW: WE scandal shows how government corrupts our charities
“Charity work is an important and meaningful part of human activity; one far too important to leave in the hands of corrupt politicians and useless bureaucrats.”
On July 23, 2020, federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced an investigation into Justin Trudeau and the decision to have WE Charity administer a $30 million Canada Student Service Grant Program. The red flags which prompted the investigation were the fact that this type of program is within the regular mandate of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The ESDC is the government bureau where the unemployed go to collect E.I. benefits and employers can hire a temporary foreign worker at a reduced rate.
After scratching just below the surface, it was revealed that Trudeau’s mother and brother had received over a quarter-million dollars from WE Charity. His wife had been involved with WE Charity. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughters worked for WE Charity and the organization had paid for trips his family had taken to Kenya and Ecuador.
It’s easy to understand why Canadian’s are outraged at the conflict of interest. It appears the Trudeau government took money from taxpayers and intended to launder it into the coffers of family and friends through a non-profit organization. Opposition parties called for a variety of actions. The CPC’s Pierre Pollievre demanded the release of documents. The Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-Francois Blanchet suggested that Trudeau should step down. The culpability of the Prime Minister and his inner circle is apparent, but the opposition fails to address the real problem. That is, that the government and their preferred tax-exempt organizations having the ability to engage in racketeering. Instead they argue for tougher regulations.
Charity is the reciprocal love of one’s fellow man manifest in the giving of alms to the poor, ill or helpless. To give voluntarily, to sacrifice your time or property for the good of mankind, is foundational in religious and spiritual thought. It is an act of civilized, empathetic kindness and community. Regulations which limit the ability of charity to function on a large scale have made most non-profit organizations in Canada an extension of Ottawa’s social bureaucracy. There is nothing honourable in filling out government grant applications.
In its attempts to preserve those aspects which are most dear to the idea of charitable giving, the federal government has instead built a web of red tape and restrictions that limit supply by creating artificial barriers to entry. This in turn creates monopoly privilege for organizations like WE Charity who are close to political power. Just the same as in corporate monopolies, non-profit monopolies create higher profits for its stakeholders.
In extreme cases we see entitled families grabbing tax dollars that would otherwise be used on local community initiatives and using them to backstop speaking engagements for the irrelevant aging mother of a prime minister plagued with scandal. The calls for stronger regulation on charities are misguided. More regulations on these organizations only further monopoly privilege and collusion with Ottawa. The only regulation needed for true charity is that it is free from political influence.
Why was the Canada Service Grant Program not administered by Employment and Social Development Canada?
On July 16, Rachel Wernick, the senior assistant deputy minister at ESDC testified to a parliamentary committee that WE Charity had been selected to administer the program because of the charities connections to youth and their ability to administer the program on a scale and with speed which the ESDC could not. Part of which is true. Private charities are much more efficient at delivering these types of initiatives than bureaucratic agencies, although it seems obvious that WE Charity was chosen for different reasons.
The question still has deeper meaning and further reaching implications than that which have been obscured through a myriad of partisan talking points. The answer is if a $30 million program is itself not a valid use of that departments regular mandate, then it should not be administered at all, or if that mandate is better left in the responsibility of private charities, then Employment and Social Development Canada should cease to exist.
Charity work is an important and meaningful part of human activity; one far too important to leave in the hands of corrupt politicians and useless bureaucrats.
Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard
DAVIS: After Trudeau’s throne speech, the West must fight back with more than words
“Shaking our fists, going to court, and promises of greater autonomy someday, are no longer enough.”
It’s really no surprise that the Liberal throne Speech was more of the same rhetoric they’ve been regurgitating for the last five years. It’s really just more of the same tired march toward his idea of liberal-socialism: with gun grabs, censorship, and condescending emergency orders during the pandemic.
If anything was surprising, it was his lacklustre reiteration of the throne speech with no added value to speak of. Sure, it was delivered in his same breathy tones, but for a guy who likes to ham it up, it was decidedly bland.
What we saw in the throne speech and his remarks in the House the next day was an open disregard for the plight of the West and the growing tinderbox of alienation here. It’s hard to tell at this point if Justin Trudeau is just that blissfully unaware, or is being willfully ignorant.
As the pundits were busy reporting on a “Liberal re-set” that wasn’t – forgetting the scandals which made this entire farce necessary – the opposition and provinces weighed in on what they heard.
Conservatives won’t support the government. The NDP are being obtuse, and the Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet sounded like an extortionist as he insisted that the government has one week to hand over more healthcare money, or else.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sounded more like a spurned lover than a premier ready to go to the mat for his province. I say this not because of how he said things, but because of what he did and didn’t say.
Essentially, Kenney plans to stay his course of angry words and lawfare, suing the federal government over every breach of the constitution. This means uncertain outcomes, and years in court. Years Alberta doesn’t have.
He spoke of implementing the findings of the Fair Deal Report, but hasn’t taken any concrete actions toward achieving those goals. Appointing the Alberta Firearms Officer is one of his “we’re going to do’s”, but when? He’s devoting $2 million to analysing the viability of a provincial police force instead of investing that money in recruitment and training facilities for the new force now. These uninspiring actions look like flinching under the pressure of a sovereigntist movement that keeps getting federal oxygen fanning the flames of discontent.
In fairness, the United Conservative government has done a good job during the pandemic. As much as some may cry foul at that assertation, the fact remains that we were able to send PPE to other provinces because of Alberta’s preparedness.
I admire Jason Kenney for going to the airport to verify if reports of a lack of COVID testing were true; they were. In response to this, he began more thorough checks at the Calgary airport, one of four airports still receiving international flights during the crisis.
Kenney has also been actively seeking investment and diversification of the Alberta economy. It should be a personal thorn in his side that immediately after the throne speech, much of his work was undone as investors are back to questioning if they can do business in Canada with the regulatory uncertainty restated by the Liberal government.
It was disappointing to hear Mr. Kenney say that he will continue on, bullishly complaining, going to court, and fighting a game that he cannot win. Time is of the essence and Albertans need him to come up with a plan B fast.
Asserting provincial autonomy, removing ourselves from as many federal programs as possible is a necessary start regardless of if independence is the end-goal or not. But independence must be put on the table as a last ditch option regardless of whether Mr. Kenney likes the idea or not. We face an existential threat – survival or disintegration under this federal government, bent on crushing everything Westerners hold dear or essential for survival.
We must begin a strategic plan, create a contingency blueprint, putting the pieces in place so that if it should come to it, Alberta is ready to go its own way. The province must be prepared and ready to implement those plans quickly.
We could take the example of Quebec’s preparations in 1995, learning from their mistakes and successes. We should be speaking to indigenous leaders, forming alliances early in a fair and equitable fashion. International relationships for both trade and support ought to be pursued now.
Shaking our fists, going to court, and promises of greater autonomy someday, are no longer enough. Tangible action is required and it’s required now. The United Conservative Party must face these facts and acknowledge that foundational steps are necessary to put Albertans on firmer ground and give us the leverage we need to say no to Ottawa the next time they come with matches and kerosene.
Gilly Davis is a guest columnist for the Western Standard
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