Kris Sims: Insulting veterans not about saving Victoria taxpayers’ money
Opinion: Politicians’ catered lunches cost taxpayers $10,000 per year. What’s more important: tuna wraps or Remembrance Day?
Victoria city council’s recent talk of saving taxpayers’ money was missing something: sincerity.
Inexplicably, council recently fixated on cutting funding for events such as Remembrance Day. Council recanted that folly but, if there is any sincere concern for taxpayers, there’s a long list for councillors to look at.
Here’s what happened. Council voted to ask Ottawa to pay for “military events” such as Remembrance Day, rather than using the city budget. After a national backlash, boycotts from veterans groups, criticism from Mayor Lisa Helps and an offer from the store chain London Drugs to cover the cost of Remembrance Day, most councillors apologized and reversed their votes.
The councillor who first put forward the motion, Ben Isitt, claimed to oppose spending on Remembrance Day events out of concern for taxpayers. Is just it a coincidence that he also complained about offering to host the Invictus Games, an athletic event for wounded and amputee veterans? Perhaps Isitt could take a closer look at the city’s budget.
The politicians’ catered lunches cost taxpayers $10,000 per year. What’s more important: tuna wraps or Remembrance Day?
If we look at expense accounts, Isitt has been one of the top three highest-spending councillors since 2012.
In 2018, he racked up $5,187 in expenses, mostly for a $2,904 trip to Halifax for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting that included a $81 charge to rent a bicycle, a $235 bill for a train ticket and $150 for a ferry trip. Did the councillor fly into the Halifax airport, which is a 33-minute drive from the convention centre? What’s up with the planes, trains, automobiles, ferries and bicycles? In 2017, Isitt tallied $5,506 in expenses, again mostly in attending conventions, travel and meals. In 2016, he tallied up $4,695 in expenses.
If Isitt is trying to stand up for taxpayers, perhaps he could use Skype and FaceTime and bring bagged lunches with reusable cutlery instead of racking up $15,388 in travel and meals in just three years?
Let’s see what else Victoria City Hall spends money on.
To provide a police presence for Remembrance Day, it costs the City of Victoria about $15,000, or about 0.006 per cent of its annual budget.
For cost comparison, Victoria taxpayers hand out $72,000 every year to keep an artist in residence. The city also has a poet laureate. The city spent $596,335 of taxpayers’ money on art in public places in 2017. Those amounts would pay for Victoria’s Remembrance Day for 44 years.
In 2018, city hall spent nearly $1.8 million on arts and culture events. Isn’t Remembrance Day a big part of our culture? Especially in a provincial capital that is home to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt? One year of that funding would pay for Victoria’s Remembrance Day for 119 years.
Victoria is spending close to $2.6 million on its urban forest master plan after boosting funding to the program. One of the feared goals of the plan was to replace Victoria’s iconic cherry blossom trees with native trees. Council backpedalled and clarified after it was reminded that the cherry blossom trees were a gift from the city’s Japanese community in 1937. The money spent on the awkward arboreal agenda could instead pay for Victoria’s Remembrance Day services for the next 171 years.
Victoria is spending more than $30 million on expanding bike lanes, including tearing up roads, installing bike traffic lights and chopping down popular trees. The money spent on that program could pay for our capital’s Remembrance Day services for the next 2,000 years.
There are lots of ways for Victoria to save taxpayers money by trimming spending for taxpayer-funded art, bike lanes, catered lunches and trips to conferences while continuing to honour Canadian veterans’ trips to Juno Beach and Kandahar.https://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/kris-sims-insulting-veterans-not-about-saving-victoria-taxpayers-money?fbclid=IwAR3T6xxY2UPdv_axI4HGysp39HhVcqJoqelVitzc8H-dDKjB2e4day99Z2U