My, how things have changed!

On Aug. 9, 2023 Big Lakes County council agreed to provide regular written reports for meetings and conferences they attend. How much detail will be in those upcoming reports remains to be seen.

But it is a step in the right direction.

It was not that long ago – May 31 to June 3, 2018 to be exact – when the former council attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax at an estimated cost of $59,411 to taxpayers. This newspaper’s editor dropped off letters at the county office and emailed each councillor who attended, and the CAO, asking for reports and expenses upon their arrival home.

Not one report was submitted upon council’s arrival home.

Not one receipt was disclosed so the actual cost of the trip was never released.

Judging by these actions, that council had no intentions of letting anyone know what happened. Is it any wonder many of them lost the last election by decisive margins?

For the record, Fern Welch and Don Charrois did not attend the Halifax conference. But others did, including current councillors Ann Stewart and Robert Nygaard. It is interesting both have now decided it is the proper thing to do, but rather odd after snubbing South Peace News’ request for the reports they vehemently refused to disclose in 2018.

It should be noted Welch and Charrois did attend future conferences, however.

Disclosing reports to the public for taxpayer-funded trips should be mandatory, and it is rather perplexing it has taken council so long to realize this.

Reporting back to council and the public is not only for the benefit of the public. It is about that dreaded word politicians love to use so often during election campaigns – accountability – but quickly forget about after an election.

If any councillor is actually doing their job during these trips, they should be able to bring back a wealth of information to council and the public. Since no reports were filed, however, there is nothing the current council can refer to if needed. Any knowledge of a conference trip taken disappears with a retired or defeated councillor if no report is filed. Part of the reason for attending these conferences is to bring back information and share it. Good luck with that!

If Big Lakes County wants to see how reports should be done, simply examine Northern Sunrise County. Their reporting system from councillors is the Cadillac of council reporting. It is the gold standard and one which Big Lakes County should strive to achieve.

Big Lakes County has done the right thing.

Next up is High Prairie town council. Are you listening?

By Chris Clegg

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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