Opinion » Editorial


It's all about value for money



For the most part auditor generals hold a soft spot in the hearts of Canadians.

Through their hard work and tenacious tracking over the years, Canadians have had to face up to a number of shocking scandals particularly at the federal level.

Sheila Fraser, who just retired from a decade as Canada's Auditor General, revealed the sponsorship scandal in 2004, which rocked the Liberal government and changed the political landscape for good.

In her report she found that senior public servants had broken just about every rule in the book and that nearly $100 million had been funneled to Liberal-friendly Quebec advertising and communications firms who had little to show for it.

Then again in 2006 we learned through an audit that the former ombudsman of federal inmates, Ron Stewart, had "often skipped work and collected $325,000 in improper or questionable salary, vacation pay and expenses during his 14-year tenure."

Of course auditors can also put the fear of God into any of us if we happen to be subject of their scrutiny.

So it is with mixed emotions that I consider the fulfillment of a promise made by Premier Christy Clark to set up a watchdog to monitor the cost of civic governments in B.C.

There is little doubt that most municipal leaders won't warmly embrace the idea of having someone scrutinize their spending.

This week Whistler council, as well as other municipalities across B.C., is being asked to complete a survey on the issue for the province.

As taxpayers it is something we should embrace. I'm not suggesting that that there is any wrongdoing at muni hall, but neither can we ignore some of our spending choices - such as the nearly $12 million library (Whistler Public Library FCM Project completion report June 2009). Don't get me wrong, I love the library and use it frequently, but $12 million?

I hesitate to mention the development of the pay-parking lots and what about Whistler's contribution to "garage mahal" - $11.7 million of a $23 million facility, which many believe is twice the size needed for our community.

It's all about value for money.

For each of these items we have seen the spending reports and there is always more to them than meets the eye, always more than just the words in the report.

But at the end of the day these choices affect all of us and those who will make Whistler their home in the future.

The idea of a municipal auditor is not new. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has been pushing for transparent spending for years along with a better explanation of how tax dollars are spent.