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Opinion

OPINION: Mayor Veer, Councillors Lee, Johnson, Buchanan and Wong just voted themselves raises totalling $84,955.25

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A “PAY RAISE” by any other name is still a “PAY RAISE“.
The Mayor and city council just voted themselves an 18% and 14% pay increase to offset a federal subsidy they enjoyed, unlike the normal taxpayers.
On March 22, 2017 the federal government tabled a budget that would eliminate the 1/3 tax free subsidy to politicians on January 1, 2019.
On October 16, 2017 we had a municipal election where we re-elected Mayor Veer and Councillors Lee, Johnson, Wong, Handley, Wyntjes, and Buchanan. We also elected newcomers Higham and Dawe as councillors.
My point is that they ran, knowing that the subsidy they enjoyed for years would end 14 months after the election. At least Mayor Veer and Councillors Lee, Johnson, Wong,Handley, Wyntjes and Buchanan would have, if not they should have known. Newcomers Councillors Higham and Dawe should have been told by the city.
Good money managers would have prepared for the end of a federal subsidy. We pride ourselves of being more free market and less government hand-out proponents and yet here we are looking for hand outs from the Red Deer taxpayers.
Councillors Higham, Handley and Buchanan wanted to delay this issue and look at the overall compensation package and whether the council position should be deemed a full time position but it failed to pass.
The Mayor broke the tie and voted herself a $19,741.49 pay increase to see her pay rise from $112,198.94 to $131,940.49 because she felt, in my opinion, entitled to her entitlements.
Councillors Lee, Johnson, Buchanan and Wong voted them selves $8,151.72 pay increase to see their pay rise from $60,466.44 to $68,618.16.
Councillors Handley, Wyntjes, Higham and Dawe voted against the raise. Councillor Dawe said that we are and will be asking taxpayers for restraint so felt uncomfortable giving himself a raise.
Councillor Handley thought it could better handled on the expense council side of compensation, Councillor Lee worried about receipts, time and money. Talks about transparencies but would it not be more transparent to reimburse receipted expenses than just giving out $8,151.72 and $19,741.49 pay raises?
I know many people who put in long hours for free out of necessity or a sense of duty. I know people who work fulltime and have 2 other jobs and make less than a councillor, yet they cannot vote themselves a raise to cover the extra bills and taxes imposed on them by this municipal government.
I actually thought that this council would not vote themselves a raise even if ten other councils did. What about the hundreds perhaps thousands of village, town, city councils and public, private and separate school boards, across Canada, dealing with this same issue?
When it comes to making tough decisions involving themselves, I know 5 who couldn’t step up to the plate.
Every household will now have to pay $2 a year more to subsidise 9 fairly well off people.
I know they put in a lot of hours, I know they enjoy the job, but there are so many who work even more hours and make a lot less, but they have no cookie jar to reach in to guarantee their net pay. Probably out of a hundred thousand residents you might find a dozen including these 9 lucky ones.
Enjoy your hand outs. Just saying.

Alberta

OPINION: Marlin Schmidt on water allocation in the Bow River Basin

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Marlin Schmidt, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar, Environment and Parks Critic for Alberta’s Official NDP Opposition

The wise allocation of water in Alberta is essential to the sustainable development of an economy that works for all Albertans while preserving our precious natural heritage.

In 2007, Alberta recognized that limits for water allocation in the Bow River basin had been exceeded. No more new allocations of water have been allowed and Albertans have carefully managed the water resources in the basin since then. Fortress Mountain Holdings’ recent application to haul away and sell more than half of the 98 million litres a year it currently has the license to use threatens the careful management of water in the Bow River basin.

The original operators of Fortress Mountain were granted a license in 1968 to use 98 million litres of water per year from a tributary to Galatea Creek to prepare food and provide drinking water to skiers at the resort. The current owners claim that more than half of that allocation is not needed for those purposes and now want permission from Alberta Environment and Parks to haul 50 million litres of water per year away and sell it to the highest bidder. Allowing current license holders to subsidize their business operations with the sale of the unused portions of their licenses moves Alberta further away from the goal of sustainable development and would put the future of our river ecosystems at great risk.

Much has changed in the Bow River basin since 1968 – the demands on the river ecosystem have increased significantly with the twin pressures of population growth and climate change. Re-allocating 50 million litres of water would increase that pressure in a very ecologically sensitive area. It would also set a dangerous precedent for future allocations of water resources. If this application is approved, there’s nothing that will prevent future water license holders from selling their unused water allocations, and while the license holders may profit, our watersheds will pay the price.

Additionally, we must remember that this water allocation would be given priority over all other allocations granted after 1968 under Alberta’s “first-in-time first-in-right water” allocation system. This means that Fortress Mountain would receive priority for this use over a whole host of other users during times of extreme water shortage. Is selling bottled water really a higher priority for the people in the Bow River basin ahead of so many agricultural and municipal water uses? Most Albertans who have talked to me about this issue don’t think so.

Revenues from the sale of the water would apparently fund the goals that the owners have for the development of the resort, including environmentally sound development, living wages for staff, charitable and community activities, as well as reclamation of the site. I support those stated goals, but it should be the skiers who use the resort who pay for those activities. The other Bow River water users and the ecosystem should not be asked to pay for others’ enjoyment of a ski facility.

Alberta Environment and Parks must live up to its mandate of supporting sustainable development now and for future generations. Rejecting Fortress Mountain Holding’s water application would be a step in the right direction.

 

Marlin Schmidt

Environment & Parks Critic

Alberta’s Official NDP Opposition

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Opinion

Red Deer residents are financing the devaluation of their homes.

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There are two big issues with Red Deer’s population growth in the last 4 years.

First we are aging. 4 years ago the average age of Red deer residents was 35 years of age. Basically half the population was 35 or under and half are over 35. Now 4 years later the average age is 40 or 39.5 to be precise. So now half of Red Deer’s population is over 40.

Secondly our population increased by 195 residents (00.2%) but we added 1299 new homes. Basically the same number of taxpayers (with the minimal 00.2% increase), are paying taxes on 1299 new homes (3.09% increase).

Along with 1299 new homes, we the lowly taxpayer had to pay for servicing, transit, schools, service centres, roads, sidewalks, sewers, mowing, lighting etc so 1299 new homes could be built.

Now let us look at the 42,034 houses that was there before. There used to 2.4 residents per home now we are down to 2.3 residents per home. 4% decrease. Our taxes went up 10% on these 4 year+ older homes, in 4 years but we have fewer people paying the taxes. The value of our older homes have decreased below inflation, and a realtor told me that houses are selling at about 10% below assessed value.

Supply is out doing demand and we are financing it with our taxes.

Since our median age is increasing, and our population is stagnating means we are losing young families, we are decimating established neighbourhoods and we are financing it.

I think we should rethink this strategy. Let us build things that attract families who will create a demand for new homes. We have enough empty lots and half filled neighbourhoods. We have too many under utilized homes, too many people wanting to but unable to downsize or upsize but can’t afford to sell their homes in this depressed market.

The hardest hit neighbourhoods are north of the river and has been declining for at least 6 years. Perhaps we could build a high school or a new swimming pool to attract people to buy and renovate subsequently revitalizing the neglected older neighbourhoods. No new roads, sewers, transit, fire halls, etc to be built.

What have we spent on new roads and traffic circles lately, was it $135 million or $185 million? Did we top the $200 million? I am not sure exactly, different budgets, but I think it’s around there.

So with poor growth rates, and an over supply of homes, a depressed housing market, it may be time to change course. We have seen our population decrease before while neighbouring communities grew. Time for a re-think?

I believe it is time for a change because I don’t want to continue financing the devaluing of my home and scaring young families away.

How many more years before the average age in Red Deer is fifty?

 

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september, 2019

tue06augAll Daysun29sepHot Mess - Erin Boake featured at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery(All Day)

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