Core service review motion defeated in close council vote
The devil was in the details for Coun. Dawn Luhning's motion requesting a full core service review for the City of Moose Jaw.
© Justin Crann
Coun. Dawn Luhning speaks to her motion proposing a core service review for the City of Moose Jaw.
"I've advocated for years that we should try to find a way to look into the budget lines during operating and capital budget (discussions) and determine ways that there might be to save or get rid of a little excess spending," Luhning told council while speaking to her motion. "I would prefer that it start right away and we work toward looking at this type of process."
Coun. Patrick Boyle voiced support, but agreed with a suggestion from Matt Noble — Moose Jaw's city manager — that the process might best be initiated following the 2013 budget.
"I think it is a longer process, and if we are going to do this — which I think we should — we need to give it the proper time," he said.
Critics of the motion quickly piled on, in large part due to its wording and the implications therein.
At the forefront of that group was Coun. Don Mitchell, who questioned the need for a core service review of the ilk seen in Regina and Toronto — involving external consultants, an associated price tag, and the possibility of privatization of certain city services — but agreed with the principle of reviewing the city's expenses to search for efficiencies.
"The dilemma is that (Coun. Luhning's) intent is something we would all like to see in the budget process — a review of expenditures and efficiencies — but tying it to the core service review description implies and involves a much more major exercise, and usually an outside consultant," explained Mitchell.
Coun. Heather Eby said she believed Noble would be performing a form of service and efficiency review as he is "getting the lay of the land and getting to know how things work here."
Coun. Brian Swanson supported the intent to review expenses, but said it should simply be standard operating procedure for council and administration.
"This is something that should be going on, I think, on a daily basis. … We should always be looking for efficiencies, always looking to review expenditures, and I think that goes with the seats we occupy," he said.
"We should be doing this just as second nature — always thinking of how we spend every penny, and realizing where those monies come from and how much pressure we're putting on the people who pay them."
Mayor Deb Higgins questioned the goals of the proposal.
"I think what we look at when we see this motion is a little bit of frustration with council," she said. "The big thing that jumped out to me was, what exactly is it that we want? What exactly are we looking for?"
Higgins said the "summer of change" the city has just completed — with the introduction of new blood to senior management and the second-year councillors — will bring a fresh perspective and new goals to the budget process.
Luhning defended her motion as a request for further clarity and transparency during the budget process.
"This motion, for me, is just looking at where we can find some efficiencies," Luhning said. "I tried for years to dig into the lines of the budget, and there's never been an appetite from council to do that. … I truly believe that we, as council, are not seeing exactly where the money is being spent."
Boyle moved to defer the motion to budget discussions, but his motion was defeated six to one. The motion itself was subsequently defeated four to three, with Eby, Candis Kirkpatrick and Mitchell and Higgins voting against.
ON PAGE TWO: Mayor Deb Higgins speaks to the core service review proposal.