COMMENTARY: Getting wrapped up in the taxpayer party

You can’t get blood from a stone and it seems you can’t get a grant from a province that’s $300 billion in debt. As Cornwall Newswatch told you Tuesday, the city learned recently that the two-thirds funding is had hoped for won’t be coming.

“Now is the time to act. This will turn the waterfront into a family park…all winter. This is over the top,” Coun. Elaine MacDonald said in October. Over the top is correct, at least as far as the budget is concerned.

Paul St-Onge, figurehead in the Canada 150 celebrations, called out our coverage saying it was “unfortunate to see missing information, details and facts bringing negativity to something positive for our community.”

Negativity is perception. Take the horses giving weekend sleigh rides in Lamoureux Park for example. St-Onge has the blinders on, speaking emotionally and forgetting that this is taxpayer’s money funding the horses. You may think, well it’s all one taxpayer. True enough, but the city is already struggling with a possible 3.5 per cent residential property tax increase. Council and administration is now trying to find places to cut. That job just became more difficult because there’s $74,000 added to its expenses – $74,000 it hadn’t counted on. Less than two months into 2017, the price tag is $74,000. What is the overall price tag going to be for the remainder of the year?

Everybody enjoys a party and likes to celebrate. I went down to Lamoureux Park and took part in the festivities. It was a great time. There’s nothing against a celebration to mark 150 years since Confederation. Councillors at the time were concerned about the cost from the outset and were reassured by MacDonald it would only cost $30,000. The public should know that didn’t come out in the wash.

There is a lesson in this. During a year in review panel on TVCogeco in December, I had warned about this very situation. That council would be quick to jump at an opportunity, banking on the fact that senior governments were going to come through with the lion’s share of the money. In this case, the chickens have come home to roost. Coun. David Murphy makes a good point that this is a teachable lesson for council to make sure to have money guaranteed before making a city commitment.

If there’s any silver lining in this, just be glad it was $74,000 and not millions of dollars for something like an arts center.