Mayor: council had ‘full knowledge’ Canada 150 could cost taxpayers $90K

In this Dec. 16, 2015, file photo, Cornwall Coun. Carilyne Hebert and Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy speak at a Team Cornwall Year in Review breakfast. O'Shaughnessy says council went into an agreement for Canada 150 celebrations knowing full well it may ended up costing taxpayers $90,000. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – City Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy has come out defending the Canada 150 city celebrations, maintaining councillors had “full knowledge” that the city may end up spending $90,000 to celebrate Canada’s birthday.

In an email to Cornwall Newswatch, copied to city councillors and CAO Maureen Adams, O’Shaughnessy explained that council went into the agreement knowing full well that “the grant may not be approved.”

As it turned out, the application for the Canada 150 Fund for $70,000 was turned down by the federal government. The city has already spent $74,000 as of the end of January, according to city budget documents.

“The full amount was approved by Council to come out of the 2017 budget and a grant application would be submitted with no guarantee of success…but the $90,000 was approved regardless of the outcome of the grant application,” O’Shaughnessy wrote.

The mayor said in some cases like infrastructure work, city council will approve work based on a successful grant application. But in thie case the approval was given first by council “with full knowledge that the grant may not be approved.”

The mayor referenced a staff report from the Oct. 24, 2016 council meeting, approved by council, that the budget was approved for $90,000. The motion had been moved by Coun. Elaine MacDonald and seconded by Coun. Carilyne Hebert.

During that October meeting, some councillors had expressed concerns about the cost with Coun. David Murphy quipping that $60,000 for lights in Lamoureux Park was almost what he paid for his first house. Coun. Bernadette Clement said it was “astronomical” but “it is what it is.”

In an interview Tuesday with CNW, Murphy said he was “a little reluctant” at first to approve the budget in October but had been “reassured” the city would be getting “two-thirds of it back.”

Murphy said this should serve as a lesson that the city should have senior government money in the hand before approving local projects that require a funding partnership.

But there are some discrepancies with exactly how much has been allotted for Canada 150 celebrations in the municipal budget.

The mayor says it’s $90,000.

But according to minutes from the Jan. 26, 2017 budget meeting – almost three months after the initial Canada 150 budget at city council was approved – it states that “$30,000 was budgeted in the 2017 Budget” for the celebration.

Editor’s note: This spending has nothing to do with Canada Day and the Canada Day committee who are working separately on Canada Day celebrations. This $90,000 in spending concerns activities outside Canada Day to celebrate the 150th birthday year since Confederation.