Progressive Views Column: Town needs to provide quality public services

The role of government in nearly all matters is – and has been for centuries – at the centre of political rhetoric. This dialogue on what government should or shouldn’t engage in is what has defined the rift between left and right wing politics, and while many claim to exist at an equilibrium between the two perspectives, in reality all people fall more towards one of the two points on the political spectrum. These issues of the role and purpose of government face our community today more than ever, particularly with issues on the future of recreation and art within our community.

At council’s most recent meeting, a detailed breakdown of the Community Cultural Centre’s first quarter performance series costs were shared with council, information that was made available following Councillor Barry Turner’s draconian $100,000+ threatened cut to programming when administration failed to produce a detailed breakdown of the impact potential of programming cost cuts around budget discussions. The recent breakdown shows an overall loss of $5,092.14 over five shows, with the program ‘Ballet Jorgen’ as the cause of $5,770.56 of those losses, single handedly making the difference between this quarter being in red for the CCC’s concert series, before other more general operational costs. The aim of municipal services, including the concert series offered at the CCC, should not be to see a financial return for investments made in programming, but to reap the social and cultural rewards of having a community with access to live performances. That being said, in this particular example of ‘Ballet Jorgen’, it is perhaps unreasonable for the town to lose so much on a program that was only attended by 136 residents, with 36 tickets being given for free. While the program was in some way valuable to those that attended, a balance of investing in shows with cultural and artistic value and suitable public interest is vital. A similar – or even modestly greater – loss on a more expensive program with comparable cultural/communal value but noticeably greater attendance would be more than acceptable. It also identifies where government has inherent and vital value: making key investments in publicly offered services of recreation, the arts and community services that build cultural, emotional and communal growth through well used and well funded programs. Finding this balance of what is inherently valuable to the community, what will be utilized by many members of the community, and what is economically reasonable for the community to provide, should be at the centre of how the town decides to move forward with recreation and community concert services.

As councillors work – at this point behind closed doors on many matters – to develop a strategy for an arena/recreational facility, they would be wise to understand that it is vital for municipal government to provide high quality, accessible and low or no-cost services to citizens in areas that will broadly benefit the community’s social, emotional and cultural well-being. In no manner should many municipal services be offered broadly by private providers if there is a significant communal value in programs/services that can be offered through our tax-dollars; such as multi-use community recreation.

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4 Comments

  1. I disagree that fee’s should be low or no cost for cultural and recreation activities. The fees charged at these facilities should be comparable to what is charged in neighboring areas. It is my understanding that there is funding available for those whose income does not allow them to afford these extras. These facilities cannot be totally funded by taxpayer dollars and should be funded to an extent by the user.

  2. I agree with Judy! It has been said that the CCC operates on a cost recovery basis of less than 30%. So for example, every $25 ticket someone buys is matched with another $75 from the community general tax dollars. I believe that this should be looked at closely by our Council when bringing in future shows.

  3. Linda – Council does not bring shows to the MCCC. This work is completed by town staff.

    • Sally:

      And just WHO do you think authorizes the funding which the Town Administration accesses in order to provide us with all the wonderful, money-losing programming we MUST all pay for??

      I would also remind you that every property tax-paying citizen in the Town of Morinville – regardless of our interest in, or support of, these performances MUST pay for them simply because some faceless bureaucrat thinks we need or even want these activities.

      My stand on this type of expenditure is, has and always will be: IF IT CANNOT BE SELF-SUPPORTING, GET RID OF IT.

      Governments at EVERY level have an OBLIGATION to provide ONLY basic services and NOT to pander to the multitude of self-interest groups which abound in today’s society.

      Think about it folks… If governments only provided the basic services required by a community, there would no longer exist the necessary massive public service support we presently “enjoy”.

      Consider this – taxes might even go DOWN, not up and we would certainly be no worse off than we are now!

      Y’all have a nice day!

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