by Tristan Turner
Council has voted to postpone the second reading of the 2016 Operational Budget after much debate. The vote was nearly unanimous, with only Deputy Mayor Rob Ladouceur voting against the motion to delay Second Reading.
The decision was made after council arrived at the budget discussion after an already long night into a 280-page agenda. While the in camera portion of the Council meeting began at 5 p.m., the budget was not discussed until after 10:30 p.m., with Councillor Gord Putnam commenting that “I just don’t want to be doing this at 11:30 at night.” Putnam explained he felt the budget was too important a priority for something to be missed accidentally.
But leaving the budget until late in the meeting was not Council’s only motivation for deferring the discussion. Multiple Council members stated their dissatisfaction with the amount of information they have to move ahead with major decisions. Councillor Nicole Boutestein – who made the motion to postpone the meeting – felt that it was important to see the 2016 Capital Budget before moving ahead with the Operational Budget and that she needed more information on a variety of projects before moving ahead.
“The Budget should be passed on second reading, or third reading, with the knowledge that with it we are meeting the needs of our community,” she said. “Nothing in this budget reflects 100 per cent of that. We don’t have our capital projects; we’re looking at demolishing an arena, serving a school site … there’s so much information that we are lacking, that I can’t see in good faith how would even move forward without that information.” Said Councilor Boutestein.
Deputy Mayor Rob Ladouceur felt that the budget needed to move ahead regardless of the late hour, and that council would have an opportunity to make changes before third reading. “I appreciate that it’s late, but I also appreciate that we have a responsibility and rushing everything on December 8th … isn’t necessarily something I think that is right,” he said.
Council had a lengthy discussion about the agenda, and Mayor Lisa Holmes suggested that in the future Council should perhaps have at least one special meeting of Council entirely dedicated to budget discussions.
Council will return to debate Budget for second and possibly third reading Dec. 8. Before the meeting, however, Council unanimously decided to hold a Budget Workshop with Administration to ensure they have all the information they requested before moving ahead on with budget deliberations.