(Presented to city council in December 2007 on the 2008 city budget)
For those not aware - the Ottawa and District Labour Council has been the voice of working people in the Ottawa area since 1872. It currently represents 90 local unions with a combined membership of 45,000 working men and women and we are the largest democratic and popular organization in the Ottawa area.
As I’m here to make a presentation on the Budget - it’s only fitting that I start by once again thanking Councillors Deans and Doucet for organizing yesterday’s - One Cent Now - March and Rally on the Hill. Also, Councillors; Feltmate, Bedard, Legendre, Holmes, Cullen, Wilkinson and Bellemare - for participating. To some of our other elected Council members – those that chose not to attend because as they claimed it was undignified – it’s absolutely mind-boggling that you feel you’re so much better than working people.
There is absolutely no doubt that the task before you is an immense one – the whole of the community recognizes that. This is also the job you sought – and one that you were successful in getting elected to – congratulations to you all.
Perhaps the tone for these deliberations was set just about a year ago with Council agreeing to award itself an approximate 20% increase to the salaries of councillors and Mayor – and - annual increases in line with inflation.
Look I’m a union guy - and that people are paid a fair wage for the work they do – I fully support – but you can’t on one hand award yourselves increases and then with the other attempt to take away the hard earned gains of the working men and women in this city - as has been suggested by some - including Councillor _____ at a meeting in the Mayor’s office less than a week ago. Let’s pick on the workers.
You can’t as Steve Deroches in comments yesterday “…Take a look at the $1.2 million dollar annual price tag for cell phone use by city staff and completely ignore the approximate $1800 dollar price tag for cell phone use - for one month alone – one month alone - as reported for the Mayor’s office.
You can’t as elected officials advocate being frugal and have buy in from the community and staff and then as reported by the Mayor’s office spend $5,000 thousand dollars a month for parking – solely for parking.
It truly is astonishing that for whatever reasons some around the Council table feel that “It’s do as I say not as I do...”
And it’s relevant – you can’t get support for what it is you’re trying to accomplish in respect to the city Budget – in respect to any possible savings - if you act the complete opposite.
You can’t advocate for a reduction in consultants and professional services if you have the man with the robe and chain - dishing out almost 35% or $175,000 dollars of his office budget over an eight month period – in exactly that area.
You can’t as Gerry Lapage stated yesterday give millions and millions of dollars to other millionaires like that of the Ottawa Senators and their owner – and then try and beat up our city’s most vulnerable.
You can’t with any degree of believability or support - contract friends and former business associates - to say exactly what it is that you want them to say - as we all saw in the Hunter report.
A few months back Council directed staff to bring back a budget of Zero. One person – mostly one person - held the line on a Zero means Zero budget – and it was because of that - staff were directed accordingly.
And staff did that – they brought back what a Zero budget looks like – and it wasn’t a pretty sight and included very serious and severe cuts to our city.
Then yesterday low and behold Council – save Councillor Doucet – sign off on a resolution that promised most services would be spared. Everyone and anyone realizes that the true intent of the Resolution yesterday was an attempt by some and the hope by others that a number of the delegations would pull back – would cancel - in respect to presentations over these few days.
But what was the cost – what was the cost – what were the hours spent - in directing staff to put together a zero means zero budget that gets thrown in the garbage as a result of the actions by the same individual who initially proposed it.
You have great staff working here – staff simply do as their told – they do as their directed.
As I stated at the beginning of my presentation - our city – like cities across this country need more support from our federal government. This city – the city of Ottawa – like cities across this province – also needs support from our provincial government.
A part of a statement made yesterday by the person supposedly at the helm here - was that he would set up a meeting with Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to discuss our city’s needs in respect to Federal funding. Great – and all will recall several weeks back when upon hearing that Jim Watson had just been appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing our man at the Helm said “…that’s good news for our city - I know Jim well – I can call him anytime.” Now fast forward to last Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen where Minister Watson stated that our city – the city of Ottawa - has no plan – has no vision and no funding would be forthcoming until there existed a plan. Yup – makes me feel pretty confident about the result of any meeting between our Mayor and any MP or MPP in the hopes of securing badly needed funding for our city.
A lot of us understand really, really, really well the difficulties around here over the last year.
As Minister Watson stated our city needs a plan – to have a plan it helps to have a team – to have a team it helps to have a leader – its unfortunate that we don’t seem to have any of those and a budget – the budget before you – a budget that’s supposed to address the needs of all - becomes one that continues to cause division amongst all our residents here – that truly is the sad part.