Letters to the Editor for the week of June 6 

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Where is the transparency and oversight?

House Speaker Darryl Plecas shocked British Columbians with his bombshell report last year on inappropriate staff spending at the B.C. Legislature: Designer fashions, globetrotting travel, lucrative pension top-ups, watches, luggage and, of course, the famous wood-splitter.

As one reads about wood splitters being purchased and moved to the home of a senior bureaucrat in Victoria, $80,000 for four steps in Vancouver, hundreds of thousands spent on budget covers in Ottawa or a door-opening contract of $95,000 in the Senate, one can't help but wonder what goes on in our little town when it comes to giving out (municipal) contracts.

More specifically, who controls the flow of untendered award contract spending and what percentage of our spending is being handed out without any competitive bids or elected oversight?

Wanting to know, I did what most citizens feel is the proper course of action and filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which is readily available online, that I hand delivered to municipal hall. The request specifically asked for a list from 2018 of all untendered contracts including the name of the company (no numbers please), the amount and the purpose of the contract with a total. These award contracts are presumed to all be under $25,000 as per the rule, although in many other jurisdictions, the limit is often exceeded for a multitude of reasons, one being the fact that no one really seems to care.

To be clear, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has a policy that allows for any work valued at less than $25,000 to be awarded without tendering or competition. Interestingly, this is the same limit set on most federal government tendering as well. With the RMOW annual budget well under $100 million and the federal government with a budget of about $400 billion (4,000 times larger!), having the same award limit seemed highly unnecessary and untethered. Shouldn't we be tendering anything over $5,000, maybe? Anyway, this was just starting to get interesting.

I got a quick response from the RMOW records department regarding the FOI request. Kudos to them for a quick response. Unfortunately, to be frank, they said they do not have a list or a total of untendered award contracts. I repeat, there is no centralized data on how often money is spent without tendering, who is getting these contracts, who is approving them, how much they cost, or, if in fact many are between $24,000 and $25,000 and just under the amount that requires transparency, vetting and competition.

Confirming if individual companies are getting multiple contracts each year, which are all just shy of $25,000, could also be enlightening. If this information is recorded somewhere, it is not available to the public through an FOI. Seems that someone must have such a list somewhere if only to show how much value they are getting for the dollar.

If someone wants a report or information on something and this information does not exist then the (municipality is) not permitted to create it.

The mayor (Jack Crompton) confirmed himself, in response to my surprise at the lack of this key information, that they were in the throes of budget meetings but that, "We do not intend (at this time) to develop the document you are requesting." Check that. They do not intend to review these amounts or totals as part of the budgeting process.

Seems like an invaluable tool in the toolbox for keeping costs under control and avoiding unnecessary tax increases. Not so, says the mayor. There are no plans to quantify and utilize this information in the budgeting process.

I see this approach as intentionally obtuse and bordering on incompetence, with a healthy opportunity for cronyism as required. It should be noted as well that Mayor Crompton is using his anecdotal observations to ensure that all this work is being done in a cost effective and sustainable way. He is "proud" of it.

Regardless of the fact that "it" has actually never been clearly defined, measured or tested and there is no mechanism to do this.

We apparently needed a two-inch-thick preliminary report on toilets, which may allow us to save on toilet paper long term by literally using the report, but when it comes to the millions and millions of dollars spent without any elected oversight, the mayor's opinion, based on personal observations, is all we need?

Don't bother to look here!

Not sure who may be getting the wood splitter in Whistler but the optics of such a naïve approach is startling. Time for a $5,000 cap and full disclosure.

Many of the current councillors talked a lot about spending and prudence during the election. They might want to look at what most experts would agree is the low-hanging fruit of competitive tendering. This would save 15 to 30 per cent and ensure the best value for money.

Perri Domm // Whistler

Being independent is destroying us

Although Max's opinion piece was titled "Independent, but at what cost?" I couldn't find the answer (Pique, May 30).

Though I doubt there is even a sliver of interest, since it is critically important if we can and want to avoid complete climate breakdown, I thought I should answer his question: Being independent is costing at least the life of humanity and likely the life of nature. We all have our individual make-beliefs. We mostly inherit them but we can tweak the made-up beliefs of others to make them our own. Once we have our mind set on them we close it "like a steel trap."

Our made-up beliefs all conflict. They divide us. They separate us from each other and nature. They make us independents. They restrict possible interdependent self-creation and result in certain independent self-destruction. Our make-believe keeps us small-minded. Despite the massive amount of knowledge that has been acquired since the birth of humanity, particularly in the last few hundred years, we are still trying to fill the void like the first man.

Some of the scientists who keep track of our progress toward self-destruction say it is almost completed and there is nothing we can do to prevent the inevitable. A year or so ago, others gave us a chance and about a decade to turn ourselves around. Getting rid of plastic straws notwithstanding, we have yet to make the necessary turn. This is not make-believe. It is not fake news. We need no evidence other than continuing politics to conclude we are still heading in the wrong direction. Contrary to Justin (Trudeau's) small-minded opinion, rather than being a strength, a diversity of make-believe is a fatal weakness. By re-entering politics, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott make us weaker.

They will remember us (as) being the species with unknown potential that became so small minded they let their reaction to nothing destroy everything.

Doug Barr // Whistler

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