Whistler unsure of proposed auditor general office for B.C. municipalities 

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed calls office a "good idea" but wants more details

Questions still need to be answered before Whistler, like other municipalities in B.C., can throw its support behind a new Municipal Auditor General's office.

"It sounds like a good idea," said Mayor Ken Melamed Tuesday afternoon. "But the devil's often in the details."

The details he's still short on arhe wants to know include how the new position will be founded and whether this is the best way to provide more accountability and transparency in local government.

In a letter to council this week, Ida Chong, minister of community, sport and cultural development, is asking Whistler and other B.C. municipalities for feedback on the proposed new office.

"The primary benefit of the office of the Municipal Auditor General is increased assurance that taxpayers are getting value-for-money from their local governments - just as they have that assurance through the Office of the Auditor General's review of provincial finances," said Chong.

"This supports the public interest, provides certainty and predictability to strengthen investor confidence in British Columbia, as well as supporting local governments in their budgeting processes."

At Tuesday's meeting council referred the issue to staff and is awaiting its recommendation.

Whistler's mayor is also waiting until the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual meeting next month, where he plans to attend workshops on the issue.

UBCM's executive has yet to speak to the issue but it will be seeking direction from its members at the upcoming convention in Vancouver from September 26 to 30.

There is a chance, however, that the province could make a decision on the new office before the UBCM.

"Undeniably people are looking for greater transparency and accountability and want to make sure that local government is providing service in the most efficient way," said Mayor Melamed.

"Auditors have obviously established their value at the federal and provincial level. The question is: where is the value proposition at the municipal level?

"There's always a cost for these things."

Municipal Auditor General offices are required for municipalities in Nova Scotia, municipalities over 100,000 in Quebec and for the city of Toronto.

Premier Christy Clark promised a municipal auditor general office when she was running for Liberal leader. Now, as premier, Clark's Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, led by minister Ida Chong, is leading the charge.

Chong has sent a survey to municipalities, canvassing opinion on the benefit of the Municipal Auditor General's office and asking what specific function or duties that office should have.


Whistler's mayor remembers Jack Layton


Jack Layton may be lying in state on Parliament Hill but he is also being fondly remembered in Whistler.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Mayor Ken Melamed expressed his condolences to Layton's family, saying that many members of council had the chance to meet the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) personally through their connection with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

"I'll never forget when he became president of FCM," recalled the mayor after the meeting.

"He took the organization up to 1,000 members which was a big milestone and just was really inspired as a leader. (The FCM was) like family."

Layton passed away Monday at his home in Toronto. His state funeral will be held Saturday afternoon at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall.

Melamed said Layton was instrumental in establishing the gas tax for Canadian municipalities. The mayor remembers him too as a huge advocate for affordable housing.

"I just remember him being just so personable, down to earth, very clear and a very strong advocate for Canada and these types of policies of national interest," he said.

Layton came to Whistler in 2009 for the annual FCM conference, the largest conference Whistler has hosted to date. He was also in Halifax in June this year for the FCM. The mayor and four councillors were also at that meeting.

As leader of the NDP from 2003 to 2011, Layton led that party to official opposition status this year.





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