Meadow Lake council seeks to cut red tape at provincial level

by Phil Ambroziak

The City of Meadow Lake wants to give non-profit recreational and cultural groups a sporting chance at receiving community grant funding.

The 2013 Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention, which began Sunday, wraps up tomorrow (Feb. 6) in Saskatoon. All but two members of Meadow Lake city council are in attendance in an effort to gain further political knowledge and to advocate for future change.

“There’s one day during the convention where everyone (from the participating municipalities) gets together to present a series of resolutions,” explained mayor Gary Vidal when contacted last week. “Most of these resolutions call for SUMA to lobby the provincial government on behalf of its members. If approved at the convention, none of these resolutions become law. It simply means we agree it would be good to have SUMA advocate on our behalf.”

Among the resolutions brought forward was one from Meadow Lake, urging the province to alter its community grant program to allow municipalities greater control over the allocation process.

“This was initiated by the city manager who described the current program as a tedious and time consuming process,” Vidal continued. “Most municipal governments out there are careful with their money and conscious about how they do things.”

Currently, the grant money is issued by the province to communities, which in turn distribute it to non-profit groups for recreational and cultural purposes. The city’s resolution states a considerable amount of time and money is spent administering the regulations concerning how the money is allocated, as well as tracking the expenditures for the various groups. Also, because there has been no indication the funds have ever been misused, the city would like to see the province convert the grant program to a conditional grant, which would be spent according to a community’s own guidelines.

“A lot of manpower is wasted by municipalities and SaskSport tracking all of these small grants issued to non-profit and volunteer groups because there is an assumption by the province there is no accountability on the municipalities’ part to allocate or track the moneys appropriately,” the resolution reads.

According to councillor Curtis Paylor, no one knows a community better than the board that approves the grants.

“The bureaucratic process at the provincial level is seen as an unnecessary step,” Paylor said. “It’s more of a time thing. It slows the process down more than anything. They (province) have strict guidelines that must be followed, but if we had more flexibility on our end, it could make it a lot easier for more groups to come forward.”

Paylor went on to note the funding comes primarily from the provincial lottery system and has benefited a number of local groups in the past including riding clubs, 4H clubs, minor sports, community football the Junior Forest Wardens and more.

Although presented by another municipality, Vidal said another resolution worth paying close attention to calls for staggered urban municipal terms of office.

“I would be a total advocate for something like this in smaller municipalities such as ours,” he said. “It’s rare, but the chance of having a complete council turnover at election time is very risky. The offsetting factor in some of the larger centres is the cost involved in holding an election every two years. That may not be the the case for us, but imagine the adjustment city managers and staff would have to go through if there was a complete turnaround. This resolution certainly holds some merit.”

The mayor also pointed out the learning opportunities presented by attending the SUMA event.

“There are a number of speakers and workshops. There is one for newly elected officials our new members are interested in attending. It will be a valuable learning tool.”

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