Saturday, 18 January 2014

City Set to Double Our Debt - Illegally?

Good afternoon Regina!!!
With the City of Regina's Council and Senior Administration so focused on ramming the Stadium Project through, it seems that they may have missed a couple of procedural steps along the way. Specifically respecting the Cities Act SS 101(1)(f), where City Council is not allowed to delegate their power to borrow money. This is something that could force a Ministerial or Judicial Review into the process, in that it is certain to be questioned as to what is deemed to be "power" in respect to this legislation. As you will read in the following email that was sent to our Mayor and Senior Administrators, along with the Minister of Municipal Relations, they could very well have missed a very important step. This, in turn, could force an inquiry into the entire proceedings at City Hall.

Good afternoon Mayor Fougere,

I am writing today on behalf of the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, to express our concerns regarding the upcoming consideration by Council to pass a Bylaw permitting the City to borrow $100 Million in relation to the first phase of the RRI. More specifically, we have serious concerns regarding the Provincial Legislation surrounding the procedures, and would appreciate some clarification from your office.

We would first like to note that there has been an ongoing Public Notice advertised since the summer of 2013, where each Public Notice stated that the Bylaw would be considered at one of the following two Council meetings, depending on which had the more favourable interest rate. I note that this most recent Public Notice only identifies the one meeting, however it still notes "assuming the interest rate is favourable". We would respectfully ask your office to clarify how this is to be determined? Is there a set rate that the City of Regina is using as a threshold, and what factors is the City considering in terms of predicting future interest rates? Assumably, your CFO would have detailed documentation on this, and we would expect that this would not be considered sensitive information that might compromise any negotiations regarding the RRI, as there is only one funding source. With that considered, we look forward to receiving this information in due course.

Secondly, we note that the one of the previous Public Notices stated that the Bylaw would be considered at the November 6, 2013 or November 25, 2013 City Council meeting. However, this was not the case, and instead, this changed to an recommendation from City Administration, authorizing Mr. Brent Sjoberg sole negotiating power over the financing contract to bring back to Council. This decision was most certainly surprising, and concerning, in that it appears to violate Provincial Legislation regarding Delegation of Council Powers. It specifically states in the Cities Act 101(1)(f) "No Council shall delegate its power to borrow money...".

Granted, this is subject to interpretation, as is most legislation. The question that arises here would be what is determined to be "power". Using the City of Regina's procedures from the WWTP Petition Process, when the question surrounding what would be considered the "date" an individual signed, we feel it is only fair to use the same type of interpretation - that being the dictionary definition.

As per the Oxford Dictionary,, it stands to reason that the most appropriate use of the word "Power" in this instance would be: "the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events". While City Council technically still holds the right to vote on the decision put forth by Mr. Sjoberg, it is our concern that the ultimate power is held by Mr. Sjoberg, in that he most certainly has the capacity and ability to influence the behaviour of Council. We refer you to the following excerpt from the "Regular" November 6, 2013 City Council Meeting Agenda, specifically where it mentions "irrepairable harm to the City's ability to borrow." 

We would also respectfully request copies of any documentation that was submitted to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board in relation to applications to increase the City's debt limit in the past few years. Most notably, the increase in 2008 for the WWTP upgrades anticipated at that time, and any subsequent increases requested. While we appreciate this information may be available through a Freedom Of Information request, since this anticipated Bylaw is expected to be considered in only a matter of days, time is of the essence in this request. In addition, it would stand to reason that this information should be readily available due to the importance of the subject matter at hand, and relation to the proposed Bylaw.

Thank you in advance for your time and anticipated cooperation on this matter, and we look forward to your response to our requests above.

Best Regards,
Chad A. Novak, CMA
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group

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