I want to discuss a certain topic which I’m really finding frustrating in my job as a municipal councilor (ok, so there are a lot but this is an important one). With the numerous requests a town receives from its residents, priorities need to be set and sometimes what you think is a priority, is not a priority to the majority of residents. The town is not a bank; any money used is YOUR tax money. Even when we get subsidies from different governments, it’s your provincial or federal taxes that pay for that. So, the town council needs to make decisions on what is judged a priority project because we can’t afford to say yes to everything. Sometimes, it’s also just not the right timing to spend on certain projects. As an example, during a pandemic and the uncertainties that comes along with it, we need to be more careful with our spending.
Keep in mind that any of your requests in normal times need to be financed by ALL tax payers (unless it falls under a sectorial tax). So people in Cedarbrook as an example, may not think it’s a priority to pay for projects proposed by residents in Saddlebrook. This is when council needs to make difficult decisions and decide on the priorities of different projects. Although you may think that Saint-Lazare is a rich community judging on all the homes being built, keep in mind that the more homes, the more services, more infrastructures and the more it cost a municipality to serve their residents. Growth is expensive!
The council also needs to look at expenses in a global view and not just at a specific resident level. Because you don’t always have the same global view of all expenses or what’s coming up, you may not think that your demands are a big deal. But I’m not a good politician, I don’t like to make up stories or make false promises, so I tell the truth. But what I’m learning is that a lot of people don’t like to hear the truth. The irony is that most people blame politicians for not being transparent or lying but in turn when we tell the truth, some people get upset and threaten not to vote for you anymore because they don’t like to hear no.
Understandably, it’s frustrating to be told no (I surely don’t like it) and a lot of the times people are really passionate about what they believe is a priority for them. By saying no to a resident’s demand which is judged not to be a priority, it doesn’t mean that we don’t understand your personal needs and wants or that your councilor doesn’t represent you.
Furthermore, it’s important to realize that all decisions are taken with a majority vote. This means that although sometimes I really want to push for your requests, but I alone don’t have the power to make it happen. The majority of the council needs to be on board and agree during a public vote.
The responsibility put on council to allocate funds which comes from your taxes in different projects is taken very seriously by this council. Although none of us can claim to be perfect, we definitely do our best to get a good picture of what the majority of our residents want us to accomplish during our mandate. Actually, most of us on council ran for election in 2017 with the objective of being more fiscally responsible than the mayor and previous council were which means using money in an intelligent manner, without overspending. After the town hall fiasco and as we heard from our constituents, it’s safe to say that fiscal responsibility was a goal for many of you as well.
So, I’m very sorry if I’m not a good politician and don’t pretend that we’re a bottomless money pit by saying yes to every small or big projects proposed, but I rather tell the truth and continue to be fiscally responsible with your tax dollars.
P.S. Beware of those “good” politicians who say yes all the time or those who always seem to be such nice people by making nice promises!