Thursday, January 29, 2015

Village Councilors' Expense Claims

At last Monday's Council Meeting, I made another proposal with a view of saving money on the village budget. 

This time, I proposed that we reduce the amount slated for councilors expense claims.  As you may know, prior to the 2013 municipal election a committee was created - totally separate from council - to review and recommend changes to the expense claim amounts.  After that election, the newly elected council accepted and passed the new schedule designed by that committee.

It significantly raised councilors' fees.  In fact, that budget line in our books more than doubled in 2014, over what it was in 2013! 

I am suggesting that we take another look at those new figures for expense claims and possibly reduce them during these "belt tightening times."  They could be raised back to their current amounts in the future, when councilors feel the Village coffers could better could afford it.  What do you think?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Price of Oil and Alberta's Financial Woes

First, let me remind everyone that I am not a financial guru or even a bean counter.  I and everyone I know are enjoying the low prices of gasoline, but I don't even pretend to know why they're so low.  I understand that a bunch of countries in a group called OPEC (including Saudi Arabia) are selling their oil at rock bottom prices and that's driving the world-wide price down.  Low crude prices means low gasoline prices. 

Does that mean those same countries have too much money and can afford to sell their oil cheap or are they trying to force the other oil companies out of business so they can set any price they want?  Or are they just interested in forcing the companies making oil from the oilsands out of business or at least stop them from growing?  I don't understand their thinking, but then again I'm not an oil sheik either!

I feel badly for those working in the oil patch because their jobs are in jeopardy.  I feel badly for Alberta now dealing with far less revenue from oil than they first predicted.  I can't see this lasting.  The world demand for oil keeps going up while the overall world supply keeps going down.  After all, oil is a non-renewable resource.  I see this as a little blip on the screen. I don't think it can last.

I believe that everyone will have to tighten their belts over the next while, until those offshore oil companies get over their greedy little games.   It may make us stronger.  It may give us added incentive to push for diversification a little harder.  It may convince those folks so against pipelines that those same pipelines will make North America less dependent on foreign oil.  It might help them turn their energies toward making the world's safest pipelines, instead of stopping them.

I hope I'm right about this being very temporary.  Let's all hang in there and wait it out!  We can make it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Belt Tightening!

The reporter from the Rocky View Weekly phoned me, yesterday.  She had attended our council meeting last Monday.  She noted that in my report to council, I proposed some cutbacks in the budgets of three village departments; The Volunteer Fire Department, Public Works Department, and the Recycling Department.  She wondered why.

I explained that Beiseker faced some tough economic roads in 2014 and we need to get strong again!  Snow removal was a biggy last year.  The winter of 2013-2014 dumped huge amounts of snow on the village.  Our snow removal bill skyrocketed!  We also had a large amount in overdue municipal taxes not paid. 

These factors, plus a couple of large expenses put us in a "hand to mouth" financial situation.  That is not a situation that council is comfortable with!

Our Chief Administrative Officer has made enormous strides in collecting unpaid property taxes.  We've found that folks find in easier to pay their property taxes in monthly installments, instead of one big bill in the summertime.  Many have arranged to do this and our unpaid tax file has shrunk down to a very small amount!  But I still believe we must trim our expenses, too.

Premier Prentice has been telling us that Alberta's dependence on oil revenue puts the province's finances in jeopardy when oil prices drop to less than half of what they were a few months ago.  He has discussed different ways the province will manage their finances under the current circumstances. I think it is the responsibility of municipalities to also sharpen their pencils and trim their budgets accordingly.  I don't believe a huge property tax hike is the way to go!

Staff from each of the three departments I've named will determine if a cutback is possible without compromising the services the village provides.  They will report back to council. Our budgeting process will go on for the next few weeks.  By the way;  In future council meetings, I will be asking other village departments and service areas to consider cutbacks, too.   Stay tuned!

What do you think?  Get in touch with a village councilor and tell them what you think should be done.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sir John A.'s 200th Birthday!

Today (January 11, 2015) is Sir John A. Macdonald's 200th birthday!  I suspect most Canadians don't even know who he is.  Sir John was Canada's first Prime Minister. 

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1815.  His efforts joined four upstart young provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) into a nation in 1867.

 From what I can read, Sir John felt Canada had to be formed, otherwise the Americans would take it all!  He was the first to suggest we have a national police force to patrol the vast western territories.  That force became the R.C.M.P.  He did everything he could (some legal, some not so much) to create a national railway running coast to coast.  That became the Canadian Pacific Railway.

It's no secret that Sir John drank.  Stories of him discussing politics with and lecturing a favorite lamp post in Ottawa were well known.  Rumor has it that after the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, in the group photo of the "Fathers of Confederation," he is one of the only ones seated -- because he had too much to drink to stand still for the lengthy exposure time!  His temper was also well known.  He would defend his vision of Canada to anyone in sometimes very heated debate!

He got things done!  When others told him it would be impossible, he made it happen.  The problems and difficulties he faced were enormous, yet he and a couple of his colleagues overcame them!  Things Prime Minister Macdonald had to deal with and overcome, make current Prime Minister Harper's problems seem like a walk in the park!  I believe that Canada would not exist had it not been for Sir John's persistence, and downright stubbornness.

 He was no angel, but I think he deserves a higher profile in Canadian culture than he has right now!

Happy Sir John A. Macdonald Day!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

I have just watched the news about the massacre of French journalists in Paris, yesterday morning.  I understand that ten journalists and two police officers were shot and killed by a terrorist group.   The magazine Charlie Hebdo, a satirical journal, was the target.

The motive is not totally clear because that particular publication satirizes almost everyone, but the assassins were heard yelling phrases associated with Islam.   Apparently some small radical Islamic group took exception to the magazine satirizing their religion.

I've always considered myself a minor player in the world of journalism.  I've actively written for magazines and newspapers for more than forty years.  Freedoms I hold most dear are the freedom of speech  and the freedom of the press.  Both of those freedoms took a severe beating in Paris on Wednesday.

But those two freedoms will survive and thrive!  They must!

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives in Paris.  They must know that everyone involved in journalism around the world is united to protect those two fundamental rights so important to us all.

Je suis Charlie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Overnight Idling by Big Rigs

Over the past couple of weeks a few of you have brought up another issue which appears every winter.  That is the problem of truckers parking their semi-trucks in residential areas, and leaving them idling all night long. 

I am told that on a few occasions not only is the truck left idling but the refrigerating unit on the van is left going all night, too.  In a quiet village like ours, the drone of these engines can be quite disturbing for the neighbours.

I'm asking everyone to consider their neighbours, and encourage everyone to promote a good night's sleep. 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Twelfth Night of Christmas!

Here we are at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas; Twelfth Night.  January Sixth marks the end of this Christmas season.  I hope yours was a happy and merry one.  A vicious head cold took some of the celebration out of me and I was generous enough to share it with my wife!  This Christmas was a sniffly but quiet one in our house!

Congrats to the Dyer, Doepker and Bye families and to Beiseker Home Hardware, Skyview Inn B&B, and CHS Dynagra for winning the Beiseker Christmas Light Contest.  Well done, all of you!

Now we start packing up Christmas and settling down to a "normal" January.  I hope that if you made a New Year's Resolution, you made a realistic one.  Never set yourself up for failure.  Have fun with it and good luck meeting those goals.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!