A former mayor of Saskatoon has levelled serious accusations against the current city council ahead of the next civic election.
Henry Dayday, who served as mayor between 1988 and 2000, took issue with annual communications budgets given to the mayor and councillors.
In a letter, Dayday accused council of operating out of self-interest when they passed a bylaw authorizing the money in 2013. Each councillor gets $10,000 per year to communicate about city business with constituents. The mayor gets a budget of $100,000 per year — with most of that used for the salary of his communications manager.
Dayday urged council to repeal the bylaw, saying it gives an unfair advantage to incumbents in the election.
During a Monday meeting of the Governance and Priorities Committee, Ward 1 councillor Darren Hill took no issue with the need to address the communications budgets ahead of the election. But Hill bristled at the accusation of using taxpayers’ money to benefit himself.
Hill accused Dayday of taking an opportunity to poke and pick at council from a distance.
“(Dayday) should put his name on a ballot and run,” Hill said during discussion of the letter.
Hill, the other councillors present and Mayor Don Atchison all voiced support for some sort of mechanism to cut off their access to the communications funds ahead of the election.
Atchison noted that he purposely structured his communciations manager’s contract to end before the election, in anticipation of such a move.
Councillors briefly debated a motion that would have taken away their access to the money in August. However, they opted to defer until they hear from the Municipal Review Commission (MRC) on the issue.
The MRC is an independent commission that delivers recommendations to council on issues of municipal governance.
“I feel very uncomfortable with the process the way it is now,” Atchison said Tuesday on the Brent Loucks Show.
“I was hoping that we’d use a system far more like the ward boundaries. Where the ward boundary commission comes up with different ideas. People can look at them, have their feedback and then they go away and make their final decision.”
At Monday’s committee meeting, MRC chair Paul Jaspar told council discussions about the communications budgets are underway. He said they plan to study how other cities deal with the issue, with a report to council expected in April.