Podcasting to Reset the Region – Accountability

On the second episode of Podcasting to Reset the Region, I talk about a culture of accountability, with expenses as the example.

The transcript for my hearing impaired friends and followers is as follows:

Hi, my name is Laura Ip, and I’m running to represent the people of St. Catharines at Niagara Regional Council.

Something that I’ve heard frequently at the door and certainly through social media about this term of council and, if we’re being honest, every term of council*, is the issue of accountability.

I would like to give you an example of the kind of thing it might come up for and that’s around expenses.

Currently, at the Region, the expense policy is such that a regional councillor can submit expenses, and they don’t have to indicate many details around why that expense was incurred or how it served the constituency. They simply submit the expense and it gets paid out. There is not an approval process in place. So, at present, the Regional Clerk, for instance, doesn’t go through the expenses, look for more detail, ask questions; they simply pay the expenses out.

And that’s a problem, in my view, because as an independent business person and as someone who founded and now runs a non-profit, it’s extremely important that we’re keeping detailed records of how we’re spending money. So, for instance, if I’m charging expenses back to my client, I need to be able to detail what those expenses were for and why they’re being charged back. As someone who founded and runs that non-profit that I spoke about, we need to be able to – at our board meetings – discuss what expenses were for and certainly if any of our members are asking, we need to be able to provide them with detailed records, so that they know how their money is being spent.

Recognizing that there’s only so much an individual councillor can do, when you choose me to be our regional councillor, I have committed to bring a motion forward to have an expense policy put in place that more clearly details how councillors can spend Niagara Region money, what they can and cannot spend it on, outline how expense records should be kept, and implement a procedure whereby all expenses are to be approved by the Regional Clerk before they’re paid out. And to be even clearer about that, I don’t mean what is currently in place where the Regional Clerk simply pays the expenses. I mean that he or she is given the power to determine what are and are not expenses that are supposed to be paid out. They get to determine if regional councillors are spending taxpayer money in an appropriate way.

Because I would be only one regional councillor on a team of 31, this would mean that I would have to work with the team, get them to embrace a culture of accountability, so that we are all on board with changing the expense policy and submitting expenses in this way. While it’s a fundamental change to how business has been done at the Region with respect to expenses, it’s one that I think we can all get on board with, because we all expect to be held accountable for how we’re spending our money. Imagine going home and explaining to your spouse that you bought a new car and not telling them how much it cost or why you purchased it.

That’s it for this episode of Podcasting to Reset the Region. If you have any questions for me or if you have ideas about things that you would like me to discuss over the next few weeks, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach me on my website: lauraip.ca, by e-mail: laura@lauraip.ca, or simply by searching Laura Ip for Regional Council on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

On Monday, October 22, 2018, vote to Reset the Region. Vote for me – Laura Ip – for Regional Council. Thank you.

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*Note: I say “every term of council” not because there’s been great concern about accountability (like there is this time) in previous terms, but because it is a common refrain from people outside of politics.

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