It is always hard to ride the fine line in a small community of pointing things out while not appearing overly critical, and in a tight-knit community this can be essential.
While it was this editor’s intent to call into question some inconsistencies in the grant in aid funding given out by the District mayor and council, it was not the intent of the column to say any individuals are not worthy of funding or council is doing a poor job. However, in rereading the edited version, I believe I missed the mark.
In an attempt to be more constructive, and yes, even diplomatic, I hereby eat some humble pie and would like to restate the case – hopefully with more clarity and less negativity about the grant in aid program and those administering it.
In fact, it is great to see so many who benefit from grant in aid and council does have a huge task trying to sift through requests each week and then assign what they deem to be appropriate amounts to requests.
The concern I have (and was trying so poorly to express) is if the system is fair and open – which should be the goal of all government programs, and if the system is easy enough for mayor and council to feel they have the tools they need to evaluate the funds fairly and equitably.
It should be possible to evaluate a submission based on some objective criteria, possibly a checklist of points a submission must hit, whether an individual or a group. Then, if any councillor has an issue with the application, the criteria can be referred to.
Of course, part of the onus also needs to be put back on those applying for the grant, as some submissions fall far short of answering the basic submission criteria questions laid out in the grant in aid application. If council does not have the information it needs to make an award, then they can not give out the money.
This should be the case for any applications mayor and council are familiar with as well, so the system is fair and certain groups are not given any special treatment because they have an “inside track.”
While grant in aid applications in the past have come in all shapes and sizes, perhaps there needs to be a sheet which applicants can refer to so they know they are going to provide the necessary information. If they don’t provide it, then council should simply return the application with the sheet and a request for the applicant to refer to it, or staff could let the applicant know beforehand if they have a chance to look it over.
I do not lay the blame of the mishmash of grant in aid approvals and applications solely at the feet of the current council, councillors do ask questions and discuss the benefits of applications each meeting, and objectives are discussed.
However, it seems as though this council is struggling with a system which is just a little outdated. Previous council did much the same thing, and actually, I almost never saw the previous council turn down an application, which this council has definitely done and this council has asked for precedents in some cases as to what has been awarded in the past. Reports are printed off by staff every few meetings so council can see which groups received money in previous years and how much. However, given the monies were sometimes awarded in what seem like an “off the cuff” fashion, precedent might not always be the best assessment. Perhaps something more objective needs to be put in place.
For example, high school sports teams often request funds each year. Under this council, I witnessed one team which had to travel to the furthest corner of the province for their provincials receive the exact same funding amount as another team which was heading to provincials in Prince George. Now, this did not make sense to me, given the costs of travelling across the province for two days by bus was going to far exceed a weekend tournament in Prince George.
While council referred back to the first team’s award amount to make their decision, it seemed as though simply what was given to another team in this case was not the best criteria to set the amount by.
While budgets are normally supposed to be a part of each grant in aid application, whether the second application did not have one or council did not refer to it, I do not recall. But in this case, it would have made sense to not compare the two applications simply because they were both high school sports teams, but instead perhaps by the costs required for the events they were attending.
In essence, my critique, poorly written as it was, was only a suggestion for improvements to the process itself to provide clarity and more consistency, not to find fault with those assigning the funds or the applicants.
My thought is it is impossible to recall what has happened in the past each time, or to know which criteria each applicant may or may not have if they do not state them.
If applicants knew what points they were being evaluated for and what information mayor and council would need to evaluate their application, then it is a win-win.
Council can easily assess if an application meets the goals of their grant in aid funding and if the applicant does not or the application is insufficient, send it back to request further information.
This would be better for both sides and hopefully make a difficult job a little easier.
Humble pie eaten, and my apologies for the previous hastily-written rant.