City Councillors’ ward budgets

The City of Winnipeg 2013 budget has been approved and with it comes an additional $40,000 to each City Councillor for their ward budget. Well, it seems that Councillor Mayes is receiving some flak for spending $28,000 of his increase on Save Our Seine, a non-profit group, with many people calling it a bid for re-election.

Before you pass judgment on Councillor Mayes, perhaps we should take a look at these other ward councillors’ spending for 2012. Please note: all these numbers do not include December, 2012; those numbers have not yet been made available to the public.

First off is Councillor Russ Wyatt. In 2012, Mr. Wyatt decided his ward was best served with flowers and food. A total of $5,256 was spent on florists and $5,437 spent on dinner tickets, luncheons, and golf tournaments. Included in this amount is a total of $4,190 to one particular florist, Myra Rose Florists.

Secondly, Councillor Devi Sharma, who in 2012 spent over $1,000 for her new iPad and protective case, and over $15,000 on her ward office. Perhaps with the addition of the $40,000 she can get a bigger office.

What is even more maddening is that in 2011 Sharma was quoted as saying “this has been done with existing dollars. No new taxpayer money went to fund this.”
Can this still be said, councillor?

Councillor Grant Nordman was one of the most active councillors, or it would appear so by how much he advertises. What he advertises, I’m not too sure; perhaps he advertises the fact that he exists. His spending on advertising surpassed the $7,500 mark, which is about one-tenth of his total allowance. At that ratio, we can expect another $4,000 in advertising being put out by Nordman. Not included in that number is the printing of calendars and business cards, coming in at $2,050.

Now, all of this is bad, but in my opinion the worst spender is Justin Swandel. Councillor Swandel managed to spend almost as much as Nordman in advertising ($6,663), almost as much as Wyatt in business lunches and event tickets ($3,721), and managed to pay for his home phone, internet, and television ($1,175) with his ward allowance. I don’t know how you justify television as a ward expense, but when you have an answer to that, please let me know. These three expenses alone cost the taxpayer $11,559, and it doesn’t even include December, 2012.

Now, I shouldn’t rag on Swandel too much because he was against the increase, along with Mayes, but all three of the other councillors I mentioned above were for it. This reality, coupled with the fact that they cut funds to several not-for-profit groups, is somewhat disheartening.

So, keep advertising your existence, filling your face, or leasing a second office.

Councillor Mayes is doing what he feels is right, and what the council governance committee believes he is allowed to do. It really doesn’t matter which councillor you look at; all of them use their ward allowance as a tool to get re-elected.