"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Municipal Capital Works: The other slush fund?

Regular readers, and David Cochrane of the CBC, will by now of course be bored silly with this corner's repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly noting the curiously partisan pattern in district-by-district allocations under the Provincial Roads Improvement Program; a pattern which certainly existed during the Grimes years, but which has been taken to new heights (depths?) under the Danny Smallwood — uhm, Williams Government.

Of course, as Our Dear Premier has patiently explained, with increasing frustration, He has taken the politics out of the process by centralizing the politics of the process in his office:
We have allotted, through the department, about $73 million for roadwork. The total roadwork allotment for the entire Province is $183 million, if I remember correctly. Our job then is to distribute that $73 million among forty-eight districts and, as we all know, some of the districts are in St. John’s, some in Corner Brook, require certainly less money. So it is our job to try and equitably distribute that money around the Province in a fair and proper formula. Now, I actually get involved in that process and I look at it - and Stephen Dinn in my office actually also gets involved in the process, together with the minister and her officials to make sure it has been properly allocated. As you know, one thing that was brought to my attention this year, there had not been an allocation for your own district, and $1.5 million was allocated to your district and over $1 million to the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, and over $1 million to the Member for Port de Grave. I understand Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi does not require any roadwork. So we are trying to be very, very fair in our allocation.
Which is all very interesting. What is "fair and proper"? Are there written guidelines anywhere which would give guidance on these terms? And how do you square these rather subjective "fair and proper" adjectives with ODP's pre-election promise which referred to the somewhat more quantifiable "needs" and "priority"?

Williams to address infrastructure needs under a new priority-based plan

Gander, October 2, 2003 - Progressive Conservative Party Leader and Humber West incumbent candidate Danny Williams says deteriorating or unfinished infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, will be brought up to an acceptable standard under a new priority-based plan that his government will implement if elected.


"... Our approach will be to identify what needs to be done, to prioritize projects based on their contribution to economic development - not political expediency and patronage as under the present government - and get on with their development as early as possible."

Another promise bites the dust. Which makes the "side issue", as Danny called it, of Rideout's full-court press for more municipal funding in his district, all the more interestinger.

As Dave Bartlett reported in Friday's Telegram:
Denine said he had a heated discussion with Rideout over multi-year capital works projects in Springdale.

"Yes, we did have a discussion. It wasn't a very pleasant discussion I might add," said Denine who said Rideout felt Springdale wasn't getting enough.

After that conversation Denine gave the town an extra $875,000.
And as Minister Denine explained in the House on Thursday:
When the money is dealt with in multi-year capital works, it is not done to a district. It is done to a municipality. In terms of the municipality, there could be one or two in each municipality and it is done to the municipality.

So, after the discussion - a very heated discussion we had, a very aggressive discussion - there was $875,000 given over three years. So, it is roughly around $250,000 per year.
But you see, the thing is: the Provincial Roads Improvement Program is a lot like the municipal multi-year capital works program.

It isn't "done to" districts. It is done to roads.

Roads which, of necessity, are in districts; roads which, if you suspend disbelief, just happen to tend to be in government-held districts more than opposition ones.


From the few details which have been teased out so far on the "side issue" involving Denine, it is very clear that municipal capital funding has been subject to the same kind of political and partisan pressures as roads funding. So, if Open and Accountable Government of Williams were to make available a full list of that funding for the past five fiscal years, what would a body find in perusing it?

As per Minister Denine, a body would not expect to find the same kind of district-by-district breakdowns that are old hat for PRIP, because the MCWP "is not done to a district".

Even though those district breakdowns don't exist, every municipality in the province falls into just one provincial electoral district, with the exception of a few larger urban and suburban cities and towns. If a body were to retroactively reconstruct a district breakdown, by manually sorting each MCWP grant by municipality and the district it happens to be in, that analysis would reveal no obvious partisan tendencies...



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