South Peace News
High Prairie town councillors made no effort to help keep the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup Hockey Tournament in town, despite putting $35,000 into a discretionary fund in the 2023 budget, and thereby losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in business.
But most did agree to sponsor the town’s biggest event each year, the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo, at its March 28 meeting. (See full story on page 3).
In budget debate, each councillor was allotted a $5,000 discretionary fund to give away as they see fit. It was apparent the money was for each councillor to decide how to spend based on language used during the Elks debate.
“Each of us has $5,000,” said Councillor John Dunn. “I will commit $1,100.”
“I’ll throw in the other $1,100,” added Councillor James Waikle.
The question was put to Mayor Brian Panasiuk and the other four councillors (Donna Deynaka, Sacha Martens, Judy Stenhouse and Therese Yacyshyn) why they did not choose to consider sponsoring the Treaty 8 tournament, which is either the second or third biggest economic event in the town each year.
“Treaty 8 did not apply for a grant or sponsorship,” replied Panasiuk in an email.
“Council did approve administration to work with Treaty 8 on ice fees for the tournament,” he added.
However, the Town of High Prairie’s Policy No. 49-2012, Council Discretionary Funds Policy, does not mandate a request from the public as Panasiuk suggests.
“Each individual expenditure is subject to another authorizing process regardless of whether the expenditure is initiated by a council member or the administration,” reads the policy pulled from the Town’s website.
The language in the policy is further cemented that any councillor can initiate a donation later in the policy.
“Authorization from council shall be required before any individual discretionary council expenditure is made by a member of council or by the administration on behalf of council.”
Twice, the policy states a donation can be initiated by any member of council.
The question was again put to all members of council why they did not bring forward a request to sponsor Treaty 8. As of Sunday night, April 2 there was no reply.
The policy was put in place in Sept. 12, 2012 after the Harold Johnsrude Municipal Inspection Report. Included in the report was harsh criticism of council giving former Mayor Rick Dumont at discretionary $10,000 fund. Johnsrude suggested against such a fund after noting some money was used for golf passes and a donation to the University of Pandas hockey team, but added if council chose to have the fund to develop a policy to follow, which they did.
Stenhouse did reply after the first request, making it clear she was not representing council, only her opinion. She again stated she was against the fund. Repeated her stand for years, Stenhouse has favoured not taxing the people to create such funds, and that the people should decide which event they sponsor and where to spend their money.
“I have questioned, is this morally and ethically right? Are ratepayers aware that money collected on their municipal tax bill. . .is put into a donation fund?
“A repetitive statement has been made to me, ‘Who are you to collect my money and give to a charity of your choice. I can decide on my own which charity I so choose to support,’” she added.
Stenhouse added sponsorship and donation are to be awarded quarterly in January, April, July and October.
The Treaty 8 First Nations Cup was held in Slave Lake last weekend.
Over $32,000 is left in the fund for councillors to spend.