July 23rd, 2024

What is the actual point of a fee-for-service review?

By Lethbridge Herald on June 28, 2024.


People have this amazing ability to solve problems, whether human-created or of natural origin. Problems are easy to identify as they tend to cause us pain or discomfort, making solutions valuable. This instinct to act decisively can be used to our detriment, however. 

The term “red herring” originated from historic use of the fish to make hounds lose their scent while hunting.   In modern times this now refers to information that may be misleading or distracting.   Politicians seem particularly well-versed in the use of this artifice to divert our attention away from where we should be focused.   

Over the past couple of years, the fair City of Lethbridge has seen more than its share of problems, both real and perceived.  

It seems almost weekly another issue explodes into the public domain from transit and waste management to snow clearing and road maintenance, growing concerns over crime, public safety, costly vanity projects such as the Agri-Food Hub money pit, infrastructure shortfalls such as waterworks, and an airport nobody seems quite sure what to do with.Perhaps we should focus our attention elsewhere.  

So when politicians present us with a purported problem that urgently needs to be addressed, we must pay very close attention.  

On the surface, what could be more reasonable than a review by the stewards of the public purse with regards to public funds with an Official Business Motion calling for a fee-for-service cost-benefit analysis of Economic Development Lethbridge and Tourism Lethbridge?   

A matter of significance surely deserves a closer look.  First off, what exactly is the problem this motion serves to address? 

 There are no allegations of impropriety so calling for an “investigation” seems unnecessarily inflammatory. Given the fact these organizations are regularly audited, and reports given to council on a timely basis, where is the cost-benefit analysis of spending $135,000 of taxpayers hard-earned dollars. This act of apparent self-contradiction alone should be making our spidey senses tingle.

But wait, there’s more. 

In a moment of unintended candidness, clues as to the motivations for this Official Business Motion are sitting there for discovery inside the resolutions.  

For example, what does a positive cost-benefit look like?  Would one dollar of net benefit suffice or would one million dollars be sufficient? Likely there is in fact no net benefit whatsoever that would be adequate to deter the administration if the other resolutions are placed into context.  

The public should question the argument for an unfounded cost-benefit analysis which fails to give credit for the social and other benefits of economic development across the broad swath of industries served.  

That the City undertakes no such beneficial reviews of its own operations is quite telling as a financial audit only tells us if the numbers add up, not whether there was fair value-for-money received. 

Taxpayers might be concerned when it is resolved that the City Manager undertake a review to determine if the public interest would be best served in by continuing with the existing arrangements or considering other models for the delivery of such services. What other models might those be?    

Our elected representatives should be forthright and provide relevant terms of references outlining exactly what a successful review is. 

 Would that be one where the status quo is maintained? Or more likely is it one where an outcome has been predetermined and more full-time equivalent employees destined to fill all those empty desks sitting at City Hall?   

Without full transparency accompanying this motion, taxpayers may well be forgiven if they are picking up the smell of something fishy.  Capers, anyone?   

Dale Leier


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Your comment(s) in my opinion, are good-bad however insightful.

I absolutely agree with your critical analysis of the history of “money pit” ill gotten ventures our City has undertaken of late (Agri-Food Hub, Airport, Enmax, Bike Lanes, Recycling, Fort Whoop up etc.) There seems to be this unrelenting position that “The City knows best” and NEEDS to be in control and manage everything and this at the great expense and on the shoulders of the tax payers. Factually, the City does not know best, but as the old expression, “You can’t fight City Hall”. Those who have attemped to challenge City Hall/Administration are up against a brick wall. Private enterprise suffers, even well meaning Council Members have thrown in the towel and major investors and corporations turn away. The City/Administration are Hell bent being the ‘Saviour of all and master of none”. Now, this is where I disagree with your comment regarding “full transparency” yes, it would be fantastic…..but it will never happen, NEVER! The City operates in mysterious ways, who will admit to pulling the strings of the puppets therein? That’s right, no one! Our previous Mayor can be chalked up high with his insistence and alignment with a the NDP and “Me” “Myself” and “I”, thankfully his stint in office ended. But as far as “transparency” goes, it ain’t gonna happen..too many “in camera sessions” cover ups and diversions (your “red herring” analagy). It will go on and on and on, it is perpetual, “spend more, tax more”.

Did you witness the latest road work (paving) of University Drive? Firstly why did two blocks of one side of the roadway take so flippin long, and was scheduled right at the time of year end for University and schools creating ridiculous bottlenecks? Well guess what, this project was a “City of Lethbridge” crew, who, of course, can “do it better”. Had the work been contracted out to professional roadworks “private enterprise”, we would have had the work completed quickly with the result of a quality, smooth road….. take a drive down the road now after the City did the job, dips, bumps, uneveness, what else can you expect from a crew with little experience? On the otherhand the City investment in the expensive paving equipment is another money pit requiring huge maintenance/upkeep and eventual replacement.

Thanks for your enlighting comments Dale, will they fall on deaf ears and blind eyes? Hopefully not.

Last edited 24 days ago by HaroldP

Seems as though some of these programs are started with the best intentions, although there seems to be the political motivations front and center. Clear and measurable analysis appears to be missing from the beginning. And if clear hard facts are realistically looked at,who has the will or backbone to do anything about it? I know lawsuits have cost the taxpayers with issues with some of these types of programs.

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