the NOT knot

Oh the power of the written word. In an era where publishers, booksellers and book distributors are going bankrupt left right and centre, one teeny tiny written word inserted into a government document – by hand – has put a giant black mark on our elected officials. Who says the written word is out of fashion? Seems more powerful than ever, if you ask me.

^ NOT!

While the perilous plight of the publisher is one that is of great personal concern to me as I recently started a publishing company, it’s not the main focus of this post.

What is the main focus of this post is accountability for you and me. And I probably would have overlooked the whole thing had our Right Honourable Prime Minister not stood in the House of Commons today to state this:

Those are decisions that ministers have to make, that they have to be responsible for,” he said. “It is not the decision of appointed officials and it is not the entitlement of outside organizations.”

You mean to tell me that our PM honestly believes that appointed officials and outside organizations DON’T make the decisions on how to spend our tax dollars. I beg to differ. I really do. And the fact that it’s so vehemently denied, makes me even more suspicious.

The longer I’m in business, the more I realize that appointed officials and outside organization DO make those decisions. And I’m ever mindful of their ability to do so without, what I would call, the proper accountability. Maybe it’s just because it’s tax season or maybe I’m just getting a grip on reality but lately I’ve been paying attention to things that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Not to worry, I won’t be joining the Tea Party or donating money to the Fraser Institute anytime soon but I feel, as citizens and taxpayers, we’re far too complacent on how, exactly, our money is spent.

In my own defense, I will say this. I am happy to pay my fair share. It’s just that my share is getting a fair schwak bigger that I ever expected. We need education, health care, infrastructure and safety (but I will stop short of full blown defense) among other things. And I won’t be shy to put in a plug for a national publishing strategy or a micro business strategy. What’s a country without culture? What’s an economy without small business?

I can’t logically think in numbers that are outside my real life realm such as millions, billions, or in the case of the US budget, trillions, so I’ll reserve my comments for numbers I understand, hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands. Heck I’ll even go as far as hundreds of thousands – but after that, the mind boggles. At least it does for me.

Case in point. I recently paid my business license to the City of Salmon Arm. $200. Simple enough, yes? Not so much. I decided I’d like to know exactly what it was for. While the answers to my e-mails were polite and forthcoming and they were clear on why they spent it, it wasn’t terribly obvious on what they spent it on.  So more digging led me to learn that approximately $250,000 is collected on an annual basis from business licenses. Seems a bit hefty compared to the 100,000 ten year phased development agreement for the Smart Centres development, but I digress. The business license monies are disbursed to various groups, though again, the specifics are not terribly clear. The City’s annual report is available here:

Take a look for yourselves. I’m not judging if it’s money well spent because in some cases it is. Very well spent indeed. I’m just asking if you wonder, as I do, if it is well accounted for and transparent. Did you know this is how your taxpayers dollars are spent? I didn’t. And I was in for a few surprises. Especially in light of my PMs assertion that appointed officials and outside organizations aren’t making decisions on how to spend our money. Because like it or not, it is our money.

It’s becoming ever more clear to me that as taxpayers, we too have a big black X to make but it’s only our ballots. But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s enough. I’d sure like the chance to edit a document and add the NOT knot. I really would. I hope you would to.




3 Responses

  1. […] Posted on February 15, 2011 by Tim Lavery| Leave a comment Louise Wallace’s post the NOT knot (Feb. 15 2011) reflects on government accountability in words and the spending of tax dollars. Her […]

  2. […] Wallace’s post the NOT knot (Feb. 15 2011) reflects on government accountability in words and the spending of tax dollars. Her […]

  3. $ from the Gov seems so much easier to get than $ you earn in the real world. “Wo betide” the public official that doesnt spend every last cent of his/her budget by the end of March.The fact is that just about the last thing on the officials mind is reducing spending even though he/she knows that much is waste. I know Ive been there

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