No policy is the best policy. That was the conclusion of United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council when considering how to manage the new Cultural Fund.
In the 2023 budget, $50,000 per mayor was allocated for specific community projects. A draft Cultural Fund Policy was presented to council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 12. By the end of the lengthy discussion, the mayors and even the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) decided no policy was necessary.
Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux, who had initially suggested the creation of the Cultural Fund, said he did not want strict rules imposed on it.
“The overall program is to increase the positivity and wellbeing of our communities,” Leroux said.
There was confusion among the mayors about if the fund would be allocated to municipalities or directly to community organizations.
CAO Stéphane Parisien said when the UCPR contributes funds to organizations, an agreement is required, and the organization must provide a certificate of insurance for $5,000,000.
East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby said he would instead like Cultural Fund projects to be first approved by each municipal council.
“I would like it to be approved at the township first,” Kirby said.
Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth disagreed.
“Whatever we’re deciding, it happens here,” he remarked.
Treasurer Valérie Parisien said changes would be required to the UCPR’s procurement policy if cultural fund dollars were to go to organizations.
Leroux said projects such as splash pads that become municipal assets would have to go through municipal councils, but funding for third parties such as an Optimist Club would not. He noted most community organizations and service clubs already have insurance.
Treasurer Parisien emphasized measures are needed to protect the integrity of the municipal corporation and its finances.
“I do not need staff to put policies in place that would protect me from a political decision,” commented Leroux.
Casselman Mayor Geneviève Lajoie said applications to the Cultural Fund should not be limited to one per year and suggested UCPR council decide on how funds are to be distributed without using the weighted vote system.
“Madame Lajoie, you’re totally off the track,” interjected Warden Normand Riopel.
“This is not the way that $50,000 is going. I think you’re going to impose too much administration work. This is you bringing your project to counties, to this table, if you have 50 ways to spend the $50,000, that’s your choice, bring it here. Council will approve it, they’ll cut you one cheque of $50,000, you do whatever you want with it,” Riopel said.
“But that’s what they said in the policy,” responded Lajoie.
“The policy is going to be rewritten!” retorted Riopel.
CAO Parisien suggested instead letting council decide how the fund will be spent rather than having a formal policy.
Leroux agreed. “Let’s start bringing our ideas to the table and see where it goes,” he said.
CAO Parisien said council could also decide to allow for unused amounts in the Cultural Fund to be carried over to the next year.
“And I’m not writing a policy,” he commented.