'It’s disgusting': Proposed budget prompts fractures, legal action among Regina city council
Members of Regina city council are disagreeing about a vote regarding plans to end homelessness, which has led to legal action by two councillors.
A motion to end homelessness was brought forward earlier this year by councillors Dan LeBlanc and Andrew Stevens. LeBlanc said in June, council voted in favour of including full operational funding to end homelessness in the proposed budget for 2023.
Those two councillors, along with a local advocate, have now filed a court application against city manager Niki Anderson saying administration did not follow through on that vote as the funding was not directly part of the proposed budget.
Coun. LeBlanc, who is acting as the lawyer on the case, said the wording in the motion was straight forward.
“It says ‘administration shall include, in the proposed budget, full operational funding,’” LeBlanc said.
“’Shall include in the proposed budget,’ I say, is clear. It doesn’t say ‘we’ll think about whether to include,’ it says ‘you will put that money in and then we, the elected people, will debate it later.’”
Mayor Sandra Masters said that’s not what they were voting on.
“All of council was supportive of the numbers coming forward from administration to be debated at budget. That’s what the support was. It was never anything more than that,” Masters said on Wednesday.
“We were not approving anything other than we were looking for the numbers to be included in the budget book and they have been,” she said.
Masters said that’s how she, and the majority of councillors, interpreted the June vote.
Administration included a separate item in the budget book highlighting the cost to end homelessness.
“I think there were multiple avenues open. I think it’s in the budget,” she said.
“Administration’s job is to give advice and advise on their recommendations to council and they did so.”
The motion, which was unanimously carried in the June 15 city council meeting, is worded as follows in the city’s meeting minutes:
“Councillor Dan LeBlanc moved, seconded by Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk that Administration be directed to include the following in the 2023 proposed budget:
1. Full operational funding to solve homelessness throughout the City using a housing first, supportive housing model. This draft funding to be clearly demarcated in a line item of its own.”
LeBlanc and Stevens are the only councillors involved in the legal action. LeBlanc said Stevens is included because his name was also on the original motion to end homelessness. LeBlanc said he did not ask any other councillors.
Ultimately, he said the city manager broke the law by not following the vote of elected officials.
“I was elected to do a certain job. I can only do that job through voting. If the votes we make aren’t respected, I actually think I have a democratic responsibility to make sure I can do that job,” he said.
“In this case, embarrassingly, shamefully, that means we need to go to court to get a judge to say, ‘Democracy wins. The elected people get the final say. Unelected city managers don’t.’”
The mayor said the legal action is unnecessary.
“If you’re asking me as the head of council, it would be clearly a court application and a matter of court. If you’re asking me personally, I think it’s disgusting,” Masters said.
“For the first female city manager, there’s tones of sexism in it.”
She also questioned the ethics behind two members of council who are party to a council motion representing it legally.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, LeBlanc said there was an obvious tension felt among council.
“It is a little awkward. It’s like the worst family dinner you’ve ever been to,” he told reporters.
“There’s not a lot of eye contact going on.”
City manager Niki Anderson, who took over the role in September, has not commented publicly on the matter.
On Thursday, the City of Regina said it would not be commenting further on the matter as it is before the courts.
The matter is expected to go to court on Tuesday.
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