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Opinion: City should assist families and businesses whose income is stopped cold during this period

'There is no good reason why taxpayers should be forced to pay wages for services that are not required or essential'
20180724 north bay city hall sign turl
North Bay City Hall

By Don Rennick, North Bay.

Apparently, the city has an Emergency Operations Control Group in place that has made a decision that all the full-time city employees supported by taxpayer dollars are essential employees.

This pandemic clearly requires measures to ensure that the spread of the virus is checked and also addresses the financial devastation that people and businesses will suffer as a result of the Covid-19 virus.

The methods to check the spread are being put in place by provincial and federal governments. And while they are also initiating measures to reduce the financial effects of the massive layoffs and business closures, municipalities can do their part. Thunder Bay, Whitby, Medicine Hat, Grand Prairie, and other Canadian towns and cities have initiated layoffs of municipal employees.

Our guardians have agreed that they should concentrate on the redeployment of workers to other duties. These other duties and the exact result of this deployment has not been spelled out.

Clearly, there are jobs at the City that are not essential during this crisis and one has to wonder what mindset would cause the delay of the one action that could accomplish both of the objectives required by this situation at the same time, namely, reducing personal contact among employees and reduce the tax liability to assist those families and businesses whose income has been stopped cold during this period.

There is no good reason why taxpayers should be forced to pay wages for services that are not required or essential. The average wage at city hall is over $100,000. Which city employees do they consider essential employees?

Is it the essential work that’s been piling up for the bylaw officer and his assistant? Or maybe it’s the essential work that guy they hired to count the tax money the hotels are collecting. He’s getting paid $67 thousand plus.

Is it the essential work those eight people who are running Invest North Bay in the Economic and Community Development departments? The payroll costs in those two departments alone are over $900,000 per year.

Is it the 23 employees in financial services where the average wage is over $100,000? That department is arguably overstaffed in ordinary times. Has this crisis suddenly made pushing paper around essential?

Is it the essential work the communications officer is doing? We realize the Mayor is using that buffer while busy updating his status on Facebook and tweeting but that doesn’t make the work essential.

Maybe it’s essential work being done by the 13 people in the IT department which has a $1.4 million annual payroll. With no one in the building, one wonders where the essential work would be coming from.

What about the seven employees in the customer service department? The building is closed to the public for heaven’s sake.

Tell those people who have been laid off or who have had to close their businesses because of the virus situation which essential services you are delivering. Tell those small business owners who may never recover from this shock that you’re redeploying many of your employees.

This type of non-response from the Mayor is more or less what citizens have become accustomed to.

Circle the wagons; protect city administration instead of citizens at large. Take your time; it’s not like this is a real crisis or anything. Discuss it among yourselves. Wait two or three months and then call an emergency meeting of council to make some meaningless gesture like foregoing penalty interest charges on late payments.

D. D. Rennick