They’re back

Big red num­bers cel­e­brat­ing the year are back in Char­lot­te­town

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERESA WRIGHT twright@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/GuardianTeresa

The big red num­bers are back on the Char­lot­te­town wa­ter­front.

The gi­ant dig­its cel­e­brat­ing the cal­en­dar year were brought in last year as part of the 2014 cel­e­bra­tions mark­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of the Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence.

Down­town Char­lot­te­town Inc. (DCI) has brought them back, up­dated to the cur­rent year.

“The num­bers were such an at­trac­tion last year, they were a des­ti­na­tion for so many groups cel­e­brat­ing oc­ca­sions for this fab­u­lous photo and they were another rea­son to come down­town,” says Dawn Alan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Down­town Char­lot­te­town Inc.

The pro­vin­cial crown cor­po­ra­tion P.E.I. 2014 Inc. told The Guardian last year it paid $50,000 for two of the dig­its in last year’s ‘2014’ dis­play. It part­nered on a ten­der with Parks Canada, which has a sim­i­lar dis­play of gi­ant red num­bers next to Province House de­pict­ing the year 1864 – the year of the Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence.

The two gov­ern­ment agen­cies got the idea from a struc­ture built in Hal­i­fax to com­mem­o­rate the War of 1812, and bor­rowed the Hal­i­fax num­bers to help make the ‘1864’ and ‘2014’ struc­tures.

Alan said Down­town Char­lot­te­town Inc. paid for the one new digit to up­date it for the new year. She would not say how much it cost, only that it was “much, much cheaper” than costs shoul­dered by P.E.I. 2014 Inc.

She says DCI wants to use this as a count­down to the coun­try’s 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions in 2017, and hopes to up­date the struc­ture ev­ery year un­til then.

Down­town Char­lot­te­town Inc. is a pri­vately funded not­for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that op­er­ates with a levy from prop­erty own­ers and busi­nesses.

Alan says no taxpayers’ money is used in any­thing done by her or­ga­ni­za­tion. not go­ing to feel the ex­tra pinch.

That’s be­cause the ex­tra money is com­ing out of a part of the bud­get the city uses to pay for un­ex­pected ex­penses.

“In the bud­get that was passed by coun­cil (in March) there was a line item that was re­ferred to as ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­penses,’’ Lee said.

The line item he refers to shows up as “Re­serve for Ex­tra­or­di­nary’’ and that bank ac­count is ex­pected to have $1,012,844 in it this year. Lee says that $30,000 will come out of that ac­count and will not re­sult in a re­duc­tion any­where else.

Lee said money in that ac­count is used for things such as ex­tra money it has to dole out in ne­go­ti­a­tions with its union em­ploy­ees.

“Sev­eral of our con­tracts had ex­pired sev­eral years ago and we’ve been putting money aside for those con­tracts for the day when the con­tracts were rene­go­ti­ated so it wouldn’t be an un­bud­geted ex­pen­di­ture.’’

Coun­cil voted last week to ac­cept a re­port pre­pared by for­mer Hal­i­fax mayor Peter Kelly on com­pen­sa­tion. It will see the mayor’s salary jump 12 per cent, deputy mayor’s salary go up 18 per cent and a coun­cil­lor’s salary jump 22 per cent.

Kevin Lacey, At­lantic Canada di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Taxpayers Fed­er­a­tion, says coun­cil­lors should not be mak­ing de­ci­sion that af­fect their own pay.

“This process . . . should be de­ter­mined by the taxpayers who pay for them, not by out­side ex­perts, by con­sul­tants, or by for­mer may­ors from other cities,’’ Lacey said.

“The best way to de­politi­cize this process is for city coun­cil to set up an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion of reg­u­lar tax­pay­ing peo­ple in their com­mu­ni­ties who would de­ter­mine how much a city coun­cil­lor would be paid, and what the to­tal com­pen­sa­tion should be.’’

Such a process has been used in Bri­tish Columbia, one which awarded politi­cians a mod­est in­crease but cut back on perks.

“Vot­ers and taxpayers are smart. We want to have good com­pen­sa­tion for our elected of­fi­cials that is fair. Taxpayers un­der­stand the com­mu­nity that coun­cil­lors are op­er­at­ing in.’’

Lacey noted that dur­ing Kelly’s ten­ure as Hal­i­fax mayor, coun­cil salaries jumped from ap­prox­i­mately $52,000 in 2004 to $72,000 in 2012.

“He also had a big in­crease dur­ing his time as mayor. Cu­ri­ous choice for Char­lot­te­town to have him write the re­port.’’

Lacey said de­spite the pay hike peo­ple don’t get into mu­nic­i­pal pol­i­tics for the money.

“One of the worst ar­gu­ments I’ve heard for in­crease pay and ben­e­fits for politi­cians is that you get bet­ter pay and peo­ple. There is no ev­i­dence that pay has any­thing to do with the qual­ity of politi­cian you get.’’

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Eliott Quirion-de Pol, left, Lili-Rose Quirion-de Pol, Leonard Quirion-de Pol, Louna Cloutier-Nunes, and Maira Cloutier, vis­it­ing Prince Ed­ward Is­land from Que­bec, take a mo­ment to play on the #5 at the 2015 sig­nage out­side of Founder’s Hall in Char­lot­te­town Mon­day.

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