Mark Arike: Grand grant announcements
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 24, 2018|
The provincial and federal governments have been handing out grants like candy lately. In recent months, The Highlander has become aware of a few local handouts. But what’s been most frustrating—and amusing—is the fact we haven’t been able to break the good news right away.
At a regular meeting in March, Dysart councillors passed a bylaw to receive $2.8 million from the province for the downtown wood heating project. The 54-page document outlines details about the grant and the project. It’s a public document and anyone can read it. But councillors and staff were unable to comment because the province hadn’t announced it, nor had they given Dysart permission to talk about it. We contacted the province shortly after the meeting and a representative promised details would be released “in the near future.” We waited for three weeks until it was made official by the proponents at an April 23 meeting.
More recently, the County of Haliburton learned its application to secure $180,000 in federal funding for flood mapping was successful. They took to Twitter to announce the news, so we followed up. A week after the post, planning director Charlsey White was unable to talk about the money from the feds, even though she could confirm the county is paying for half the project. White was as cooperative as possible given the restrictions. Once again, we gave the government a chance to comment on their major investments in Haliburton County. It took a couple days to hear back and all we were told by a media spokesperson was that they received our questions and would reply as soon as possible. We did hear back, a day after deadline—and yep, you guessed it—it wasn’t much of an answer. This time, a different spokesperson let us know that no prior investments from the National Disaster Mitigation Program have flowed into the county and they weren’t in a position to say if new investments would be spread around Ontario.
Really? Sounds like bureaucracy at its finest. I can understand why grant announcements are a big deal. They give political parties a chance to brag about all the good they are doing—with taxpayers’ money. They want to take the credit, and hopefully, win over voters in the next election.
But let’s not forget, it’s the staff within our local municipalities who put in the hard work and hours to apply for these grants in the first place. Without them identifying the opportunities and pursuing them, there wouldn’t be much to boast about.
If the feds and province want to broadcast the news, they need to do it in a timely manner before half the town already knows about it. Otherwise, let our local representatives do the talking. They are completely capable of speaking to the media. And, like we’ve already said, it’s our money the government is spending anyway.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.