Winnipeg mayor has $500,000 fund to spend how he wants

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Imagine being a politician and having a $500,000 slush-fund to spend as you wish.

Apparently, that's one of the perks of being the mayor of Winnipeg.

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According to CBC News, Mayor Sam Katz s is the only "big-city mayor in Canada to have $500,000 in taxpayers money to spend in the community however he wants."

"The account, which has existed in various forms over the past 20 years, does not appear to come with any formal rules on how the money is spent. It's up to the mayor's office to decide what gets funded.

Winnipeg city councillors also have some freedom in terms of how they spend their discretionary allowances, which are growing this year to almost $120,000 per councillor — an increase of about $40,000."

Katz must disclose his disbursements, and CBC has posted his 2012 financial statements on their website. It seems that most expenses are on the up-an-up: the list includes gift baskets, flowers and sponsorship of various charity events. He also recently announced that he would spend $200,000 of the fund to re-open a swimming pool.

But there's also a 'line-item' for $2,033.32 for pair of season tickets for the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was an expense that caught the attention of the Winnipeg Free Press last April.

"The mayor said his office has season tickets to the Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Goldeyes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He said he personally attends some games, councillors attend some games, and other times, the office donates tickets in support of charities or children's groups."

The Free Press, however, spoke to representatives from the premier's office, the prime minister's office and even Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's office who all said that those senior politicians pay for event tickets themselves.

Certainly, a couple thousand dollars for sporting events isn't a big deal. But it does raise questions about the appropriateness of this $500,000 fund.

What's to stop this mayor or future mayors using these monies for personal benefit? How can we be certain that the mayor isn't using the fund to reward campaign donors or voting groups?

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Colin Craig from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says there needs to be some oversight.

"Both the mayor and council have slush funds at their discretion. However, there seems to be less scrutiny over the mayor's fund," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"It's a fund that has been around for years, but it makes sense to bring more scrutiny over the fund or eliminating it all together."

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