Calgary city council approves $25,000 in aid for Haiti in close vote

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Calgary city council voted eight to seven to donate $25,000 towards repairing infrastructure in Haiti, which suffered severe damage in a hurricane last fall.

The idea, which was proposed by Coun. Brian Pincott, left council sharply divided. It voted eight to seven in favour of Pincott's motion.

Last fall, Pincott had suggested Calgary could put $100,000 towards a program that's overseen in Haiti by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to help after Hurricane Matthew killed at least 1,000 people and sent cholera gallooping through rural communities lacking clean water, food and shelter.

However, Pincott dialled back his request to $25,000.

Pincott said a number of smaller communities in Canada have already donated money and Calgary should join them.

"It changes people's perceptions of who we are. It says, 'Wow, Calgary's a great place. Wow, look at what they did.' So I want to be selfless. I want to be compassionate. I want to be sharing and giving," said Pincott.

Not everyone likes idea

Other councillors agreed with Pincott's idea to put in the smaller amount of money.

"I can't imagine why we would say no. We can't do everything but the things that we're doing, let's do them right," said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, indicating he backed the proposal.

Other councillors were more critical. Coun. Andre Chabot called it a tough one because while the needs are great, such a donation is beyond the city's mandate.

"Foreign aid not a municipal responsibility," said Chabot. "It just goes to the whole argument of: why is it we're taking on financial responsibility for something that's ultimately not our responsibility?"

Pincott has no problem with questions

Pincott said he's pleased with council's decision — even if he was expecting some tough questions about whether this is a good use for city tax dollars.

"Out of this, hopefully, we will have a broader discussion and try to put some policy in place. But disasters and the need to respond don't wait for policies," said Pincott.

The veteran councillor, who announced earlier this year he wil not be seeking re-election this fall, said he plans to make a $500 donation himself to the cause.

He suggests anyone else thinking of making a donation can get in touch with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Although such donations are not tax deductible, Pincott said 100 per cent of the money will go directly to work on the ground in Haiti.

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