A meeting billed to unite “all frustrated Brandon taxpayers” organized by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation did not draw the masses that gathered at Brandon City Hall during the 2011-12 budget debate.
The five Brandon residents who showed up the meeting at the Royal Oak Inn was a far cry from the 90 people who protested a tax on tea during the 1773 Boston Tea Party, but one of the three people left by meeting’s end stiffened his resolve to keep trying to organize.
“Well, if all people do is complain, nothing is going to change,” said Peter Hamm, who has lived in Brandon for 35 years. “That’s a given. But if we have three or four people here, we would at least need to have another meeting and how it may be publicized, I don’t know.”
Hamm said a local taxpayers watchdog would not work unless there were 10-15 people at a meeting to organize, with seven of them taking on senior roles.
“I’m a taxpayer and I have a right to speak to the issues,” Hamm said. “If I don’t speak up, who will?
“You just have to do something. That’s why I wasn’t coming to become chairman of a group, but I am happy to get involved because you have to start somewhere.”
The meeting’s attendance, which reached 10 once media and organizers were included, was less than hoped for, but Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairies director Colin Craig said if those three connect with more concerned citizens, there is potential to grow the group into an organization.
“We are a non-profit group and what we push for is for governments to be more responsible with money and we regularly investigate what’s going on to bring issues to light,” Craig said. “We push politicians to make changes by bringing issues to light.”
Craig asked the group what kind of transparency and oversight they wanted to see out of Brandon’s municipal government.
“We have limited resources and there are 4,000 municipalities in Canada, and it’s simply impossible for our staff to sit and go through each municipal budget,” Craig said.
“What we try to do is work with individuals at the local level who are interested in watchdogging their own city council. If they get a group off the ground or if we help them get off the ground, we’ll assist them by showing them what to look for in budgets.”