With interest I am following the conversation about the taking over of the former Kemptville College property and the intentions to turn it into a public business operation.
The enthusiasm on the part of the municipal government, to turn this economic loss to the community into a profitable benefit, is attractive. The steps, some of which have been made public over the last three years, show promising features. Although the initiative by council and staff are commendable, their set-up is deceptive. The mayor’s response to Ralph Raina’s proposal demonstrates that.
When a citizen enters into business, he/she takes a huge risk. It takes a marketable idea, concept, product, or service. Add initiative, training, and capital. Add facility, administration, hiring etc. If, for any reason, any of these parts don’t add up and the business fails, the owner is the only one to be responsible for the loss.
The mayor, council and the staff are going to run the “college” business at arm’s length from municipal responsibility they have been elected and hired to run fulltime. In spite of BDO, the world renowned specialists’ advice, in case of failure they have already been paid and cannot be found to share the loss.
The arm’s length business failure will come back solely to the municipality. Meanwhile, the mayor and council have been replaced, the CAO has moved on; however, the taxpayer is still here. If there is justification for the municipality to run the ‘college’ business, the least it needs to do is get a community vote of support and confidence. That requires that all the cards come on the table, just as Raina proposes, before we are ‘on the hook’.
This is a big project, and a previous municipal government worked out a public/ private partnership on another local project which is still functioning. It would reduce risk to the public and raise the possibility of success with experienced business people.
In general, governments are not meant to be in business. They are designed to manage public administration in an open society, with the input of those who elected them to the office of governing. Governments support business in the community with seed capital, providing opportunities for training, networking, preparing commercial and industrial land, providing infrastructure, and more.
In summary, the local initiative is to be commended, the set-up as proposed is unworkable, and irresponsible to the taxpayer.