That was the message from Taber town council following a discussion on a request from the Taber Kiwanis Club to purchase spray park equipment with Kiwanis money in a scheme to get a GST rebate on $183,500. In the end, council decided to forego purchasing the equipment themselves and instead will be sending a grant to the club for the equivalent of the GST rebate.
During the discussion, council was advised against purchasing the equipment by administration.
“One of the things we are always trying to reinforce is that we want to always try and follow our policies and procedures as closely as we can,” said Dale Culler, director of corporate services. “Council has the authority to say, ‘yes, we authorize the purchase’.”
“We’re not advising that.”
Chief Administrative Officer Greg Birch agreed.
“We don’t think you should do this because it’s setting up a spurious action to get the GST back,” he said. “Nothing happened that suggests we should get the GST back. We didn’t buy this equipment.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas said the discussions had been going on about this for some time, and that he was in favour of council moving forward with the purchase of the equipment in order to get back the GST rebate.
“I’m in favour of council going down that road,” said Strojwas.
“The only way that CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) will be in support of it, is if the town authorizes the entire purchase,” replied Culler.
“The invoice must come to the town from the supplier.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux said purchasing the equipment through the town would be an action running outside the scope of both provincial and municipal policy.
“I strongly oppose us purchasing the equipment,” she said. “We have policies and procedures in place for a reason.”
Ross-Giroux also said the town would be ignoring the tendering process by simply purchasing the equipment, a violation of the New West Partnership Trade Agreement.
“I think we just need to leave it alone,” she said.
Culler said an alternative could be for the town to authorize a donation to the Kiwanis Club for the same amount that the GST rebate would have been, that was something council could look at as well.
“You’d be taking that out of your own money,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to get that back.”
“You would have contributed an equal amount to the project, but you haven’t concocted this story to get the GST back,” said Birch. “But it’s completely up to council.”
Coun. Rick Popadynetz asked if an amount of money awarded to Kiwanis equivalent to the GST rebate might not be held in trust by the town against future projects.
“If council wants to give a donation, they can structure it however they choose to,” replied Culler.
“Whatever you want to do, we can make it happen,” said Birch.
Coun. Randy Sparks said he did not want to create a situation which made administration uncomfortable, something which would happen if the town purchased the equipment after the fact rather than prior to the fact.
“I would be much more in favour of staying right out of this and making a donation,” he said.
“I think it’s a safer way, and it’s the best way. We need to be above board on this, and not be sneaky whatsoever.”
Strojwas said no government was involved in the building of the park, and the work of companies and volunteers needed to be considered in the decision.
“We’ve been talking about this since last spring,” he said. “I’m totally for this.”
Strojwas than made a motion that council approve the purchase of the spray park equipment, funded with a conditional grant from the Kiwanis Club so that the GST rebate could be claimed.
The motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote, however, when only Mayor Henk De Vlieger, Coun. Jack Brewin, and Strojwas voted for it.
Following the defeat, Sparks made a motion for council to approve a grant to the Taber Kiwanis Club in the amount of the GST on the spray park equipment, estimated to be $9,175, to be spent as the club sees fit. The motion passed with Strojwas voting against.