In response to recent criticism, the former mayor of Fort Resolution said he and his council didn’t break the hamlet’s finances, and he has documents to back it up.
“There’s always been a deficit with the hamlet,” said Garry Bailey, who served a term as mayor before losing to current mayor Louis Balsillie in the hamlet’s 2017 election.
“That deficit has been there for over 20 years but we still had enough money to operate. And within our plan, we were climbing out of that deficit … We worked together and we worked within our means.”
On March 14, Balsillie put a post on Facebook saying the hamlet is broke and has had to lay off six people and close its youth centre.
“I came across all these problems when I took on this role and it may take two years before we get back on our feet,” wrote Balsillie.
Bailey provided sections of the hamlet’s 2016-17 audit stating that, overall, “the community’s financial position improved from the previous year.”
The audit includes what it calls “sustainability indicators,” which indicate whether a government can pay its bills, continue its services and programming, and pay its employees and creditors without taking on more debt or raising taxes.
This section of the audit shows a “healthy ratio” between net financial assets and total annual revenue, and that financial resources are on hand to finance future operations.
One area the audit explicitly warned about was the deficit in water and sewer. The audit recommended the hamlet write off old water and sewer debts that are considered uncollectable.
Bailey said he can’t speak to why the hamlet is now in such a bad position, though he admitted it’s never been in a particularly good one and said hamlets throughout the territory typically don’t get all the funding they need.
He said the hamlet can borrow money, however, to meet its obligations and then pay this back when its funding comes in. He also said he doesn’t think the hamlet’s current bidding process is choosing the most cost-effective options.
While Bailey wasn’t explicitly named in Balsillie’s post – no one was specifically named – he took issue with this comment and with others made by Balsillie saying that problems with the finances had been hidden from councillors.
Bailey said the councillors were part of creating a capital plan to get out of deficit and all saw the audit, which is public and obtainable at the hamlet office.
The hamlet also recently parted with a long-term senior administrative officer and a new, interim SAO has just been put in place.
Interim SAO Scotty Edgerton deferred questions on this matter to Balsillie, who declined to comment.
Bailey said rumours about his management have been circulating around the community since the post went up.
“I try to remain positive but I tell you, the slander that I’ve been getting – even from kids – saying, ‘The previous mayor left our community in dire needs, now the new mayor has to clean up his mess.’ It breaks my heart because I’ve been working for politics for the community here for over 20 years of my life.”
Bailey, who is currently president of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, said he’s proud of his term and his leadership in the hamlet as well as other councils, including the Metis Nation.
“I run a very healthy budget there. We never go into deficit. If I see trouble coming because Canada didn’t fund us accordingly, I stop what we’re doing.”
He said he also has a good track record from his years as president of the Fort Resolution Métis Council, before he took over the regional organization. He said he took it from an organization on the brink of collapse to one with a surplus, assets, and a healthy staff.
“I’m not in the business of running councils into deficit. Never been,” said Bailey.