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Jay GoldbergCharlottetown taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners by out-of-control city officials and government bureaucrats. After years of abuse, it’s time for Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King to shine a light on this sorry saga.

To understand the plight of Charlottetown taxpayers, consider this scenario.

Imagine you’re at your favourite restaurant. Although inflation might mean you’re tight on cash, you’ve decided to take your best friend out for breakfast for his birthday. You tell him to order anything on the menu as a treat to celebrate. When the waiter comes, your friend tells the waiter to bring him one of everything.

At the end of the meal, plenty of food is wasted and you’re stuck with a huge bill that you have to put on your credit card.

Most of us wouldn’t take that friend out for a meal again next year. But when your friend happens to be the government, you have little choice.

It turns out that Charlottetown has a lot of officials and staff who are just like that friend you took out for breakfast. When you give an inch, they take a mile.

In 2019, Charlottetown sent its mayor, city councillors, and several staff members to the Federation of Municipalities Conference. While there, most of them didn’t bill taxpayers for three meals a day, as one might expect. At least 10 elected officials and staff billed taxpayers for between five and six meals per day.

Although the cost of the ticket covered two meals and snacks per day for every attendee at the conference, Charlottetown’s delegation still managed to rack up nearly $9,000 in extra meal expenses over just five days.

If conference attendees were really eating six meals per day, we can only hope that they all brought some heartburn and acid reflux pills.

Taxpayers were also billed for nearly $500 in alcohol expenses, even though city policy explicitly says alcohol expenses should not be reimbursed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. City officials and staff have a long history of flagrantly abusing taxpayer dollars. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Documents obtained by CBC News show that there have been ongoing concerns with Charlottetown’s financial records for years.

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Documents from the city’s accountants clearly show that there has been “generally poor financial management relating to purchasing and accounting procedures.”

The documents also show that concerns about the city’s spending practices weren’t properly relayed to those in positions of authority, such as the city’s comptroller.

The financial mess at Charlottetown’s city hall is beginning to garner attention at the legislature.

The Opposition is rightly demanding that the Premier and his communities minister, Jamie Fox, take action and launch a full review of the city’s spending practices.

“It’s pretty clear that the province should be stepping in,” said Opposition MLA Steve Howard.

Howard is right. After years of abuse of taxpayer dollars in Charlottetown, someone has to begin cleaning up city hall.

Documents show that provincial bureaucrats have been concerned about the city of Charlottetown’s financial management since at least January of 2020. Yet, the King government hasn’t taken adequate steps to address those concerns.

The communities minister says an outside legal review of Charlottetown’s spending practices revealed no violations of the Municipal Governance Act. If that’s true, it’s hard not to think that whoever was conducting the legal review had a blindfold on.

Even so, an outside legal review with findings not relayed to the public simply isn’t sufficient. Charlottetown taxpayers deserve a full provincial review with findings shared for all to see.

It’s time for the King government to step up to the plate and defend Charlottetown taxpayers, who have been taken advantage of by local government for far too long.

Jay Goldberg is the Ontario & Interim Atlantic Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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