There’s little to quibble about in the Town of Sidney’s agreement with the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre to put up $50,000 in a contingency — just in case the aquarium runs into financial difficulty in between the current term of council and the election in November.
After all, it would be foolish to begrudge a well-regarded local amenity some comfort space — an attraction that brings in around 100,000 visitors every year.
Both sides in the agreement have said it’s unlikely that the Centre will have to dip into that cash, as they are having a busy summer and still have a decent reserve account. It’s from this account the aquarium has been using to balance the books in each of its five years since it opened. So, yes, as the Centre changes its business model to find new sources of funds, most people in Sidney would hope there’s a bit of a safety net during a transition to a new council.
Where the current council’s opponents will quibble this fall, is on how the Town and Centre reached their agreement — behind closed doors. And they have a valid point.
It’s a decision on $50,000 of taxpayers’ money and should have been made in public. On the surface, nothing about the deal reveals the secret interests of either organization, their workforce or the land they sit on.
Does the community support the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre? We think they do. So it’s odd that this would not be made public sooner.
It walks current councillors running this fall into a debate on the issue with its opponents in the election. And for those opponents who are crying foul, if they go too far and critique more than council’s record on in-camera meetings, they risk alienating themselves.
Few stand to win if that’s the approach in November.