Council votes to re-allocate anti-bullying funding
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Apr 24, 2014 06:00 am
A decision to re-allocate funding to support anti-bullying initiatives in Airdrie sparked a lively discussion among members of Airdrie City council and City staff on April 22.
Council voted in favour of combining $12,000 that had been budgeted for the PEACE Committee and $12,000 for communications into one lump sum of $24,000 and issuing an RFP (request for proposal) for a three-year period. Funding for 2015 and 2016 will be discussed at future budget deliberations for an organization to establish a set of anti-bullying initiatives.
Recently, concerns were raised with respect to the potential effectiveness of PEACE Committee. The PEACE Committee is made up of Community Links, City staff, RCMP and members of the Boys and Girls Club.
According to City a report, with the diversity of service providers, programs and initiatives, the working group would be in a conflict of interest position when it came to the distribution of funds ($12,000).
Furthermore, there was not enough funding to provide support to all the initiatives being proposed.
Airdrie Manager of Legislative Services Sharon Pollyck explained that by lumping the funds together, they would get the most bang for their buck, while having council establish a set of desired outcomes to be met by those responding to the RFP.
To date, no tickets have been issued in relation to the anti-bullying component of the City’s public behaviour bylaw. Concerns from some aldermen, including Alderman Candice Kolson was that there is simply not enough education on what the bylaw does.
“How are we letting people know what this bylaw does and how are we educating people on it?” asked Kolson. “We know from reports that students in grades 2 to 5 are the most important to reach so how are we getting out into the schools for these kids? We need to ensure that this RFP holds these third parties accountable to the bylaw.”
Anti-bullying advocate Mackenzie Murphy brought up similar questions during a public question period.
“I lobbied for this bylaw and I looked very closely at it because I want it to work, yet with all the media and attention that’s been brought on by this bylaw I’m still asked questions of what it is,” said Murphy. “With all due respect to council, I’m 14 (years old) it’s not really my job to go around spreading the word about what this (bylaw) means.”
Alderman Darrell Belyk agreed, saying there is a level of confusion surrounding the bylaw.
“I think we not only need to educate the public but educate council and the people who enforce this bylaw,” said Belyk. “I’ve spoken to (RCMP Community Resource Officer) Cst. Jason Curtis about this and even he has said he’s not quite sure how he would apply this bylaw. If the people who enforce it don’t really know how it works then it makes the bylaw null and void.”
Lynda Phelan, with the City’s Corporate Communications department noted the City was wise to include funding for third parties for counseling services and education.
“This isn’t just a one-source solution and we’ll have to look at a number of options, for example running a campaign to encourage kids that if they feel they’re being bullied to call the RCMP,” said Phelan.
Mayor Peter Brown said the $24,000 was still not enough money to cover every single base.
“We’d like to make sure that everything is covered but this just isn’t enough funding at this time, this is more so to get things moving in the right direction,” said Brown.
Pollyck echoed Brown’s statements.
“Hopefully with this $24,000 we can move forward and this will start to gain some traction,” said Pollyck. “This is a good avenue for us to make a good start in 2014.”
Alderman Fred Burley encouraged transparency with the RFP process.
“For transparency sake and so that everyone knows where this funding is going, I would like to see every budget item from those people who respond to this RFP,” said Burley.
Council voted unanimously in favour of re-allocating funding for the PEACE Committee and a communications plan to one lump sum of $24,000 and issuing an RFP for a three-year period.