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Incentive program quashed by committee

City report says it would result in minimal benefit; man who recommended program says report got it wrong

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s a plan with good intentions, but when it comes to a municipal budget, good intentioned plans are sometimes not cost effective, according to Oshawa’s corporate services committee.

A suggestion to implement an employee and citizen incentive program, which would reward people for their thoughts and ideas, was turned down by committee members when it was found few municipalities still use such programs, and they are simply not cost effective.

The plans function by providing a mechanism for city staff and residents to submit ideas on ways to improve the municipality.

If the idea is accepted and implemented, the submitter is rewarded in some fashion.

However, in their report, city staff claim of the 36 municipalities surveyed, few actually use such programs.

Pickering, Sudbury, Newmarket and Windsor each indicated they use such programs for their employees to submit ideas.

Implementing such a program in Oshawa, it was found, would be met with issues.

“Implementation of a formal program would have significant administrative overhead and result in minimal, if any, benefit over and above what we already do,” the staff report reads.

The message was reiterated by Jackie Long, the city’s interim commissioner of corporate services, who said one of the big issues is finding methods of which to quantify the suggestions.

“The challenge with programs like that is the underlying ways of measuring things,” she said, referring to the trouble of tracking a person’s suggestion and quantifying a reward if that suggestion is ever implemented.

It was this problem that Councillor Nancy Diamond pointed to, claiming such a program would take up too much staff time.

“We have to consider overall, for the community, the cost and the return,” she said.

The idea for a such a program in Oshawa came from resident Greg Milosh in a delegation earlier this year.

In an emailed statement to The Oshawa Express, Milosh took issue with several facets of the staff report, claiming staff missed the crux of his initial delegation.

Milosh says his aim was for a program to deal with “big ideas” to benefit all Oshawa residents.

He also states the report exaggerates the cost of implementing such a program.

“The idea that the cost of financial awards would be borne by all taxpayers is absurd and a total distortion of reality,” he says.

“Any one-time award would be massively offset by years of cost savings.”

The recommendation to not implement such a program passed through committee, with Councillor John Neal opposed.