A judge dismissed a case against Regina City Manager Niki Anderson on Wednesday.
City council agreed in June to $24 million in funding to end homelessness in Regina. But when the city unveiled its proposed 2023/2024 budget, homelessness funding was excluded.
Two city councillors took Anderson to court over the exclusion, asking the judge to order the funding be included in the proposed budget.
In a 38-page judgement, Justice J.P. Morrall ruled that the court must be wary of getting involved in political machinations and debates between members of municipal, provincial or federal decision-making bodies.
He said the aggrieved councillors have full use of the democratic process and can input the line item in the final budget if a majority of the council agrees.
On the issue raised, he stated that Anderson, in her capacity as city manager, complied with any legal duty that she may have owed to council.
Also, the judge ruled Anderson’s decision not to include the projected costs to “solve homelessness” in the proposed budget was a discretionary decision and exercised in good faith, based on relevant considerations, including the financial health of the city.
In response, the lawyer for the applicant — who is also a city councillor — Daniel LeBlanc said although the decision is legal, it may have some negative implications on democracy.
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“I think there are some negative involvements for the way we do our democratic government, but then again, legally the decision is taken, and I will say it is legally correct. It’s just unfortunate that’s what the law is with city mangers,” says LeBlanc.
Anderson’s lawyer, Milad Alishahi, says he is satisfied and pleased with the decision and says he is glad his client has been vindicated.
“I am very pleased with the decision of the court, and I believe it is entirely correct,” said Alishahi.
On Nov. 23, 2022, an application was filed asking the court to compel the city manager to include the estimated $24 million to end homelessness in the proposed budget.
The applicants had argued the city manager is in breach of section 8 of the city manager’s bylaw, which states that the city manager must take direction from the elected members of council.
He adds that the case is not about homelessness but the democratic principle that allows the city manager to act with discretion.
In response, the counsel for the respondent, Alishahi, argued that the matter before the court was more political than legal, and the legislature should not use the judiciary as a weapon.
He argued the city manager — who was only three weeks into the job — was not in breach of the city’s bylaw, as her failure to include the budget for homelessness does not impede any member of council from performing their duties.
Additionally, he argued the city manager has a duty to the council, not the public. He asked that the case be dismissed.
The proposed budget is being debated at City Hall this week.
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