Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts speaks at the B.C. Mayors Caucus meeting Friday in Penticton.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts speaks at the B.C. Mayors Caucus meeting Friday in Penticton.

Mayors target efficiency, not new pots of cash

Caucus issues call in Penticton for new deal with feds, province

  • May. 18, 2012 1:00 p.m.



B.C. mayors are demanding a new deal with senior governments to address the growing financial squeeze on their cities, but they deny they have their hands out for any new streams of cash.

Instead, they emerged Friday from the first B.C. Mayors Caucus in Penticton with a list of priorities they want addressed, from recognition of the rising pressure on cities to provide more service – often due to government downloading – to the need for more consistent and predictable long-term delivery of federal and provincial grants.

“We’re not asking for new money,” Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said. “We’re saying let’s use existing resources more efficiently and effectively.”

That may mean persuading the province or federal government to allocate more of what they collect in taxes to the cities, preferably through long-term agreements.

Too often, Watts said, cities have stepped up to cover off services that have been downloaded by Ottawa or Victoria without receiving any contributions.

Social service delivery is a particular mess, she said, adding there’s some duplication in what’s provided by both cities and senior governments, and service gaps in other areas.

Surrey has faced higher costs helping immigrants integrate.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said cities have also been pressed by the province to help provide social housing, usually by contributing land.

“Municipalities are saying ‘When did it become our responsibility to provide social housing?'” he said. “We need a clear delineation of our responsibilities.”

Cities have enough money to provide core services, Corrigan added.

“The problem is we’re obligated to take on so many other duties in trying to make our communities livable and safe.”

The manifesto released by 86 mayors does include some references to funding.

It says government downloading of services must be accompanied by a sustainable revenue source.

It also demands B.C.’s new Auditor General for Local Government probe not just the value for money in city budgets but also examine the question of government downloading.

“We’re saying that’s fine, fly at it,” Watts said of the municipal auditor, which many cities opposed last year.

“But you need to expand the mandate and look at the impact that downloading has had on municipal budgets.”

Watts said illogical government rules like inflexible requirements that projects include a green component – resulting in bike lanes sometimes being created in the north regardless of need – can waste money.

Also sought is an ongoing round table with the premier to discuss policy changes affecting cities, as well as another one that also includes federal representatives to discuss the need to replace aging civic infrastructure.

It’s not the first forum where cities have sought change – calls for a new deal have been a recurring feature of civic gatherings for years.

Despite the lack of traction, Watts said she’s optimistic reform can happen.

Watts is on the B.C. Mayors’ Caucus steering committee, along with counterparts from Port Coquitlam, Victoria, Smithers, Fort St. John, Cranbrook, Prince Rupert, Prince George and Penticton.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts speaks at the B.C. Mayors Caucus meeting Friday in Penticton. Szabo Photography

Sewage costs loom large for Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver’s need to replace its Lions Gate and Iona sewage treatment plants – at an expected cost of $1.4 billion – is a prime example of why funding reform is critical for cities, according to the region’s finance committee chair.

“We’re heading into a vaccuum on how to pay for this,” North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, adding there’s no commitment yet from Ottawa and Victoria to share in the capital costs.

Walton said cities’ share of total taxes paid in Canada has dwindled from a historic 30 per cent to just eight per cent, and property taxpayers are maxed out in their ability to pay more.

But one idea that has been quietly raised by a consultant to Metro Vancouver – creating a regional sales tax – is not one that is likely to fly, Walton said.

U.S. cities make extensive use of local sales taxes, but he said the province would not likely share that power.

Nor would it be a good idea, he said, noting American communities end up undercutting each other to try to lure shoppers.

“It creates a tremendous amount of not necessarily healthy competition between communities,” Walton said. “I think sales tax is best left provincial.”

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said there was a clear acceptance in Penticton that taxpayers aren’t prepared to pay anything more.

“There’s no other easy option for revenue,” he said. “So we have to go toe-to-toe with the other levels of government to get a reapportionment of what they collect.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police seized two fake guns and a knife on Saturday along Gladys Avenue in east Abbotsford.
Man arrested in Abbotsford after having fake gun for second time this year

Officers respond to all firearm calls as if the guns are real, police say

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Tabor Home records 16 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at Abbotsford long-term-care facility have tested positive

Elementary teacher Jo-Ann Lindahl poses with her students following an outdoor ‘closing circle’ in which they discussed what they had learned that day. (Image submitted)
Mission elementary teacher to receive national Indigenous educator award

Jo-Ann Lindahl named a 2020 Guiding the Journey: Educator Award recipient

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

Swoop Airlines. (Contributed)
COVID-19 case reported on Abbotsford-bound flight last week

Affected flight landed in Abbotsford on Nov. 16

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read