Civic ‘overspending’ slammed by business lobby

We buy what our citizens want, one mayor responds

Most B.C. cities are ramping up their spending far faster than is affordable, warns the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The business lobby group’s third annual Municipal Spending Watch report found expenditures of B.C. cities rose twice as fast as the combined rate of inflation and population growth from 2000 to 2008.

“They are addicted to overspending,” CFIB vice-president Laura Jones said, noting spending rose 58 per cent over those years, compared to a 29 per cent rise in inflation and population.

The CFIB, which has repeatedly called for municipal budget restraint, says civic spending should be capped at the combined rate of population and inflation growth.

Had that been done in in 2000, the study says, the typical B.C. family of four would have had an extra $904 to spend in 2008 alone.

Cities on average spent 9.7 per cent more on operating costs in 2008 than in 2007, while population and inflation rose a combined four per cent.

Jones said civic leaders are masters at making controversial spending cuts to “perpetuate the myth that they are hard done by” while neglecting to tackle other costs.

“It’s grossly unfair to taxpayers who suffer tax and fee increases that outstrip their pay increases.”

The report lists Prince George as the worst offender among large B.C. cities, with 2000-2008 spending climbing almost four times faster than inflation and population.

In the Lower Mainland, spending rose more than three times faster in North Vancouver District (3.41) and West Vancouver (3.19); and two to three times faster in Pitt Meadows (2.8) North Vancouver City (2.76), White Rock (2.58), Maple Ridge (2.38), Delta (2.36), Chilliwack (2.34), Langley Township (2.33), Coquitlam (2.26), Langley City (2.14) and Port Coquitlam (2.12).

Spending also outstripped population and inflation growth in Vancouver (1.92 times), Surrey (1.90), Richmond (1.83), Burnaby (1.67), Mission (1.64), Port Moody (1.38) and New Westminster (1.15).

The business group says programs and services will ultimately be at risk and it also wants a municipal Auditor-General created to oversee cities.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean said the CFIB is out of step with what most citizens want and are willing to pay for.

“We buy what our constituents want us to buy,” MacLean said. “If our people want a new indoor swimming pool, we buy it for them.”

If most citizens shared the business lobby’s view, he said, city councils would respond accordingly.

“I’m a businessman,” added MacLean, who runs an insurance office. “Because their position is so stridently one-sided, I quit the CFIB three or four years ago. They’re not looking at the big picture.”

Municipal leaders also contend unionized labour costs are difficult to control and there’s less fat to cut from local government than business critics believe.

Cities in Metro Vancouver are bracing for a worsening cost squeeze in the years ahead.

They say major utility expenses they say are being forced upon them by federal or provincial policies – including water and sewage treatment mega-projects estimated to cost billions of dollars.

Just Posted

White Rock pier-plank purchasers celebrated

Donors received a certificate Sunday marking their purchase of a pier plank

White Rock looking at 3.9% tax increase

Budget discussions are to take place this week

PHOTOS: White Rock Festival of Lights celebrated with a cheer

Hundreds of people gathered in the city Saturday for a Christmas event

Plans for new Surrey hospital to be updated Monday

News conference announced by Premier Horgan and health minister Adrian Dix

Surrey 37 per cent behind in housing supply projections

Of 18 cities in Metro Vancouver, only City of North Vancouver and Richmond met or exceeded projections

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Four men in hospital after early morning Vancouver stabbing

A large group of men was seen fighting in Yaletwon

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Most Read

l -->