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

Pedestrian in critical condition after South Surrey crash identified

RCMP said they have been in contact with the woman’s family

Tourism report gives White Rock high marks

Surveys indicate parking, walkability and restaurants are priorities for visitors

Beach House Theatre auditioning for 2018 season

Summer lineup a Neil Simon farce and an ‘electric’ adventure for children

Finding Success: It’s not Delta’s students, it’s the system

The Delta School District is re-examining what it can do to support its Indigenous students

Rhythmic gymnasts set for competition at Cloverdale Fairgrounds this weekend

Elegant, artistic sport a great way to build self-confidence, says coach

VIDEO: Climber ‘catches the sunrise’ over city atop B.C. crane

Police warn ‘rooftopping’ poses risk to climber, public and first responders

VIDEO: ‘Big time disappointment’ as Vancouver Giants fall to undermanned Kelowna Rockets

Head coach Jason McKee very unhappy with effort in Giants’ regular season home finale

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Delta South MLA calls high-speed rail study a ‘crazy announcement’

‘You’d be better off to move to Seattle’ than to travel to Vancouver from the Lower Mainland

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

Most Read