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

Dr. Lipjob avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Cloverdale’s Dan Gibbons remembered for his devotion, humour

Longtime local served with RCMP for more than 35 years

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

VIDEO: ‘The dog picks the job’: Meet the newest member of the Surrey RCMP

Cambria, a labrador-golden retriever mix, is the first victim services dog at the detachment

Surrey RCMP say men with gun steal Jeep from mom, daughter

Police say they are looking for video footage, and two South Asian suspects

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Richmond businesses struggle to hire and keep staff because of high cost of housing

Chamber of commerce calls for diverse housing options, redevelopment of George Massey corridor

LETTER: Seniors home care, day programs expanding, Adrian Dix says

B.C. health minister responds to latest Seniors Advocate report

B.C. woman wins Instagram celebrity’s boob job contest

‘Kirill was here’ held a contest for women to win a boob job and a trip to Miami

Most Read