BC’s First Mayor’s Caucus May 21, 2012Posted by admin in : News , trackback
The steering committee of Mayors Dean Fortin of Victoria, Dan Ashton of Penticton, Shari Green of Prince George, Jack Mussallem of Prince Rupert, Wayne Stetski of Cranbrook, Lori Ackerman of Fort St. John, Taylor Bachrach of Smithers, Dianne Watts of Surrey and Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam designed this caucus after models used in North America and Europe that have proven successful over the years.
During this time it was discussed that Communities are the economic engine of BC representing front line government closest to the people. They are the first to deal with problems and they do this with limited revenue sources and a balanced operating budget.
It was emphasized that “Mandate Creep” is progressively occurring as both Provincial and Federal governments download responsibilities by discontinuing supplying services , reducing or eliminating grant programs and not increasing support as demand grows for communities. This is being done without consultation or resources directed at local government.
A comparison of 2012 total revenues was presented showing the Federal government at $7,300 per capita, BC government $9,400 per capita, BC communities $1800 per capita. Local governments get less than 10% of total public revenues, it was said.
After this presentation lively round table discussions ensued with comments like “this meeting needs to be a movement, we need to get rid of the grant game, need stable, equitable, regular funding, need to align the priorities of the province with needs of municipalities, need to be recognized as own government, develop a co-operative partnership”.
It was conveyed that the HST and PST is a big concern for border communities, IH needs to look at programs for the medically and mentally challenged, the homeless and those depending on food banks. It was mentioned that staff put in a great deal of resources into grant proposals only to be turned down, the criteria for grants should change, everyone said.
Although it was the first time that large and small communities were united in one room it was obvious that regardless of size everyone was considered a peer. Many of the tiny communities such as Lytton population 225 were vocal, critiquing and adding numerous comments during the meetings.
In a newspaper interview Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Ida Chong made the statement that “It’s interesting they’re establishing this caucus and obviously looking to find more ways to spend taxpayer’s money, if they believe they need to provide additional services that their citizens want- truly want- they have the ability to increase property taxes.”
This statement was considered insensitive and offensive showing a lack of understanding on what the Caucus was about. It was agreed a partnership with all orders of government has to be arrived at so as to find efficiencies on delivery of services. Local government accounts for every penny in a transparent manner yet an Auditor General has been appointed by the provincial government despite it being voted down by members voting at UBCM last year.
At the end it was agreed that this had been an incredible opportunity to work together as one voice expressing concerns over the volume and extent of issues facing communities regardless of size.
The Mayor’s Caucus then endorsed the following statement.
“BC communities are frontline service providers for our citizens and we are seeking a new partnership with the provincial and federal governments in the best interests of all of our communities. The BC Mayor’s Caucus requests an immediate discussion on the efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges our residents face”.
The following are specific areas needing to be addressed as determined by the caucus;
Create a Premier’s Round Table with the BC Mayor’s Caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets and delivery of services;
Eliminate the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allows for long term planning by local governments;
Expand the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments;
Develop a round table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation;
Affirm the core service delivery of each order of governments
Redesign the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution;
If services are devolved to local governments, a sustainable revenue source for those services must be identified;
Develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community;
Call for a full review of ambulance service delivery;
Establish flexibility around the federal gas tax to be goal oriented to the priorities of the specific communities;
Expand the application of the fair share principles province-wide and to include other industry sectors.
The next Mayor’s Caucus will be held in September.
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