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

Surrey cold-case murder is Crime Stoppers’ ‘Crime of the week’

Police have yet to arrest a suspect in the April 24, 2011 murder of Devon Allaire-Bell, 19, in Newton

Surrey’s ready for winter with 17,000 tonnes of salt, online snow plow tracker

A sidewalk-clearing pilot project is continuing in City Centre this year

LETTER: Oppal should delay Surrey’s policing plan until we can vote in new mayor

In case of transition plan, red tape and bureaucracy might actually save Surrey’s skin

TransLink to discuss proposed bus-route changes at White Rock forum

“It is important that the opinions of riders are heard,” says mayor

SURREY EVENTS: ‘Classic Scary Movie Marathon’ for Halloween, and more

Concerts, plays, fundraisers and other events in our weekly guide for Surrey

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

Kawhi Leonard, former Toronto Raptor, welcomed back to Vancouver at pre-season game

Fans go wild at pre-season game between L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks at Rogers Arena

Greens and NDP go head to head on West Coast; Scheer takes fight to Bernier

Trudeau turns focus to key ridings outside Toronto after two days in Quebec

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Scholars say religious vaccine objections can’t be traced to Biblical sources

Vaccinations are a requirement to attend class in Ontario and New Brunswick, while B.C. launched a demand this fall

ELECTION 2019: How would the major parties address Canada’s housing crisis?

Promises include speculation taxes, more affordable housing, and declaring housing a human right

Workers at four Vancouver hotels ratify contract with higher wages, job security

Unite Here Local 40 president Zailda Chan says it’s the first hotel strike in Vancouver in nearly two decades

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Most Read