B.C. VIEWS: How to cure the community cash crunch

Premier Christy Clark's government will be asked to end a couple of decades of meddling in local government financing

Local government representatives vote at last year's Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Local politicians from across B.C. are in Vancouver Sept. 16 to 20 to take part in the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

There will be trivia reported as news, such as the cost of hotels. Suggestions to license mobility scooters or lower speed limits to 40 km/h, dreamed up in Vancouver Island retirement locales, will be rejected by delegates from the rest of the province.

Serious discussion will revolve around a report by a UBCM executive committee to reshape the financial relationship between the province and local governments. If this proposal gets the support it deserves, Premier Christy Clark’s government will be asked to undo a couple of decades of political meddling in that relationship.

One problem for local governments is that they depend on property tax, a stable source of revenue but one that has no relationship to the property owner’s ability to pay. It tends to load costs onto lower-income groups such as seniors and renters.

Economic growth results mainly in increased corporate and personal income tax revenues as well as sales taxes, which aren’t shared with local governments.

One key proposal is to return to a system of revenue sharing grants introduced by the Social Credit government in the 1980s. They were funded by one point each from personal and corporate income tax and six per cent of sales, fuel and resource tax revenues, thus increasing in years when provincial revenues were strong.

The UBCM proposal is to put a share of provincial revenues into an infrastructure bank, to be distributed by the organization on a more stable basis.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, one of the authors of the report, uses a basketball analogy to describe the current system of federal-provincial grants for road and bridge projects. It’s a “jump ball,” where communities have to apply to a fund when it’s offered and then see who gets it.

Even if a community wins the jump ball, they may find themselves with costs inflated by a hot construction market and an arbitrary deadline to get the job done.

Then there are new regulations imposed by senior governments. The most dramatic example these days is a 2020 federal deadline for Greater Victoria to construct land-based sewage treatment. Even with federal and provincial cost sharing, this project is going to land heavily on property tax bills, including those of pensioners and poor renters who will have it passed on to them.

Leonard points to another arbitrary system, provincial facilities that pay grants in lieu of property taxes. Saanich is home to the University of Victoria, a community of 25,000 people that needs water and sewer service, as well as police and fire protection. Saanich gets an annual grant in lieu of property taxes of $120,000 for UVic, enough to cover wages and benefits for one cop and maybe some gas money.

Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond, co-chair of the UBCM committee, is concerned about new water and flood protection legislation the province is preparing to impose. His district and others like it have thousands of kilometres of riverfront, with relatively few property owners.

Interior communities also want BC Hydro to pay something for power lines, as is now being done with some aboriginal territories.

Local politicians will be expecting a sympathetic ear from the new version of the B.C. Liberal government. Former Quesnel councillor Coralee Oakes is the new community, sport and cultural development minister, with direct responsibility for local government issues.

And one of the original members of this UBCM committee was former Langley City mayor Peter Fassbender, who is now minister of education.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com. Twitter:@tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Mysterious polaroid camera left along Metchosin trail reveals art project

Artist ‘Jar Binks’ lays claim to waterproof camera

Road work on Island Highway could cause some delays in View Royal

Temporary lane closures from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. between Beaumont and View Royal avenues

Two reports of prowlers in one night in Esquimalt

VicPD notes simple changes can help prevent crime around your home

Cloudy with a chance a rain ahead for Wednesday

Plus a look ahead at the weekend

Population growth on West Shore strains wait lists for family services

Funding not keeping pace with demand at Pacific Family Services Association

VIDEO: Disney Plus gives Canadians a streaming platform that nearly matches U.S. version

The Walt Disney Company’s new subscription platform unveiled a comprehensive offering of nearly 500 films

Former Vancouver Canucks player suing financial advisors for negligence

Jason Garrison claimed his advisors failed to take his circumstances into account

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

B.C. teacher said he would use student to ‘whack’ two others on Grade 8 field trip

Campbell River teacher-on-call suspended three weeks after November 2018 incident

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

Bill Murray dons iconic Hudson’s Bay scarf to watch Canucks game in Vancouver

Murray is in Vancouver to film The Now, a mini-series directed by Peter Farrelly

Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

B.C. government grappling with multiple labour disputes by public-sector unions

Public-sector unions may have expectations of a labour-friendly NDP government

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Most Read