Vancouver City Council rubber stamps yet another report - this time it's the 8% tax increase
Vancouver City Council debated yet another 'late distribution' report yesterday. That report was the proposed 2009 budget. You'd be forgiven for not knowing anything about it, because as of six a.m. this morning, there was only one mainstream media outlet (CBC Radio) we could find that reported on Vancouver's 8% property tax increase supported by Council. We can thank the obsessive crime coverage for that.
Vancouverites can now boast the dubious distinction of having the highest property tax increase of any City in the region. It's also the highest one-time property tax increase that we know of in Vancouver's history (our crack research team is still confirming this).
I'm confident this is not something Mayor Gregor Robertson or his Vision/COPE colleagues will be boasting about on the campaign trail in 2011. We expect that Kevin "Vancouver Kid" Quinlan is probably crafting another Happy Planet-style release from the Mayor's Office as a smoke screen to this depressing news.
Who won in this budget and who lost?
Certainly Vancouver's cops are the big winners. Mayor Robertson didn't bother to ask the VPD to find any cost savings in their own operations. Council just went and wrote them a big cheque and significantly increased their funding.
In terms of the "biggest losers" they have to be the Office of Cultural Affairs, who saw a 10% cut to their funding this year, and Councillor Raymond Louie.
Before he was elected last November, Louie was the most vocal opponent to providing tax relief for the City's small business community. We should remind readers that it was one of the city's loudest voices against the tax shift who was Louie's nomination campaign manager: NDP apparatchik Neil Monckton of ThinkCity.
In the end Coun. Louie was forced to vote with his Caucus and Mayor Robertson for a tax shift from business to residential taxpayers.
You would think the fact Vision has a 10-1 majority at Council would have provided Louie and a few of his colleagues with a bit of latitude to vote in favour of the budget, but against the tax shift. That's because at the end of the day the budget would still pass. Under Mayor Robertson's disciplined provincial cabinet-style city government, it would appear this type of free spirited discussion (a.k.a open debate) is simply not tolerated – or at least not encouraged.
With just over 4 months into this term, there is hardly an issue that comes before Council where the vote is not 10-1, with only NPA Councillor Anton opposed. I could only imagine if Anton would have lost last November, the first motion of the new Vision-dominated Council might have gone something like this:
Whereas Vision won a massive majority and wiped out the opposition on Council and;
Whereas Mayor Robertson is going to force a provincial-style Caucus solidarity by not encouraging dissenting views and stray votes and;
Whereas we are going to all vote the same way, all the time despite the fact we have gone on record in the past as not supporting a particular initiative;
Be it resolved that there is really no need to convene Council over the next three years and;
Be it resolved that it is assumed that all 11 of us would have voted together regardless of what the issue is...
You can easily make the case for caucus solidarity in tight 6-5 voting situations like the previous Council. That said, it never stopped Vision or their sympathizers like Allen Garr from characterizing meetings during that term as "boring" and "predictable."
It's hard to understand why Mayor Robertson and his lemmings need to vote the same way on almost every issue. Is this really the new style Council, free of partisan politicking, that voters thought they were getting last November? We somehow doubt it.