The Conference Board of Canada released a report on Canada's cities yesterday that should be a wake-up call for local civic governments. This year Vancouver’s economy will shrink by almost one per cent—the first contraction since tracking began in 1987.
For the first time in 22 years Vancouver will be experiencing negative growth. The leadership of Vancouver Silly Hall appear to be oblivious to the serious financial crisis they face. There has been no indication from the City that they have a plan, nor that they are bracing for the tough times ahead.
Instead we've watched a Mayor and Council focus their energy on trivial and expensive staff reports on items like backyard chickens, deflecting decision-making on matters of in-camera integrity and mixed martial arts, and directing staff to work on a symbolic community garden in an attempt to seem more "green."
The chicken has become a symbol for this Council because they have so far refused to lead and take strong positions on anything. How hard have they worked to locate cost savings at Silly Hall? Why must Vancouverites settle for a 8.3% tax increase this year? Other cities such as Ottawa and Winnipeg are facing the economic crunch head on by freezing tax increases and cutting costs.
This week we received another blow to Vancouver's economy, when Holland America cruises shifted its operations to Seattle. This will be an estimated $120 million loss for the region's economy when we can least afford it. Imagine if Metro Vancouver's leaders had spoken with one voice to that industry, and developed a strategic plan to keep the cruise business alive here?
For too long the cities that make up Metro Vancouver have failed to collaborate on a regional economic strategy. Shockingly, there is not one in place now, and no signs that the Mayor of British Columbia's "downtown" has any plans to orchestrate one. How hard would it be for Vancouver's Mayor to organize a regional leaders' economic summit to address our financial challenges?
It's time for someone to step up and lead Metro Vancouver out of its economic aimlessness and come up with a plan that includes a tourism strategy, ways to grow our existing economy, and ideas to woo business and trade from abroad.
We're simply not getting leadership from Mayor Robertson and his Vision council on this issue. So who is going to fill the void?