Metro Vancouver: Unaccountable, Unelected, Uninspiring

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

9 comments

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It's been decades since Metro Vancouver residents could vote for regional directors

UPDATE: The Vancouver Sun has reported on the front page today that Metro Vancouver costs will increase by a whopping 44% in the next 5 years. You may want to read their story in conjunction with my post. I also thought you might want to re-read an old post I did about massive cost overruns at one of Metro Vancouver's infrastructure projects.

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Most people who live in the Lower Mainland are somewhat familiar with their local city council.

These councils make decisions about roads, sewers and water along with other core services, as well as approving new developments. Every three years, the politicians head back to the polls in order to get  nother mandate. If you don’t like what you see, you can kick that group out and start all over again.

What gets much less attention is the massive unelected (and therefore unaccountable) governing body known as Metro Vancouver. It is comprised of 37 mayors and councillors, each of whom collects a healthy stipend for the privilege of being appointed by their colleagues to one or more boards or committees.

How would you feel about Metro Vancouver if I told you their budget increased by 6.5 per cent this year, more than double the rate of inflation? And what if I said directors have been able to collect up to $966 for three four-hour meetings? Not a bad deal, eh?

Did you know the top bureaucrat at Metro Vancouver took home a hefty $312,676 in salary last year?

Or that this unelected body had a capital and operational budget of just more than $1 billion in 2010?

Do I have your attention now?

As you can see, anyone who pays taxes in this region should have a keen interest in what is going on at Metro Vancouver. Sadly, most of us know so little about the Metro Vancouver government it barely registers.

I suspect this apathy has a lot to do with the fact we don’t directly vote for the politicians who end up running the Metro Vancouver board. Rather, they are appointed by their local council.

A few decades ago, Metro Vancouver directors were directly accountable to the electorate. If you wanted to be on Metro, you had to put your name on the ballot.

Coquitlam city Coun. Lou Sekora thinks we should revisit history. Last week he made a valiant effort to place this issue on the agenda this fall. He introduced a motion asking the City of Coquitlam to hold a referendum about whether it’s time (again) to elect politicians to Metro Vancouver.

In order to save money, he proposed it coincide with the upcoming civic election in November. Great idea, right?

Unfortunately, a majority of the elected officials on council, many of whom collect stipends from Metro Vancouver, defeated his motion.

For those of us interested in democratic reform, Sekora’s initiative offers hope that at least one civic politician is listening. Let’s hope other local politicians join the chorus for accountability soon.

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us on Facebook at Facebook.com/CityCaucus. This column first appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, July 14th.

9 Comments

I agree with Sekora,let the residents have some control in what happens.

Reforming Metro Vancouver and Translink is the most critical challenge facing the Lower Mainland polity at this time.
I'm curious about the dynamics of the introduction and defeat of Sekora's motion, as Coquitlam council was the only holdout resisting Metro's Regional Growth Strategy.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c5f_gVcV3o&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Long overdue and what about returning to binding referenda too.

But there is a bit of an education issue: How many property owners can tell you how much of their property tax statement goes toward TransLink and Metro Vancouver or even know that it is itemized on their tax statement?

@ RoKeSca - great point. I noticed this year that Translink was third in dollar amount on my PT bill and I was floored. Both Metro and Translink share the same affliction, they can both levy fees/taxes without being elected bodies. Given the dollar value both entities deal with, they need have much more accountability to those funding their operations and salaries.

I have a better question.

How many homeowners, 55+ are PAYING their property taxe??

Provincial legislation allows application for anyone at that age to defer their taxes, for as long as they like, it appear. You can cover that bill off when you die and your etate would owe the governement.

But, in the meantime you could easily be talking about 30 years of no taxes and, if the market were to take a dump and housing price to slide, a possibility that each muni is left holding the tax bag---again.

While there are some basic rules (your home must have no more than 75% of its value mortaged at the time you apply), and that it was clearly set up to help people whose home values shot up way above their means to pay, still, one should be expected to pay SOMETHING each year into the tax pot.

It is far too easy for people to ...ahem...arrange their affairs in a way that shows that they have little income. In fact, I believe they need only show 2 year of their Notice of Asessment from Rev Can. I propose that that change. Five years of NOA's AND a look at how money moves through you bank accounts would be a start. Other juridictions do it.

Is this a type of "means test?" Damn straight! But the time has come to ensure that when it comes to property tax, and epecially in a place like the Lower Mainland, where some hot real estate spots cause a cascade effect across the region, we are ensuring that we are getting something from everyone who owns a home here. And that those who CAN pay, SHOULD do so.

Enough with this type of loophole.

I agree that all governments or quasi government entities need to look at and achieve effieciencies in order to be effective with our tax dollars. Metro Van does give value in coordinated regional planning, I think, but I am mystified by some other things they have (self-appointed) themselves to oversee. And the duplication between them and local governement departments is crazy. Why does Vancouver need it own climate people?! This is featherbedding, pure and simple. They could have one set of climate people at Metro and debate their heads off there.

BUT...you are not going to find the efficiency numbers you are talkig about (billions+) when you talk about fixing or maintaining old infrastructure like sewers ot meeting the demand for transportation (including roads) in Vancouver and around the region.We cannot edscape the fact that this area is goign to gow. The question: how much should be user pay charged and how much "subsiidized" by group taxes?

"Metro Van does give value in coordinated regional planning,"

Unfortunately the Cities just ignore this good planning. The LRSP from the 1970's was a groundbreaking piece of planning for its time--and it was promptly ignored. Richmond is the glaring example of this--it was never meant for growth like what we've seen, and for good reason.

Money talks, good planning walks.

I love how the mayors were criticizing Translink for being unaccountable when they are all involved in an unaccountable organization that plans to spend $500 million on an incinerator it doesn't need instead of the Evergreen line, which it does. We need to start electing the Regional District Board just as we do school boards and parks boards. It's the only way to ensure accountability.

"Metro Vancouver: Unaccountable, Unelected, Uninspiring"
How right you are-eight comments excluding this one in three days, yet this unelected body is making decisions right now that will affect how millions of people live for decades to come. This is bike lanes to the exponent of twenty-two, yet it doesn't seem to be being noticed.

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