Why do some civic politicians in BC think a municipal auditor general is so scary?
If you happened to be walking in downtown Vancouver this week, you might have bumped into one of the 1,000 or so municipal politicians attending their annual policy convention.
When they aren’t debating Canada-European trade relations or medical marijuana, the delegates will be talking shop at various hospitality suites and dinner banquets.
One of the topics that received a big thumbs-down from the delegates was Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to introduce a new municipal auditor general starting next year. As you can imagine, the last thing local mayors and councillors want is a bean-counter second-guessing their expenditures.
While the issue of more accountability for tax dollars spent in our cities may not be popular with municipal politicians, it gets a resounding yes from taxpayers. According to a poll commissioned by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), 85% of Metro Vancouver residents said they felt more oversight is required.
Is it any wonder why taxpayers and business groups want more municipal politicians to be a bit more frugal when you look at how they are spending your money? In Vancouver, one of the first decisions made by newly minted Mayor Gregor Robertson was to throw himself a lavish $85,000 inaugural party. This is on top of the $800,000 Vancouver council spent on new carpets, furniture and renovations to their offices in the height of the global recession.
For far too long municipal politicians have flown under the radar when it comes to tax increases and questionable expenditures. One need only look at the fact that over the last several years tax hikes and fee increases have far outpaced the rate of inflation.
On Tuesday Suzanne Anton, the NPA’s mayoral candidate in Vancouver, fired the first salvo in what she has dubbed “common sense tax measures.” Her austerity plan includes a proposal to return budget surpluses directly to property taxpayers, set a cap on future spending increases and freeze the Mayor’s office budget for three years.
While I support the general thrust of Anton’s pledge, it’s curious that she didn’t also include a promise to ditch annual pay hikes for civic politicians over the next three years.
According to the ICBA poll, a whopping 81% of respondents said they “would support candidates who commit to reduced municipal spending and taxes.” It will be interesting to see if that general sentiment carries through to election day.
- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on on Twitter @CityCaucus or you can "like" us on Facebook at facebook.com/citycaucus. This column was first published in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, Sept 29th, 2012.