Province supports local governments
By Ida Chong, FCGA
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
May 17, 2012
VICTORIA – British Columbia mayors have indicated that they will discuss the possibility of negotiating a potential “new deal” with the Province and the federal government when they meet in Penticton this week.
However, simply giving local governments a bigger piece of the “tax pie” will not change the fact that there is only one taxpayer. Reallocating current tax revenues could put in jeopardy the crucial services delivered by senior levels of government.
We understand how challenging it can be, especially in these economic times, to stretch taxpayer dollars and meet ongoing budgetary demands. That’s why the Province has supported the work local governments do with $3 billion in additional funding since 2001, above and beyond previously existing funding streams.
In addition to this provincial investment, we have secured more than $1.5 billion in federal funds for local governments to enhance community infrastructure.
For the first time beginning in 2004, our government began returning 100 per cent of net traffic fine revenues to local governments. We also doubled the existing unconditional grants program – funds that local governments can use as they see fit.
Grant programs are another important part of the way the Province supports local governments and the reporting requirements associated with these programs help ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used in the most effective and efficient way possible. It’s about being accountable to British Columbians.
Local governments should also turn their minds toward cutting costs. B.C. has held its public service employees to zero wage increases over the past two years. The federal government is also reducing its civil service by 19,000 positions. Meanwhile, local governments have increased compensation to their employees every year – despite the recent global economic downturn.
Rather than just fight for a bigger piece of the pie, governments need to work together to lift the burden on our taxpayers by re-evaluating the potential for shared services and identifying best practices so we can build infrastructure, maintain stability and keep British Columbians working.
The Province’s new office of the Auditor General for Local Government, which will begin operations this year, is one way we are working towards accomplishing these goals.
Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
250 208-4028 (cell)
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect