By Mike Archer. While listening to Rick Cluff’s Early Edition on CBC Radio Wednesday morning I heard Vancouver Councillor Raymond Louie vigourously defend the City of Vancouver’s spending as if it was all out of councillors’ control.
When faced with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) report showing municipalities across the country are spending at two to three times the rate of population growth Louie couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that he is the problem.
After all, it is he and his fellow councillors who are sticking their collective hands in the air to approve all of that spending. It can’t happen without their approval.
The decisions he has made with his friends’ and neighbours’ money have put his friends and neighbours in an untenable financial position.
Saying ‘But we had too’ or blaming it on the Federal or Provincial governments is misdirection and obfuscation.
The CFIB has demonstrated that while the whining and bitching by spendthrift municipal politicians that the Federal government keeps downloading costs onto municipalities is a bogus argument which stopped having any relevance more than a decade ago.
Listen to the podcast and you will hear Louie’s talking points torn to shreds.
What I find most disturbing about Louie’s response to the CFIB is that it reminds me so much of the way Abbotsford councillors, and our current mayor and his immediate predecessor, respond to facts, advice, criticism or debate.
He attacked the CFIB’s position. As though the CFIB’s facts were somehow wrong (they are simple statistics from the Provincial government) or the CFIB was somehow trying to undermine the City of Vancouver with falsehoods …
All the CFIB is doing is pointing out what has become obvious to taxpayers for some time now. Municipal politicians have, by and large, spent as much money as they could possibly get away with and then borrowed billions more in order to reward their supporters and get re-elected.
We get it. You like your jobs and you want to keep them. You have mortgages and retirement plans and you need our money to pay for them.
Then why don’t you act like it, take ouradvice, answer our questions and criticisms and do your jobs so that we will allow you to keep your jobs?
Stop spending our money as though it were yours.
And when the facts prove you wrong, don’t dig around for facts you think will make it sound like you won the argument (or at least held your own). Face the facts, which are staring us all in the face, and do something about them.
It is really very simple – We (your employers) can no longer afford to have you spend our money as though we were still on the phony perpetual growth machine on which all of your ‘We’ll pay for it later’ assumptions were made*.
Nor can we afford to have you lie to yourselves about your responsibility in this mess. It is simply not the fault of the Federal and Provincial governments. And even if it were, your job is to do something about it … not whine and blame others.
This is not a recession (if it were it would have been over four and a half years ago). If you want to keep your jobs, you have to get it through your heads that we don’t expect you to defend our well paid civil servants(that’s right – just like you, they work for us) or the bad decisions of the past. We expect you to defend our interests and make good decisions on our behalf from here on in.
Stop collecting a pay cheque for treading water and do your job.
Pie In The Sky Planning
* The graph below, a replica of the graph presented last fall to City Council by staff showing their assumptions (red) compared to reality (blue), is an example of a great many of the assumptions made back in 2005/2006 vs the reality which has proved quite different.
A few examples of the reality which has either developed due to outside forces or flowed directly from Council’s decisions:
- Population growth has not materialzed in anything like the number predicted
- Housing starts have steadily declined for over a decade
- Building permits have steadily declined for over a decade
- Unemployment has remained stubbornly high
- Economic growth in Abbotsford has stalled
Local Government Spending Report – CFIB
CFIB report demands an urgent conversation among local government leaders on overspending
Vancouver, May 29, 2013 – With municipal leaders from across the country gathering in Vancouver later this week for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling on them to take action on municipal overspending. CFIB today released a report showing that spending has grown more than three times the rate of population over the past 12 years in Canada’s three largest cities – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – and in Canadian municipalities overall.
“Most of us can appreciate that the cost of running our cities must keep pace with population growth, and factor in the cost of inflation,” says CFIB executive vice president Laura Jones. “But our research shows spending is increasing by as much as three to eight times the rate of population growth in Canada’s largest cities. Municipal officials claim they lack sufficient revenue, and argue that cities need even more revenue and increased taxing authority. Our report shows the real problem is overspending.”
This spending problem is not just confined to Canada’s largest cities. From 2000 to 2011, inflation-adjusted spending grew by 55 per cent in all Canadian municipalities while population only grew by 12 per cent. The increases in spending are largely driven by public sector wages and benefits which consume between 52 to 67 per cent of local government operating spending in the three big cities.
“From 2000 to 2011, city staff in all Canadian municipalities increased by 25 per cent, more than double population growth,” says Mike Klassen, CFIB BC director of provincial affairs. “Combine that with wages and benefit packages that are more than one-third higher than comparable occupations in the private sector, and you can begin to understand the causes of overspending by our cities. It adds up to a cost of over $10,000 per Canadian family of four during the same period.”
“It’s time that we changed the conversation to move away from the persistent requests for new tax revenues from our local governments to one that addresses spending challenges—responsible policy-making depends on it,” suggests Laura Jones. “CFIB hopes this report is a catalyst to start this critical conversation.”