By Mike Archer. We gave municipal politicians one job – local infrastructure – and they screwed it up.
Now they’re blaming it on Ed Fast.
This week local politicians met to blame the federal government for the fact that they, the municipal politicians, had spent all of their friends’ and neighbours’ money on things other than what they were supposed to spend it on – water, sewer, garbage collection and roads.
That is what it means when the headlines read “Infrastructure cash tops agenda for municipal politicians.”
Let’s not kid ourselves. When Mayor Bruce Banman, Councillor Dave Loewen and all those who blame Ottawa for their own mistakes. that is what they are doing. They are saying it is MP Ed Fast’s fault that Abbotsford can’t bring its water and sewer pipes up to a sufficient capacity to allow for further economic development or continued supply.
For, make no mistake, municipal politicians have known for decades that they should have been spending their friends’ and neighbours’ money on upgrading the water pipes, sewage pipes and roads that allow their cities to function and provide for the possibility of real economic growth.
The City of Abbotsford was first warned back in the 1990s about the fact that its water and sewer pipes could not handle, not only the volume required if it planned to grow, but the capacity it had to deal with at the time.
Despite having millions in its Development Cost Charges (DCC*) budget, the City of Abbotsford deferred infrastructure improvement projects until in 2005 when it received further warnings, more dire this time, about its ability to provide the two most basic of services to it residents – water and sewer.
*Abbotsford now has a negative balance in its DCC fund – the only City in the Fraser Valley to have put itself in this position.
How did Abbotsford Council respond?Thanks to Lexus-environmentalist Councillor Patty Ross’ support, they paved the pristine forests of Abbotsford in order to cover the Discovery Trail with sticky, black bitumen, perhaps so that archeologists in the year 4,000, whatever they find here, will not be able to miss Patty’s trail of environmental messes. (Search Sumas Gravel Pits for the remainder of her environmental record – which will also feature prominently in the archeological record.)
We followed John Smith’s banker’s logic and spent another Million dollars on a Friendship Garden so that councillors would have a nice place to rest their weary heads after spending all of the rest their friends’ and neighbours’ money.
All the while they were planning the largest expenditure of taxpayer funds in Abbotsford’s history on a hockey rink and a team to fill it.Not about to be sidetracked by boring, run-of-the-mill issues like water and sewage, investment dealer Bruce Beck and former banker John Smith pushed, cajoled, argued, bullied and rammed their agenda, called ‘Plan A’, past all objections and despite all warnings from concerned citizens so that by a fraction of a percentage point in a poorly attended referendum they barely managed to gain a majority in support of their plan.
The fact many people thought they were being asked for permission to borrow $55 Millions for the project rather than $55 Million to pay for a small part of the project did not deter them from using just about any means available to achieve their objective.
Deciding that their narrow win must have meant they had full support they ploughed forward, deferring infrastructure plans left and right, and committed their friends and neighbours to nearly half a billion dollars ($500,000,000) in construction costs, long term interest payments, subsidies, losses and payments to foreign multinationals to run the rink and annual losses.When the losses began sucking all of the money out of the treasury at the City of Abbotsford, they simply borrowed internally, increased fees, raised taxes by 50 percent and doubled water rates.
All of this while happily continuing to defer the boring stuff, water, sewer and roads.
In 2006 we had $28 million in our DCC fund. By 2012 that we had spent so much, and borrowed more, that the balance had dropped to negative $13 … a drop of $41 Million in six years with no appreciable infrastructure improvements to our antiquated water and sewer systems.The politicians in Ottawa, who get their portion of our taxes from us mainly through income taxes were accused, during the Chretien-Martin years of downloading federal costs down to the municipalities. The fact it was mostly just cutting back on subsidies to cities the national treasury could no longer afford seems to have escaped those who made the accusations and, rather than blame the federal government for not shoveling some of our taxes over to municipal politicians so they wouldn’t have to increase local taxes seemed disingenuous at best and at worst, an outright lie.
The fact that it no longer has any validity, and hasn’t since the 1990s, doesn’t seem to bother our local politicians who prefer to operate on the fictional basis that Ottawa is the villain which is keeping them from dong their job is insulting to anyone who understands Canadian government.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) proved as much this week.
Here’s the deal guys:
We gave you one job – take care of our infrastructure – and you deferred it for 20 years so as to build vanity projects and spend our money in ways you thought would benefit your supporters and get you re-elected.
Now that everything your friends and neighbours warned you about has come to pass and we can’t afford to upgrade our infrastructure, you have the gall to blame it on the fact you aren’t getting as much of a subsidy from the Ottawa tax collector.
As has been said here previously, stop blaming others and Just Do Your Jobs.
Fix our water pipes, our sewer pipes and our roads and stop pissing money away on foolish vanity projects which only benefit a few, well-healed individuals and companies who don’t need or deserve our money.
Cover Art from funtoosh.com