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Municipal politicians unhappy over Clark proposal for local govt auditor

August 9th, 2011 · 66 Comments

Good column by Vaughn Palmer about the back and forth that’s been happening between the Christy Clark government and the group of people who represent the thousands of municipal politicians in the province.

You can understand why city councillors might be feeling a bit wary of the province weighing in on how they run their business through the office of a municipal auditor-general. The only two times that the province has done something resembling an “audit” of local governments in recent years — once with TransLink, once with the Vancouver school board — it felt less like an impartial audit and more like a vehicle to scold those organizations, block them from getting any public support for changes to financing, and whip them back into silent compliance.

My information from informed sources is that a municipal auditor-general would be more neutral than the comptroller-general who was sent out previously by the province.

It would be useful if voters could actually get some neutral information about municipal spending, something that’s beyond the baying of particular interest groups about “out of control” municipal spending and the defensive response from municipal politicians that they are excellent money managers.

It’s hard for many of us to tell what’s the right amount for a city to spend and whether anything could be cut.

I know that I personally don’t feel that hard done by on the topic of municipal taxes when my husband’s relatives in small-town Ontario tell me that they pay almost as much tax as I do in my Vancouver house. And all they get, pretty much, is garbage, water and roads and, recently, a new library, whereas for my taxes, I’m providing support for (and benefitting from) local theatres and festivals, housing programs, a great library system , pools and golf courses and incredible community centres, seawalls and new parks all the time, public art, people who work on economic development, and dozens of other things that make the city so livable.

But could they provide all that for less? Is there really some trimming in the system that could be done? Impossible for us to really know in a system that spends $1 billion, without something besides occasional criticisms over an expensive lunch or an out-of-town training program or an individual salary that someone has decided is an outrage.




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