Campbell River Mayor: Cities don’t get any respect

Local governments are treated like “children” by the province, says Mayor Walter Jakeway

Local governments are treated like “children” by the province, says Mayor Walter Jakeway.

That sentiment was more or less shared by several B.C. municipalities at a mayors’ meeting last week.

Mayors from across B.C. met for the first time last week to discuss their communities’ struggles to provide services imposed on them by senior levels of government.

A total of 86 mayors want to meet with Premier Christy Clark and the provincial cabinet to discuss more efficient use of existing resources to better address challenges facing residents, such as homelessness and public health.

Mayor Walter Jakeway said the inaugural Mayors’ Caucus, held May 16-18 in Penticton, was an opportunity to get to know his counterparts across B.C. and discuss the financial pressures communities are under.

“It was wonderful. I personally gave a business card to everyone,” Jakeway said. “The purpose (of the caucus) is that mayors play a special role in local government and local government doesn’t get the recognition it deserves from senior governments.”

Jakeway said over the years, the provincial and federal governments have downloaded an increasing number of services onto local governments, without supplying the money needed to deliver those services.

“The federal government doesn’t even recognize local governments,” Jakeway said. “They give everything to the provinces to hand down to the municipalities.

“Local governments have been saddled with the costs,” Jakeway said. “Certainly the provincial government doesn’t treat municipalities fairly. They treat them more as children than as equals. Right now they’re kind of decreeing from above.”

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who was instrumental in starting up the caucus, said B.C. communities need a new deal with senior governments.

“The current model is broken and as mayors we need to meet to discuss a collaborative approach to reversing the unsustainable trend that most municipalities are facing,” Watts said in a news release. “Municipalities provide the vast majority of the service in areas such as infrastructure while being given only eight cents out of every tax dollar to do it.”

The timing of the caucus, which includes a steering committee of nine mayors, is significant.

“With a provincial election coming up (in May 2013), it’s a great time to extract more responsibility from them (provincial government),” Jakeway said.

The mayors’ caucus wants to create a round table with the premier to discuss public policy changes that affect municipal budgets and delivery of services as well as a round table to discuss aging infrastructure with participation from all three levels of government.

Mayors are also calling for money to fund the services that are downloaded onto local governments.The mayors also identified the following as areas that need to be addressed:

  • Changing the federal and provincial grant process to be more sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allowing for long-term planning by local governments.
  • Allow the Municipal Auditor General to examine the financial impacts of downloading on local governments.
  • Affirm the core service delivery of each order of government.
  • Re-design the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution.

n Develop a co-ordinationed approach to how social services are delivered into a community