Mayor Nils Jensen reported out on the BC Mayors’ Caucus, an inaugural meeting last week of 86 Mayors from across BC called “historic” that wound up in Penticton, with the Caucus endorsing the following statement:
“BC Communities are frontline service providers for our citizens and we are seeking a new partnership with the provincial and federal governments in the best interests of all of our communities. The BC Mayors’ Caucus requests an immediate discussion on the efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges our residents face.”
I have often talked about my concerns over the last few years about provincial downloading to municipal and regional governments and how this significantly impacts our ability to sustainably fund and deliver the services and programs our residents want, need and expect.
We have heard it many times before — there is only one taxpayer and all governments must be aware of this fact. But local governments in my view are being pressured by upper government levels to take on ever-increasing responsibility for a wide range of services and programs formerly provided by provincial and federal governments.
Taken from a Penticton Mayors’ Caucus press release dated May 18, 2012, this sentiment appears to be the focus of the Caucus and specific areas that they believe need to be addressed, include:
- Create a Premier’s Round Table with the BC Mayors’ Caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets and delivery of services.
- Eliminate the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allows for long term planning by local governments.
- Expand the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments.
- Develop a round table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation.
- Affirm the core service delivery of each order of government.
- Redesign the cost-sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution.
- If services are devolved to local governments, a sustainable revenue source for those services must be identified.
- Develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community.
- Call for a full review of ambulance service delivery.
- Establish flexibility around the federal gas tax to be goal oriented to the priorities of specific communities.
- Expand application of the fair-share principles province-wide and include other industry sectors.
The Mayors have also created a Steering Committee (Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria is a member), identified the need to make this Caucus an annual event and modeled their initiative after North American and European models including the Alberta Mayors’ Caucus, the Big Cities’ Mayors’ Caucus (Canada), Atlantic Mayors’ Congress (Canada), Metropolitan Mayors’ Caucus (United States) and the EU’s Summit of Mayors.
Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey summed up the event with closing remarks noting “by coming together as peers, we have, for the first time in BC history, established a single voice that is strong in our convction that we need all orders of government to work together for the best interests of all of our residents.”
Mayor Jensen states that he feels the meetings were a success and for him, the most important points are contained in the first and second bullets above, which I have bolded. He indicates that these meetings are designed to forge a “new deal” for municipalities.
Please stay tuned over the coming months.