The call is to both the federal and provincial governments with mayors indicating that only 8 percent of all tax dollars go to municipal government.
The Mayors want a Premier’s Round Table with the Mayor Caucus and the elimination of adhoc grant funding desiring long term grants that can be counted on.
The Mayors called for an audit report on the effects of downloading on local government and the launching of a study on ageing infrastructure.
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Penticton, BC: At the close of the inaugural meeting, 86 mayors from across BC are calling for an immediate discussion, beginning with the Premier and Cabinet, to examine the state of BC communities, and specifically, for a more efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges facing residents.
The BC Mayors’ Caucus endorsed the following statement:
“BC communities are front line service providers for our citizens and we are seeking anew 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.”
The mayors outlined a number of specific areas that need to be addressed including:
o 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;
o Eliminate the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable,accountable, quantifiable and allows for long term planning by local governments;
o Expand the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments;
o Develop a round table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation;
o Affirm the core service delivery of each order of government; o Redesign the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution;
o If services are devolved to local governments, a sustainable revenue source for those services must be identified;
o Develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community;
o Call for a full review of ambulance service delivery;
o Establish flexibility around the federal gas tax to be goal oriented to the priorities of the specific communities;
o Expand the application of the fair share principles province-wide and to include other industry sectors.
Steering Committee member Mayor Shari Green of Prince George said the feeling in the room was clear. “This was an incredibly beneficial meeting where it became evident that BC mayors have, for the first time, come together as peers with a single voice. This is a new day in the way we as mayors will move forward for the benefit of all of our residents.”
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar noted that the Caucus was clear that the time for a change in how governments interact is now. “We have to be far-sighted and innovative and we must be partners with all orders of government in finding efficiencies in how we deliver service.”
Mayor Dean Fortin said a number of common issues came to the forefront at the meeting, including the federal and provincial granting process for local governments. “Right now we’re caught in a ‘grant game’ with the provincial and federal governments. I’m looking forward toestablishing a system that is sustainable, predictable, and quantifiable in order that we can budget and plan correctly in our respective communities.”
Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers, also on the Steering Committee, outlined the need for a collective approach to service provision. “As the front lines of government, it is at the community level that changes in public policy, and their resulting cost implications, are felt the most. Wemust be partners in those decisions.”
The Caucus also looked at ideas around joint economic development on a community partnership basis.
“It was significant that this group, which represented every corner of the province and every sizeof community from large to small, was coming together for the first time and acknowledging theconcept of joint economic development on a community by community level. We saw a spirit ofeconomic cooperation rather than economic competition,” says Mayor Jack Mussallem of PrinceRupert.
Mayor Dan Ashton, whose Penticton community was the host city for the inaugural event spokeof furthering the collective goals through innovative joint initiatives. “BC’s strength is built uponthe strength of its communities. What we’ve seen is a recognition that we must continue to workcollectively.”
MAYORS’ CAUCUS MOVES FORWARD
The Mayors’ Caucus also decided to move forward as an annual event. Mayor Lori Ackerman of Fort St. John says, “these were very productive meetings, the conversations focused on creatingcommunity and we need to maintain the momentum.”
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski added, “we are the front line of government and the backboneof this province. We want a seat at the table so we can ensure the needs of our residents are wellrepresented.”
Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey summed up the event with closing remarks noting “by comingtogether as peers, we have, for the first time in BC history, established a single voice that isstrong in our conviction that we need all orders of government to work together for the bestinterests of all of our residents.”
The BC Mayors’ Caucus is structured after successful models across North America and Europeincluding the Alberta Mayors’ Caucus, the Big Cities Mayors’ Caucus (Canada), Atlantic Mayors’Congress (Canada), Metropolitan Mayors’ Caucus (United States) and the Summit of Mayors(EU).
Members of the BC Mayors’ Steering Committee are:
Mayor Dean Fortin of Victoria – Vancouver Island
Mayor Dan Ashton of Penticton – Thompson/Okanagan region
Mayor Shari Green of Prince George – Cariboo region
Mayor Jack Mussallem of Prince Rupert – North Coast region
Mayor Wayne Stetski of Cranbrook – Kootenay region
Mayor Lori Ackerman of Fort St. John – Northeast region
Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers – Nechako region
Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey – Fraser Valley region
Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam – Lower Mainland region
The date of the next BC Mayors’ Caucus will be in September in Victoria. For more informationvisit: www.BCMayorsCaucus.ca.