Right issue, wrong venue
It was probably nice that you, the Prince George taxpayer, sent Mayor Shari Green to Penticton for the inaugural B.C. Mayors Caucus.
Given that the February holiday won’t arrive until next year, it’s nice that you, the taxpayer, funded this trip.
The mayors didn’t really reveal anything new … federal and provincial downloading is having a detrimental effect on municipalities. This has been going on for decades and it’s getting worse. There is no doubt about that. So, from that perspective, the mayors’ cause is a good one. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not surprising that both the federal and provincial governments resoundingly dismissed the mayors’ concerns. They, after all, are the ones who are offloading costs onto the municipal taxpayers.
Municipalities do have several avenues to pressure upper levels of government. The most obvious one is the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and its federal counterpart, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities … the latter of which our own Coun. Garth Frizzell sits on the board of. Granted, those organizations allow elected officials other than mayors so perhaps that’s not to the liking of the mayors.
The upside to the UBCM and the FCM is that when they meet, which is annually, the conventions are liberally populated with MLAs from all sides, cabinet ministers and even a premier or prime minister. When the media questions why we need to send so many councillors to the UBCM, at your expense, the answer is always that it is a prime opportunity to chat with MLAs and cabinet ministers. Fair enough.
The mayors’ caucus, however, was just the mayors. And while it’s good to present a united voice, do we really need to pay for 86 mayors to have a weekend at a resort in Pentiction?
There is nothing wrong with B.C. mayors pressuring the upper levels of government to ease up on the downloading. In fact, it’s needed. From police costs to infrastructure, municipalities are shouldering a much greater share of the load, without the subsequent lessening of higher level tax burdens. It’s a legitimate complaint that the federal and provincial governments take more and more of our tax dollars while providing fewer and fewer services … all the while demanding that municipalities pick up the slack.
It’s crucial that municipalities take up this cause. However, another annual politician chin-wag isn’t the best way to go about it.
As mentioned, municipalities already have ways to pressure upper levels of government … and there are others.
Each of the 86 communities represented at the mayors’ caucus has a chamber of commerce. The B.C. Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual general meeting this week … ironically, in Penticton. At that annual meeting, each chamber puts forward resolutions that, if passed, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce then takes up the cause for and lobbies government on. Resolutions that are federal in nature, go to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting and the same thing happens.
Municipal leaders should be tapping into this resource to lobby government.
And, chambers of commerce aren’t the only local organization that has a provincial arm that lobbies government … home builders, realtors, doctors, road builders, unions, even Initiatives Prince George, the list goes on. All lobby the upper levels of government. Municipal leaders should be tapping into these groups that already exist, to send a clear message to the upper levels of government.
When politicians hear the same message from all sectors of society, they will respond.