Municipal auditor plan ruffles feathers

The B.C. government's plan to appoint a municipal auditor-general has raised concerns in local government circles, but the minister responsible says it won't mean the province is going to start telling local councils how to tax and spend money.

Community

Community

VICTORIA – The B.C. government’s plan to appoint a municipal auditor-general has raised concerns in local government circles, but the minister responsible says it won’t mean the province is going to start telling local councils how to tax and spend money.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong met with the executive of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in late July to discuss the plan. According to a summary sent by the UBCM to its member councils, the UBCM executive complained about the lack of consultation and asked Chong if local councils’ policy decisions would be exempt from a municipal auditor’s authority, as they are in other jurisdictions.

Chong said in an interview Wednesday that B.C.’s municipal auditor won’t overrule local governments, but “performance audits” would highlight areas where communities can save money. The service will benefit to the 160 local governments in B.C., especially the smaller ones, she said.

“More than half of our municipalities have populations under 5,000,” Chong said. “They don’t have the capacity to do value-for-money audits or performance audits.”

Smaller communities also receive unconditional grants from the province, and a municipal auditor-general would check whether they are spent effectively. All municipalities get federal and provincial cost-sharing grants for major projects, and an auditor-general could compare a group of communities to see which ones are more efficient.

Premier Christy Clark promised a municipal auditor general while running for the B.C. Liberal leadership. Her platform promised to expand the provincial auditor-general’s office to include a municipal auditor, and to “review the municipal taxation formula.”

Chong said municipal tax rates wouldn’t be the first priority, but a municipal auditor general may choose to compare rates and their effect on industrial development.

The B.C. government has been critical in the past about the heavy tax burden some municipalities place on industrial property, especially in the struggling forest industry. The issue was studied before last year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where the B.C. government rejected a request to chip in $25 million in bridge financing for municipalities to reduce industrial tax rates.

Former finance minister Colin Hansen told the convention that high industrial taxes are a problem municipalities need to fix themselves.

Chong’s office has sent out a survey to municipalities and regional districts across B.C. The survey asks municipalities if an auditor should have authority over other local bodies as well.

The B.C. government took similar steps to oversee school districts, imposing common payroll and personnel systems on boards of education and appointing “superintendents of achievement” to monitor district efforts to raise student performance.

Just Posted

The District of Saanich has pinpointed funding requests to Oak Bay and Victoria to help offset the purchase price of the Kings Park greenspace and keep the property intact. (Courtesy District of Saanich)
Saanich requests funding help from neighbours to preserve Kings Road green space

District hopes Victoria and Oak Bay will join them in protecting urban green space

North Saanich council Monday will consider the results of a survey conducted by the North Saanich Residents Association that finds little support for increased densification. (Black Press Media File)
Survey finds little support for increased density in North Saanich

North Saanich Residents Association conducted the online survey

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria stood at 6.3 per cent in May 2021, nearly unchanged from April’s rate of 6.2 per cent. (Black Press Media File)
Unemployment rate in Greater Victoria stagnates at 6.3 per cent in May

Latest figures reflect conditions before lifting of public health measures

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read