UBCM calls on province for revenue sharing

B.C. cities have endorsed a call for the province to share some of its revenues – not now but during a provincial boom

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard

B.C. cities have endorsed a call for the province to share some of its revenues – not now but out in the future when hoped-for boom times arrive.

That’s the centrepiece of a financial reform policy paper tabled by the leadership of the Union of B.C. Municipalities that won unanimous support Wednesday.

The concept is that in years when provincial revenue from all sources is up by more than an agreed threshold – three per cent is suggested – Victoria would share a portion of the excess with municipalities.

Exactly how the money would be disbursed and where it could go would be up for much more debate, if the province even agrees to the notion.

So far Coralee Oakes, the minister responsible for local government, has promised nothing more than talks.

But Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, one of the architects, said the money would go into an infrastructure bank, with more of the money potentially reserved for use by cities in down years when ramped-up infrastructure spending can also help revive the economy rather than hot years with higher construction costs.

Leonard said civic leaders understand that the province doesn’t want to hand over more of its existing income right now and that citizens don’t want to be hit with any new tax. He thinks the core concept will appeal to the government.

“Let us be a partner in growing the economy, so much so that we benefit financially with growth in the economy,” Leonard said. “If we were in their shoes, we think we would like to hear this.”

Asked if local governments should trust the province not to shuffle its accounts and discretionary dividends from Crown corporations to keep total revenue below any sharing threshold, Leonard doubted that will be a problem.

“I would think if they’re having good years – three, four and five per cent growth in revenue – they’re not going to hide it, they’re going to be damn proud of it. And we want to be proud of it too.”

Cities face an intensifying crunch to raise cash for major infrastructure such a water and sewer upgrades and transit expansion.

The province’s Property Transfer Tax, charged for every real estate transaction, is one of the government sources that grows with the economy that cities say give the province room to share. Saanich Coun. Paul Gerrard said the PTT brings the province $800 million to $1 billion a year.

“None of that is put back into affordable housing, which I think is a disgrace,” Gerrard said.

There are no permanent recurring grants guaranteed at the provincial level, unlike federal gas tax transfers that are now enshrined. Traffic fine sharing, for example, depends on provincial approval each year.

Cities feel too dependent on property taxes that don’t reflect owners’ ability to pay.

Premier Christy Clark has said future liquefied natural gas revenues could generate huge dividends for the province that could fund various benefits, including lower tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

Civic leaders would prefer a systematic method for sharing any future bounty rather than one that could be sporadic or politicized.

 

Just Posted

Midway will open early at the 2019 Saanich Fair

This year the fair will pilot a “sneak peek” and the main stage will feature April Wine

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Second beach closed to swimming at Elk/Beaver lakes

Island Health, CRD do not recommend swimming at Hamsterly or Eagle beaches

Transit extends weekend night routes, ups service levels across Greater Victoria

Says bus lanes have helped improve BC Transit service frequencies

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Retired Vancouver Island teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Patrick Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Most Read