Community

Cities set to grill minister over planned auditor

UBCM convention to mull civic spending watchdog

The province’s plan to create a civic spending watchdog that might find efficiencies and uncover waste will be a hot topic at this fall’s Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention.

UBCM president Barbara Steele denies mayors and councillors are fearful of the government’s intent to appoint a municipal auditor-general, but says they have plenty of questions.

“There doesn’t seem to be a local government opposed to somebody coming in and checking out the books, checking the spending and even checking for best practices,” Steele said.

“The concern is we don’t know what the auditor-general is supposed to do or what’s broken. We don’t know what they’re looking to fix.”

Some civic leaders suspect the audits could limit their autonomy or constrain their ability to pursue different approaches or policies.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong has said civic performance audits wouldn’t overrule local governments but would highlight areas communities could save money.

She also indicated they could look at property tax rates – industry and business have long demanded a mechanism to cap and perhaps reduce what they pay.

The municipal auditor-general initiative was a promise of Premier Christy Clark when she ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership.

The issue will be the topic of a workshop with Chong at the UBCM convention at the end of September.

But Steele and others don’t see how there’s much time for the province to meaningfully consult cities if Victoria aims to create the new office during an expected sitting of the Legislature in October.

Cities are already subject to balanced budget legislation that bans deficits and pay for their own auditors that report each year.

That’s raised concern that the effort might create duplication.

Cities already work together closely – often coordinated through UBCM – to compare best practices and share them, Steele added.

She noted Chong has now indicated the costs of the auditor may be downloaded onto cities.

“At no time had we been told that we would bear the cost of this,” she said. “So you can bet that’s going to be a concern.”

Just Posted

Alberni vet heading to Africa with Veterinarians Without Borders

Dr. Roberta Templeton and her vet husband will help dairy farmers in Uganda

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Helping with Christmas bird count is ‘citizen science’

Port Alberni’s bird count will be Dec. 28, 2019; volunteers are needed

BUDGET 2020: Port Alberni Fire Department needs new equipment

Police services ask for funding for community policing office

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read