MetroVanWatch welcomes Union of BC Municipalities, calls for municipal auditor general

MetroVanWatch welcomes delegates to the annual convention of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) starting today at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The UBCM calls itself “the voice of BC local government.” The theme of the convention is “Rethink, Replace & Rejuvenate: The New 3Rs.” For mayors and councillors, this annual convention (paid for by us taxpayers) is their best opportunity to meet directly with cabinet ministers and the senior bureaucrats who “make things happen.” The UBCM website and program info are here:

http://ubcm.ca/EN/main/convention/2011_Convention/theme.html
The page on resolutions and policy is here:
http://ubcm.ca/EN/main/convention/2011_Convention/resolutions-and-policy.html

ACTION: We urge citizens to write their mayors and councillors saying the “municipal auditor general” is a good idea. While you’re at it, encourage them to call for web video (live and archived) of all Metro Vancouver board and committee meetings. Our experience with the passage of the Regional Growth Strategy raises serious concerns about the accountability and public access to the unelected bureaucracy of Metro Vancouver. 

Premier Christy Clark will address delgates at 11 am on Friday. (Former premier Gordon Campbell often used the UBCM for major announcements.) Adrian Dixleader of the opposition NDP, will addresses the convention at 8:35 am Thursday. Green Party Leader Jane Sterk speaks for 5 minute at 8:30 am Friday.

Hot topics this time are BC Ferries services and costsBC Hydro “smart meters,”and a proposed “municipal auditor general” (opposed by UBCM), among other topics. Fresh media coverage on the UBCM follows, with a comment by CityHallWatch, particularly regarding the auditor general.

Officials have full agenda for UBCM (Shayne Morrow, Alberni Valley Times, 26-Sep-2011).

B.C. mayors are on a spending binge; need auditor’s oversight (Adam Leamy and Jamie Lamb, Vancouver Sun, 25-Sep-2011)
http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/pne/mayors+spending+binge+need+aud
itor+oversight/5456933/story.htm
l
Excerpts:

  • In 2010, the CFIB’s [Canadian Federation of Independent Business ] report on B.C. municipal spending advised that “municipal operating spending in the vast majority of B.C.’s municipalities continues to grow at an unsustainable rate.”  It’s a damning report of the actions of our out-of-control mayors and  councils from 2000 to 2008, and it offers family-last gems like this: “If B.C.’s municipalities had maintained better fiscal discipline over the nine-year period, taxpayers would have saved $883 million in 2008 alone, an average of $228 per person or $904 for a family of four.”
  • British Columbians weathered the recession by cutting back, spending carefully, spending wisely, and in many, many homes, going without. These were tough choices, but British Columbians made them, were forced to make them. B.C.’s municipalities? Too tough for them, it turns out, with the CFIB, unbelievably, having to report in 2010 that “there is another option 
  • available to municipal officials that is not being given proper consideration — better control of spending.”
  • B.C.’s families and taxpayers are being held hostage by this sorry state of affairs, and for once, and especially now, someone needs to stand up and put things right.

Councillor fights in-camera veil of closed meetings (Frank Luba, The Province, 26-Sept-2011).  (Main point: Prince George councillor Brian Skakun, convicted and fined for leaking in-camera information, doesn’t want municipal politicians to be able to hide behind the veil of in-camera meetings held behind closed doors.)
http://www.theprovince.com/news/Councillor+fights+camera+veil+closed+meeting
s/5458103/story.html

********************

CityHallWatch comment:

A hot topic this time is the Premier’s proposal to create a municipal auditor general. We have covered this story here:
http://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/kudos-and-comments-for-premier-clark-on-proposal-to-create-a-municipal-auditor-general/

Comments we have received on the topic of the municipal auditor general:
Municipal governments do need independent auditing oversight. However, how independent would a provincially appointed auditor be? Many of the worst examples of abuse of public spending and questionable contracts or legislation were initiated by the B.C. Liberals (e.g., the Olympics ($7b+), the BC Place retractable roof ($600m+), TransLink’s governance and “Hong Kong model” of funding transit with development (a conflict of interest), the Metro Van Regional Growth Strategy). How could the public have confidence that the auditor general would be truly independent? Would provincial funding be dependent on municipal compliance with the auditor’s recommendations and could the Province use this to force municipalities to do what the Province wants? Independent auditing of municipalities is a noble proposal, but independence cannot be ensured if the province is in control. Independence and free access to all government documents would be essential for an auditor general.

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