In December of 2015, Metro Vancouver finalized the intent to move its headquarters by acquiring Metrotower III with a purchase price of CDN $205 million. Metro Vancouver’s board chair, Greg Moore, defends the purchase by claiming that the existing offices were old and that the transfer would bypass maintenance costs associated with upgrading the building’s leaky ceilings and unpredictable elevators (Klassen 2016). The shocking irony of this situation comes twofold.
For one, hearing the organization that is in charge of maintaining our cities’ infrastructure (sewers, dams, etc.) let their own office-building fall into such despair is daunting (Klassen 2016). Secondly, weren’t these the same administrators who had vigorously advocated the public support of a sales tax increase to pay for transit improvements? Metro Vancouver would also need to spend millions of additional dollars to facilitate the move and renovation costs for the new building (Deutsch 2016). The organization went on to further justify the move by claiming that it would only cost taxpayers $5 or $6 dollars annually for 15 years to pay for the new building (Field 2015).
Analysts, however, have taken a more skeptical outlook on these figures. The Canadian Federation of Business took into account the population growth in the Metro Vancouver area and estimated that spending is close to 3.5 times the 13% of growth that has been witnessed (Field 2015). In other words, it will cost a lot more than just 5-6 dollars over 15 years for taxpayers. Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation gave his perspective on the situation: “This is a sign of just how ‘out of touch’ Metro Vancouver is with the common taxpayer” and he called this “a palace for bureaucrats” (Field 2015).
While unwise spending continues to remain a common theme in the relationship between city administrators and taxpayers, this case in-point is representative of a larger microcosm in the municipal affairs of Metro Vancouver. That is, Metro Vancouver, regardless of what decisions they make that affect the public, continue to remain unaccountable for their actions (Klassen 2016). The city continues to be vested with powers to make decisions over service provisions and taxation with little supervision from the provincial government (Klassen 2016). And to add insult to injury, the board of directors that are in charge of making those decisions continue to be appointed, not elected (Klassen 2016). This democratic deficit is essential to the functionality of the city and the role its citizens play in the decision making process. There is little recourse for voters to drive change even if they see their own local government is spending unwisely (Klassen 2016). SFU professor Patrick Smith – an expert on Canadian local government – claims the system is in dire need of reform (Klassen 2016).
Story contributed by Arya Hejazi
References and further reading
Deutsch, Jeremy. “Metro Vancouver Shells out for Office Renos.” Burnaby Now. N.p., 18 Aug. 2016. Web.
Field, Ted. “Metro Vancouver Spending More than $200 Million on New HQ.” Global News. N.p., 17 Dec. 2015. Web.
Klassen, Mike. “It’s Time We Elected Metro Vancouver Representatives.” Vancouver Courier. N.p., 6 Jan. 2016. Web.
“Metro Vancouver Relocates to Metrotower III to Better Serve the Region.” Ivanhoe Cambridge. N.p., 17 Dec. 2015. Web.
Pablo, Carlito. “Metrotower III Will Become New Home for Metro Vancouver.” Georgia Straight. N.p., 13 Jan. 2016. Web.