Home > BC Liberals, British Columbia Politics, Local Government > So Much For More Autonomous Municipalities: Gordo At The UBCM

So Much For More Autonomous Municipalities: Gordo At The UBCM

October 30, 2006

Gordon Campbell, Premier of BC and leader of the BC “Liberals”, continued a disappointing trend in reducing the autonomy of BC Local Government at the recent Union of BC Municipalities Convention, despite of all the good news being shot out.

Before I continue, I’d like to make it know that I think that local governments need to be more autonomous in this day and age; people want to have more influence in the decisions of their governments, and I think that this is easier to do via a local government. In fact, I say that the type of urning that makes the phase “smaller government” popular now days really comes from the fact that most government is out of the reach of regular people, being located in Victoria or Ottawa. The fact that one is not in contact with it makes people afraid of it, and I think that people want “closer government”, not smaller.

Anyways, Campbell announced at the UBCM Convention that for capital projects, municipalities basically must resort to P3s if they want to receive capital grants from the province. In Campbell’s own words:

That is the future of capital development in province of British Columbia: better value, on time, on budget. So in the future we’re going to work with you, but we will insist that Partnerships B.C. look at major capital projects, and the base case in British Columbia will be P3s unless Partnerships B.C. says there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise.

Now, I’ll put aside my disdain for P3s aside (others have written on that subject). What really irks me about this is that the provincial government is taking away the power of the local government to choose the method in which their capital projects are built. I think that it should be the local government’s own business on how it achieves its ends. One size fits all solutions tend to suck in the case of local governments.

There have been other actions that have reduced local governmental autonomy. For instance Section 53 in Bill 30, which has stripped the zoning powers of local governments over independent power projects.

But to be fair to the BC “Liberals”, they were responsible for a decent sized step that gave local governments local autonomy: the Community Charter, which increased municipal powers by generalizing what powers municipalities received, giving municipalities much more flexibility, as opposed to the previous method of giving municipalities specific powers.

But I think the Community Charter is incomplete. For instance, greater power and responsibility results in a greater need for resources, and one of the key thing missing is giving municipalities more taxation flexibility. Municipalities should have the ability to charge Income and Sales Taxes (to a reasonable maximum) as well as Property Tax. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of tax, and local governments should have the power to choose what is best for their situation.

But it does not look like the BC “Liberals” are going to do any such thing if the current trend continues. And that is a shame, considering their Community Charter was a step in the right direction.

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  1. leftdog
    October 31, 2006 at 6:12 am

    “Now, I’ll put aside my disdain for P3s aside (others have written on that subject). What really irks me about this is that the provincial government is taking away the power of the local government to choose the method in which their capital projects are built. I think that it should be the local government’s own business on how it achieves its ends. One size fits all solutions tend to suck in the case of local governments.”

    AGREED – the right wing is always pushing their ideology with this stuff.

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