October 15th, local Election Day, is only two months away. Candidates for Council are appearing and beginning to make their presence known. Soon you won’t be able to shake them off your leg. This is, however, our only chance during the next four years in which to exert significant influence over those who may be setting the policies and priorities for our District’s government, ones which will have, as they have done up to now, a substantial impact on the quality of life in our community. We must make sure the various candidates are aware of our concerns and wishes.
Our community continues to face numerous challenges respecting housing stock, traffic congestion and struggling commercial centres among others. Many of these are complicated, of long-standing and require co-operation among various levels of government. One frustratingly continuous issue, something over which our Council has virtually sole control should they choose to demonstrate the necessary political will, is the worse than unacceptable, I suggest obscene, level of spending by the District. Local taxpayers’ wallets have long been, and continue to be, plundered, with seemingly never-ending increases, to feed a bureaucracy in which more than 80 percent of the operating budget goes toward paying employee remuneration and benefits. Who exactly is working for who?
The notion that the more things change, the more they stay the same is especially apt in government. I was reminded of this frustrating reality when I read the recently-released Fraser Institute study , which reveals that Metro Vancouver municipal budgets over the ten year period 2009 to 2019 (pre-pandemic) have grown continually larger, with the District of West Vancouver by far the greatest spendthrift.
As of 2019, adjusted for inflation (and after deducting the unique Blue Bus expenditures), the DWV evidently spent over 60 percent more per capita than the average for the twenty or so municipal governments throughout Metro and 28 percent more than the second highest spender (New Westminster). Astonishing! Outrageous! Pick your adjective. I recall the apposite observation of former US President Ronald Reagan that, “When it comes to money, governments are like a newborn infant: An insatiable appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”
According to Statistics Canada, as reported in last Friday’s Financial Post, between February, 2020 and last month our country added some 422,900 net new jobs. Sounds impressive. Not so much when it appears that fully 87 percent of these jobs are in the public sector. If one reads the DWV’s ‘Schedules of Remuneration’ for recent years, and for that matter the past decade or more, it becomes clear that our District has been doing its part to keep the Canadian bureaucratic establishment metastasizing.
And why wouldn’t you want to get yourself a public sector job these days? According to a column in the National Post, of last July 28th, our federal government shelled out $171 million in taxpayers’ money (more likely borrowed) to its employees since the COVID pandemic struck in early 2020 even as its various departments collectively failed to meet even half of their performance objectives. Meanwhile, since 2019 our federal government employees, many ‘working from home’, have altogether been paid $1.6 billion in overtime, and some 312,825 of them have also received a raise. What no ‘danger pay’? Reminds me of the Dire Straits’ tune, “Money for nothing…”.
If you’ve been patient enough to read this far, I’ll end on a humourous note by referring to the ‘Update’, of July 25th, which our District’s CAO provided to Mayor and Council. Evidently, DWV Council, in its ‘Strategic Plan 2021-2022’, among other objectives wishes to see “municipal services delivered efficiently” and the creation of “vibrant and vital commercial centres”.
Well, I’ve banged on long enough about the “efficiency” of our District, and will do so again, but as for our poor, beleaguered businesses, under the heading ‘Local Economy’, our District’s top apparatchik claims the bureaucracy has “restructured its economic development portfolio”. Hmmm? What does this mean I wonder? Not more hires surely?
He goes on to claim the District has “supported local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Hmmm? I bet this will come as news to our struggling merchants and restauranteurs (no doubt our multiplicity of currency exchanges are doing just fine), as the District has raised their property taxes, along with those of residential property-owners, three times since March, 2020.
But, what of our Mayor’s “Task Force on Economic Renewal”, announced with solemn intent by DWV Council on June 8, 2020 and charged with helping local businesses weather the pandemic’s impact? As far as I have been able to ascertain, it has yet to make a single recommendation. Hilarious, no? I’m sure its got our hard-pressed business owner-operators rolling in the aisles. What’s our District’s “restructured economic development portfolio” doing exactly? Something to ask candidates.
Seems like before we’ll see any revitalization of our commercial centres and the rest of our community we must first revitalize our District’s Council. We’re supposed to be a self-governing society. October 15th is our next opportunity to prove it.