Election 2022 – David Marley’s Alert

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.

David Marley

Budget 2021 – Letter to Mayor and Council

Dear Madam Mayor and Council,

Re Budget 2021

Thank you to you and your fellow Councillors for your efforts on behalf of us all over the last year which has been difficult and challenging.

This next year for many Residents will be a challenging one from both a health and financial perspective. Vaccines will hopefully bring an end to the health part of this crisis by the end of this year. The economic consequences will likely be felt for years to come.

Many in the private sector have been laid off or are working reduced hours and have had their pay frozen or reduced. Many small businesses are struggling or have had to close down at great personal cost to owners and employees alike.  Many seniors are on fixed incomes and with record low interest rates have seen their income decline or had to take additional risk to their capital to preserve income.

It is in this context that I write to you with regard to the Budget 2021. I attended the Budget Presentation on January 28 and have had a short time since to review some of the details. I am sure you will all agree that given an inflation rate of around 1% a 5.2% increase in property taxes proposed by staff seems to be unreasonable. For many years now property taxes have increased well above the rate of inflation. The Public sector cannot just continue to download increasing costs through increased taxes to Residents and Businesses. They need to seriously evaluate how to reduce these costs and the burden on taxpayers.

Mr McIsaac on behalf of ADRA has forwarded a list of questions related to 2020 Budget that are relevant today and remain unanswered and questions in respect of the 2021 Budget. In a phone call on Friday January 28 Mr Bartlett, CAO undertook to provide a speedy response to these questions.

In addition to the concern about the 5.2% proposed property tax increase (and this does not include any increases re Translink, School Taxes and Utilities usage).  ADRA has the following concerns:

  1. Costs are proposed to increase 6.3% or $6.3 million. $1.4 million of this relates to adding 13 new full time staff. Surely we should be freezing recruitment, reallocating staff from under resourced areas to where more staff are required. In addition we should be at least freezing salaries for non-union staff and management.
  2. Revenues include a $4 million of a one-time $5 million Grant from the Province of BC related to COVID Safe Restart. $4 million has also been added to expenses. The BC Government provided guidance to CAO’s as to what is considered as eligible costs under the program and the money can be used in 2020, 2021 or 2022.
  3. Addressing revenues shortfalls
  4. Facility reopening and operating costs
  5. Emergency planning and response costs
  6. By-law enforcement and protective services like fire and police
  7. Computer and other electronic technology costs (to improve interconnectivity and virtual communications
  8. Services for vulnerable persons
  9. Other related costs

Of the $4 million only $1.8 million of the proposed spending clearly relates to COVID restart. $3.2 million less so. 8 additional staff are added as well and costs included.

 $1.7 million is related to Support for Strategic Objectives and it is particularly hard to see how any of this relates to COVID Safe Restart in any way. Much of it is for Consulting for things such as Environmental Strategy Update, Transportation Consultant Service, Strategic Transportation Plan, Public education events re Climate Change, Ambleside Town Centre Planning etc.

Particularly egregious is $312,000 re planning for a yet to be approved Arts Centre.

None of the $1.7 million seem to be eligible and certainly do not seem to be being spent under the spirit of the intent the BC Government gave the Grant to Cities and Municipalities.

Also allowed is using Grant Funds to replenish any statutory reserve funds. Our understanding is that $8 million was borrowed last year from the Endowment Fund. Much of these funds instead of being spent as outlined above could be used to repay the money borrowed in 2020. This would have reduced expenses and the increased property taxes proposed.

  • In the General Fund summary it is proposed that $2.9 million from projected land sales are including in Operating Revenue. We would suggest that this is highly inappropriate and that such funds be allocated to the Endowment Fund or the Asset Reserve fund for deferred maintenance of Municipal Assets.

In closing the above are issues that stand out to us from a very preliminary review of the proposed Budget 2021 and we would hope, as you consider the Budget, you will take into account the comments above.

In these difficult and challenging times we do not consider a 5.2% appropriate- this is a time to focus on core services delivery and essentials and not to be pursuing major new objectives.


Heather Mersey,

President , ADRA