Community

Cities set to grill minister over planned auditor

UBCM convention to mull civic spending watchdog

The province’s plan to create a civic spending watchdog that might find efficiencies and uncover waste will be a hot topic at this fall’s Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention.

UBCM president Barbara Steele denies mayors and councillors are fearful of the government’s intent to appoint a municipal auditor-general, but says they have plenty of questions.

“There doesn’t seem to be a local government opposed to somebody coming in and checking out the books, checking the spending and even checking for best practices,” Steele said.

“The concern is we don’t know what the auditor-general is supposed to do or what’s broken. We don’t know what they’re looking to fix.”

Some civic leaders suspect the audits could limit their autonomy or constrain their ability to pursue different approaches or policies.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong has said civic performance audits wouldn’t overrule local governments but would highlight areas communities could save money.

She also indicated they could look at property tax rates – industry and business have long demanded a mechanism to cap and perhaps reduce what they pay.

The municipal auditor-general initiative was a promise of Premier Christy Clark when she ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership.

The issue will be the topic of a workshop with Chong at the UBCM convention at the end of September.

But Steele and others don’t see how there’s much time for the province to meaningfully consult cities if Victoria aims to create the new office during an expected sitting of the Legislature in October.

Cities are already subject to balanced budget legislation that bans deficits and pay for their own auditors that report each year.

That’s raised concern that the effort might create duplication.

Cities already work together closely – often coordinated through UBCM – to compare best practices and share them, Steele added.

She noted Chong has now indicated the costs of the auditor may be downloaded onto cities.

“At no time had we been told that we would bear the cost of this,” she said. “So you can bet that’s going to be a concern.”

Just Posted

O’Reilly trial scheduled to start January 15 for Anahim Lake murders

O’Reilly is charged with first-degree murder

School District 49 to re-open Nusatsum Elementary in September 2018

SD49 says increasing enrollment is driving its decision to re-open the school

Red Cross funding available to local residents of Bella Coola and Hagensborg

The Red Cross is administering up to $900 in initial funding to help assist Bella Coola Valley residents

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Players sought for National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

ISPARC calls for bantam/midget players to register for selection camp in Kamloops

New funding opens for industry innovation

Northern Development Initiative Trust opened new funds, focused on areas impacted by the pine beetle

Most Read