The province is facing sharp criticism from local mayors over plans to create a municipal auditor-general.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean did not mince his words when asked about an auditor-general while attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where on Thursday civic politicians voted overwhelmingly to object to provincial plans to a create the spending watchdog.
“Right now, it stands as a political decision that may seem popular with the public, but what’s it going to do is add tax dollars to their bill every year,” MacLean said.
“Let’s audit those terrible municipal governments who always balance their books and do everything for eight cents on the tax dollar. It’s a political decision – same as Gordon Campbell getting rid of photo radar, which was one of those things that was very popular with the public.”
Civic leaders are riled by the government’s vow to bring in the auditor-general to help police spending by municipalities and regional districts.
Most are not appeased by provincial promises that the municipal AG’s recommendations will be non-binding, that the office won’t meddle with civic policy, and that the costs would be borne by Victoria.
Just like the majority of delegates at UBCM, MacLean feels the planned watchdog on waste would itself be a waste of money.
“[Premier Christy Clark] went through all of the things they weren’t going to do and at the end of the list, what’s left is absolutely no reason for the decision,” said MacLean.
He believes an auditor-general would only download more work onto already overworked city staff.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin agrees that the auditor-general position is political, but is willing to let the province look at the district’s books.
“I know our processes and the rigour that it goes through. As far as value for money, we do a pretty good job,” said Daykin.
A handful of delegates at the convention spoke in support of a municipal auditor-general, saying cities should have nothing to fear from a new tool for taxpayer transparency.
“I’m not scared of a municipal auditor-general for our cities and I don’t see why anybody else should be,” Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said.
The resolution adopted Thursday calls the auditor-general’s office unnecessary, but endorses the UBCM executive’s policy paper on how to try to shape the outcome.
A municipal auditor-general was promised by Premier Clark in her leadership campaign.
Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong says the auditor-general will not duplicate audits of municipal books that are already required, but will compare performance of local governments to determine best practices on major projects funded by senior governments.
– with files from Jeff Nagel