Municipalities across BC are nervous about premier Christy Clark’s plan to create the position of municipal auditor general (MAG).
You and I should be more than nervous, we should be downright afraid.
As you will have read in our page 3 story, Union of BC Municipalities president Barbara Steele says her members’ concern is they don’t know what this auditor general is supposed to do or “what’s broken. We don’t know what they’re looking to fix.”
That’s a very reasonable question.
Take our own municipality.
It delivers a balanced budget every year. (While the provincial government can run up deficits to its heart’s content, municipalities and school districts are forbidden to do so by legislation).
Every year its books are audited and form part of a full financial report which is made available to all, again as required by legislation.
When it comes to borrowing money, above a relatively low threshold the city has to go to referendum as it did with the pool upgrade.
The voters said ‘yes’ to the plan and therefore the city again abided by the rules.
Granted, the referendum was for a $10 million dollar project, not a $15 million one and the electorate were not given an opportunity to vote on the more expensive model, but we’ll let that slide.
Now you can always argue about how much our city spends and/or what it spends it on, but they are doing everything by the book – so where’s the problem?
Community, Sports and Cultural Development minister Ida Chong has been given the thankless task of trying to sell her leader’s brainstorm to the UBCM members.
In trying to justify the new position, she says the A-G would be able to show municipalities how they could save money.
And in doing so essentially insults municipalities by suggesting they are incompetent in that regard.
I would suggest that many municipalities with limited tax revenues could probably teach the province a thing or two about saving money.
But the scary line is that this new watchdog could look at property tax rates.
This is where we should start becoming very afraid.
The reason why next week.