Upper Lonsdale neighbourhood in North Vancouver (Wikimedia Commons)

Municipal spending outpaces population growth 4-fold in B.C.: report

Canadian Federation of Independent Business has released its annual operational spending report

With the municipal election just over a month away, those in the running are going to need to address the million-dollar problem in civic government: overspending.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, it’s a problem that plagues every major municipality, defined as a city with a population larger than 25,000 residents.

In the business group’s annual municipal spending report, released this week, spending increased an average of 43 per cent in cities between 2006 and 2016. That’s compared to populations growing about 12 per cent.

In dollars, that’s $1,243 per person on average across B.C in 2016, and $1,537 per capita in the province’s 20 major cities.

“Only eight out of 152 municipal governments in B.C. have kept operational spending at or below levels of inflation plus population growth over the 10 year period examined,” the report reads.

Meanwhile, two of B.C.’s largest cities, Vancouver and Victoria, each increased their operating spending per person by 32 per cent and 30 per cent respectively from 2006 to 2016, according to the report data.

In its rank of the 20 large municipalities with the best operating spending per capita growth, Port Coquitlam topped the list.

That’s because the city had relatively low spending of $1,235 per person but controlled spending increases over the decade, at just 7.6 per cent.

Maple Ridge and Kelowna ranked second and third best respectively. Surrey had the lowest per capita spending in 2016 at $1,057.

The Township of Langley ranked as the worst major municipality, CFIB said, due to the large per capita increase between 2006 and 2016, of 50.1 per cent growth. Still, the township’s per-capita expenditures remain below average, so curbing spending could improve that rate, the report suggests.

The CFIB said cities have ample opportunity to diversify revenue sources and cut costs without cutting services – with some municipalities already taking on initiatives.

“Some municipalities have already started doing this by sharing resources, making the most of publicly owned assets, investing in new technologies, and changing inefficient practices,” the business group said. “For example, the City of Victoria was able to reduce paper use through the development of an online parking application.”


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