Mayors feel budget auditor needless

The parliamentary secretary to Premier Christie Clark may feel the appointment of an municipal auditor-general will be good for smaller municipalities, but local mayors disagree.

The parliamentary secretary to Premier Christie Clark may feel the appointment of an municipal auditor-general will be good for smaller municipalities, but local mayors disagree.

Chilliwack Liberal MLA John Les, a former mayor and former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, says all elected officials, no matter what level, can benefit from financial oversight.

“This (municipal auditor general) office, particularly for smaller municipalities, can provide real value,” said Les in defending the new position.

But local mayors James Baker of Lake Country, Keith Fielding of Peachland,  Doug Findlater of West Kelowna and Sharon Shepherd of Kelowna all question the need for such a position in B.C. given that there are already stringent rules in place governing the reporting of municipal finances.

Those rules include mandatory audits and the prohibition of budget deficits and the requirement that provincial permission be received in order to borrow large amounts of money.

“This appears to be a solution in search of a problem,” said Baker, echoing a position paper on the proposal issued by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“I’m not really sure why it is necessary or what is the reason for it.”

Like Fielding, Findlater and Shepherd, Baker said he feels municipalities are already prudent with their finances, noting each year a limited number of demands for additional services, infrastructure and facilities can be met because of financial constraints.

“We’d would love to provide everything people want but we can’t. We have to budget within our means.”

And it is not just small municipalities that are questioning the need for the a municipal auditor general.

Shepherd, whose city is the ninth largest in B.C. and the biggest outside of the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, agrees with the trio of local smaller community mayors.

“It’s hard to comment because we don’t know what the rationale is for this,” she said.

But she added the issue is certain to be discussed at the next UBCM meeting in September.

As the chairwoman of her city’s audit committee, Shepherd sees first hand what she calls the  “very stringent” accounting practices her city has to follow.

“Is this (proposal) setting up another department that will prove costly for all taxpayers?” she asked.

The Central Okanagan Regional District board, on which all four mayors sit, has also come out against the proposal.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities paper notes the many measures currently in place when it comes to keeping municipal finances in check, including statutory responsibilities and limits, mandatory audits, requirements for open meetings, and open financial and performance reporting, annual reports, wage and salary reports, financial plan consultation with the public and existing third-party oversight by B.C.’s ombudsman, inspector of municipalities and officials with the community ministry.

Fielding said in addition to creating another level of bureaucracy, the new proposal has municipalities concerned about potential interference in how municipalities spend their money.

“The word ‘meddling’ comes to mind, doesn’t it,” said the Peachland mayor.

Findlater, whose council “took a pass” on the issue when it came to it for comment, said his personal view is that the province would do better strengthening the existing audit process for municipalities rather than creating a new level of bureaucracy.

That, he said, could be done with chartered accountants and certified general accountants.

In addition to municipal politicians being against the plan—which was first announced by Clark during her run for leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party—the NDP has come out against it as well.

But the NDP’s opposition was slammed by Les, who said when current NDP leader Adrian Dix was chief of staff to former premier Glen Clark, that government had eight consecutive deficit budgets.

“Good management of taxpayer money is not in the NDP psyche,” said Les.

“So, it’s hardly surprising they would reject a look at how tax dollars are spent at the local level.”

 

 

awaters@kelownacapnews.com

 

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
UPDATE: West Kelowna fire crews rescue injured mountain biker

The injury took place at the top of Smith Creek Road

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read