Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong (left) and Union of B.C. Municipalities president Barbara Steele (right).

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong (left) and Union of B.C. Municipalities president Barbara Steele (right).

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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley letter writer hopes after seeing how Willoughby developed, the Township protects Walnut Grove green spaces. (Langley Advance Times file)
LETTER: Walnut Grove resident cherishes Langley’s green spaces

Willoughby was allowed to develop without enough consideration for nature, writer says

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – checkpoint at Manning Park

Four checkpoints are set up Thursday, May 6 around the province

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Former Langley School District superintendent Suzanne Hoffman is the new CEO of the B.C. School Trustee Association (BCSTA). (Black Press Media files)
Former Langley school superintendent to lead trustee organization

Suzanne Hoffman worked for Langley before a job with Vancouver School Board

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sgt. Frank Jang said outside of Langley Sportsplex at 91a Ave and 200 Street after a man was fatally shot in April 2021. (Black Press Media file)
LETTER: Casual drug users have link to gang killings, says Langley letter writer

The Lower Mainland is in the midst of another gang war and the illicit drug market is part of it

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

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

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Most Read