Imagine a bylaw that requires elected officials to publicly disclose receipts that show item for item every penny they spend on their political duties.
“It’s completely transparent,” Jordan Bateman told Township politicians on May 14.
Municipal council members are required by law to disclose their expenses, but in Langley’s case, these are off-limits to the public.
It should be enshrined in a Property Tax Bylaw which the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would like all local authorities to adopt, said Bateman, a former Township councillor. Council said no, defeating a motion that urges staff to explore its merits.
Bateman is the B.C. director of the CTF which also advocates pay cuts of 15 per cent if politicians raise property taxes above the Consumer Price Index. He is also a former Township councillor.
The CTF is a non-partisan advocacy organization that is funded by more than 18,000 donors across the country. It has more than 70,000 supporters.
The Property Tax Bylaw sets out the core principles that guide interactions between municipalities and taxpayers. Within it is a Bill of Rights that can be tailored to a community’s specific needs and expectations, Bateman said.
The bill would spell out simple rules to guide budget preparation, spending increases, tax hikes and bylaw enforcement.
The Property Tax Bylaw would prevent a municipality from accepting “voluntary downloading,” that is, not funding or taking on services that are the proper jurisdiction of another government.
It supports the premise that taxpayers’ personal property rights are respected and upheld, and includes more use of referenda and citizen initiatives. The bylaw also includes a component for the recall of politicians.
Bateman asked council to refer his presentation and the bylaw to staff who would make recommendations on what should or could be included in the bylaw. He also sought support for a council task force that would develop a Langley Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Council voted 5-4 against the idea, with only Councillors Kim Richter, Charlie Fox, Steve Ferguson and Bev Dornan in support.
Councillor Michelle Sparrow said that “enacting bylaws from special interest groups is concerning to me.”
Mayor Jack Froese said: “This council is well aware of its duties.”
If council members fail “they are brought to task every three years,” Froese said.