Vancouver infrastructure demands may spark tolls, taxes 0
A government watchdog in B.C. says Metro-Vancouver residents will have no choice but to pay up considering the region's spending habits and revenue options for municipalities. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Cash-strapped Metro Vancouver residents face years of higher taxes as municipalities scramble to meet their share of funding commitments for aging infrastructure and programs, says a government watchdog group.
IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis said a disproportionate share of costs for future projects is falling on municipalities and their taxpayers.
“The challenge for municipal governments is that their tax base is the smallest of the three,” said Travis. “So property taxes increase disproportionately because they don’t have other revenue sources.”
He said whether it comes as a fuel tax, tolls, property taxes or other revenue sources, another hit to the pocketbooks is looming for Metro Vancouver residents.
“It’s going to fall on people who are already cash-strapped,” he said.
Port Coquitlam Mayor and Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore said there probably is a “more appropriate” way to fund infrastructure plans than through current models of splitting costs between governments and private interests.
Moore said it would be a great help, for example, if when the province announced major infrastructure plans it also said how it intends to pay for them.
“We have to do it whether we like it or not, whether we can afford to do it or not,” said Moore. “They’ll make a policy change ... but they don’t make a financial change to come with it.”
He said that leaves cities in the position of being forced to pay their share of funding for a project they may not even want.
“At a certain point local government will stand up if the funding doesn’t come through and say ‘We’re not going to do it,’” Moore said. “If that showdown comes, and hopefully it never does, that’ll be an interesting time for all levels of government.”
Travis said the problem has been compounding at all levels of government and said a more balanced cost-splitting plan needs to be developed, as well as better spending decisions across the board.
“They all have a series of infrastructure projects proposed,” said Travis. “Not one of those bodies has demonstrated fiscal prudence in terms of being able to estimate costs that are close to accurate when the final bills come in.”