Mayors to step up pressure on province over costs says Kelowna’s mayor

Cities and towns want help with costs they have no control over says Colin Basran.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran

B.C.’s mayors are ready to step up the pressure on Victoria to get the provincial government to address issues they say are driving up costs to their cities and towns that they have little or no control over.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said during a meeting of the B.C. Mayors’ Caucus at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria, there was unanimous support for the move.

And he said the public can expect to hear much more in the not-to-distant future.

“The pressure we’re feeling on our ability to pay for services we provide is a concern,” said Basran, who later identified some of those issues as the cost of policing—a federal/provincial issue—matching wage increases for firefighters to increases in larger centres such as Vancouver, housing and help for the mentally ill and homeless,

Basran said while it would be unfair to characterize Victoria as not doing anything to help municipalities, he said so far the province has “declined” to endorse a policy document unanimously approved by B.C. municipalities two years ago to address such issues.

That policy document addressed many ways municipalities could be helped, including a section on raising revenue from outside sources that former Kelowna deputy city manager Paul Macklem was instrumental in helping craft.

“The policy document addresses things that the province can do to help municipalities curb escalating costs that we have no control over,” said Basran.

He said for many municipalities, it is getting harder to meet the service expectations of residents.

He pointed to issues like mental health and homelessness.

While stopping short of saying it is downloading by the province that has brought on many of the problems cites are now experiencing, the mayor said he is aware that there is an expectation by residents that the cities will deal with local problems.

“These are our people, on our streets,” he said.

But, he added, municipalities need help from higher levels of government and one way that can be delivered is by the province backing the UBCM-approved policy document.

He said the mayors also want to work with the federal government on their Strong Fiscal Futures policy, given Ottawa’s renewed emphasis on issues such as infrastructure, transportation and “green” funding.