Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky provided provincial Finance Minister Michael de Jong with a reality check Wednesday.
During a presentation to the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, de Jong presented a cautiously optimistic synopsis of B.C.’s economy and highlighted the Liberals’ ability to reduce spending.
Waiting patiently until others at the meeting asked questions, Sawatzky rose and protested ongoing government downloading on to municipalities.
“Local government has to take it over,” he said.
The list of items that keep being dumped on to municipalities ranges from milfoil weed control and highway landscaping to social programs and flood prevention.
Victoria makes its bottom line look better while municipalities and regional districts struggle with only property taxes as a source of revenue.
Sawatzky pointed out to de Jong that some provinces and states provide municipalities with a portion of the sales tax as a way of handling all of the demands placed on them.
“In many U.S. municipalities, they tax your car or boat,” he said.
No one likes the prospect of more taxes, but the reality is that Victoria takes a lot of money out of communities but doesn’t fulfill all of its obligations.
Creating more revenue sources for municipalities may not be the ultimate solution but it’s obvious that the provincial government has to evolve its relationship beyond traffic revenue fines and grants for the occasional infrastructure project.
Hopefully, de Jong heard Sawatzky loud and clear and will take the message back to Premier Christy Clark.