Governance and service integration study demands bold action plus taxpayer input to improve municipal services 

VICTORIA – Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria loudly applauds the province for moving to improve municipal services, but argues that bold action bolstered by public input will be needed to make much-needed changes to a badly broken system.

The province recently announced that two companies – Circle Square Solutions and Urban Systems – will work with the bigwigs in the 13 municipal governments and the Capital Regional District (CRD) to make recommendations to explore ways to integrate services and governance in the capital region. The report is due in October.

“The road to stalemate is often paved with good intentions and studies,” says Stan Bartlett, chairperson of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria. “Where the study makes clear recommendations, bold action will be needed to improve the badly broken 50-year-old CRD.”

Taxpayers have dealt with municipalities and the CRD on many levels for decades, and every year at this time they also must send a cheque to the municipal office, says Bartlett.

“A taxpayer’s experience has not always been positive and they may have legitimate ideas on how to integrate services and improve governance. It would also be helpful, not to mention good politics, if the public supports any changes,” says Bartlett.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ urges the Capital Integration Services and Governance Initiative recommend:  a separately elected chair and directors at the CRD, an oath of office to reflect regional responsibilities, term limits for directors, and streamlining the 220 plus programs the CRD manages.

 Importantly, the creation of a ‘Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ solely dedicated to addressing municipal issues would facilitate making these changes.

 In short, we advocate a renewed CRD that’s open, accountable and transparent. It needs to be designed with the power to carry out clear responsibilities for the optimal operation of the region.

Despite the tight five-month time frame for the study, public hearings and written submissions should be welcomed.

Hiring a firm headed by former BC Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott is an inspired choice by the province, says Bartlett. He’s a well-respected former minister of community, aboriginal and women’s services and worked with the Union of BC Municipalities to pass the Community Charter, one of the main underpinnings of local government.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ calls for all the region’s taxpayers to send along ideas on improving municipal services to George Abbott, c/o Circle Square Solutions and Urban Systems, both located in Victoria.

BACKGROUND:

Consultants chosen to facilitate work on governance and service integration,  https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016CSCD0028-000910

 ‘Municipalities need expert help’ (May 29) and ‘Dancing around amalgamation’ (June 3), Times Colonist editorials