Province must step up to the plate to improve integrity in local government
Local politics in BC is dirty, frighteningly dirty: Travis –
VICTORIA – The province must become more involved in municipal affairs and address pressing issues to improve the integrity of local government, says Dermod Travis, executive director of Integrity B.C.
Travis recently addressed the first annual general meeting of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria on the subject of local government.
“One of the biggest problems in local government is that we have to be one of the most over governed in Canada with 162 municipalities in British Columbia, one council, city or municipality, for every 28,586 residents. By comparison Burger King has one outlet for every 129,000 people in Canada.
We need a rationalization of municipalities in Victoria, metro Vancouver, the Island, the Interior and particularly the North. Some communities are simply not sustainable and the government has to look at what’s the best approach for them, says Travis.
“We are also one of the most under governed province in Canada and the province needs to step up and take it’s responsibility for local affairs,” he says.
As an example of some of the problems in local government he points to the current fight in Naniamo, where city councillors have asked and the RCMP have agreed to investigate allegations relating to financial disclosure reporting, business dealings and trade missions.
“Local politics in BC is dirty, frighteningly dirty, and I understand why chief administrative officers burn out and councillors don’t run for another term,” Travis says.
He makes several suggestions to improve the functioning of local government.
Before an election the Union of BC Municipalities should hold public forums for perspective candidates to let them know what their responsibilities are and what they can and can’t do as a municipal politician.
The province needs to bring in compensation guidelines for municipal staff to help reduce compensation, excessive severance packages and the poaching of staff that goes on between municipalities.
Detailed, understandable guidelines to address the rules around in-camera meetings are also needed. “Council in-camera meetings are a bad habit and they’ve become far too frequent compared to other places,” he says.
“Councils need to also hear that making decisions behind closed doors that sometimes involving millions of dollars – the sewage treatment project in Victoria comes to mind – may result in citizens suing them over their actions,” says Travis.
It’s not against the law for councils to ‘make stupid decisions’ but a ‘reticence involving council transparency’ may reach a criminal standard, he says.
Travis also touched on the need for improved rules around conflict of interest, better procurement practices, and a performance benchmarking system to allow everyone to better judge the quality of local government.
Available for Media Interviews:
Dermod Travis, executive director of Integrity BC
John Treleaven, 1st Vice-chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$
250.656.7899, cell 250.588.7899