Denial, delay or complete dysfunction?
Grumpy Taxpayer$ believes that most of the 13 municipalities in Greater Victoria are living in their own expensive reality – a twilight zone – and are failing to respond adequately to the harsh new economic reality of the pandemic.
A couple days ago the federal government announced that there are 5.4 million applicants for income assistance. So in this region, when you consider B.C. municipalities are not allowed to run deficits, it seems mayors and councils are living a budgetary fantasy.
“Why are leaders in this community seeing things so differently than leaders in the rest of Canada?,” asks Stan Bartlett, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$. “Does this seem strange to anyone else?”
Municipalities in Greater Victoria stand alone in their muted response to the crisis: Most urban centres in Canada have responded to the crisis with budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs including Vancouver (1,500), Surrey (1,900 part-time), Delta (500), Ottawa (4,000 part-time), Calgary (1,200), Quebec City (2,000), Windsor (500), and Edmonton (2,000 non-essential). For a longer list go to Municipal World.
Out of ‘compassion for taxpayers,’ Saanich council recently approved a core budget for 2020 reducing its ask to 3.74 per cent from 7.2 per cent. Instead of layoffs, recreation and community program staff were reassigned.
This, despite plummeting revenue from parking, permit and service fees. This, despite a greatly diminished ability for its residents and businesses to pay property taxes.
The City of Victoria went further and brought in a zero per cent increase after deferring capital projects and reducing the amount of money it puts in reserves. Some 163 auxiliary on-call staff were given temporary notices which will account for no budget cost savings considering the lost revenues in those workplaces.
Meanwhile, Coun. Ben Issit proposes the city spend money to undercut local business by setting up an delivery app to include things for groceries, pharmaceuticals and other local goods. Recently, council voted to use city staff as farmers to provide free seedlings to residents and in the process undercutting local nurseries. Despite the collapse of revenue projections, free lunches for city councillors will continue.
This, while hundreds of small businesses are on their knees trying to make rent and utility payments and feed their family with little or no income.
This, during the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression with no end in sight.
The Twilight Zone is an American media franchise based on the anthology TV series created by Rod Sterling. The episodes are in various genres, including fantasy, science fiction, suspense, horror, and psychological thriller, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist, and usually with a moral. A popular and critical success – started in the 1950s and has gone through three revivals – it introduced many Canadians to common science fiction and fantasy tropes.
Vancouver at risk of insolvency, says mayor, Vancouver Sun, Apr. 13, 2020.
“The Twilight Zone” theme music intro by Rod Sterling, Wikpedia.