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Surrey Calls on Provincial Candidates to Address Needs of BC Local Governments

April 9, 2013

Surrey – The City of Surrey has called on political parties that are running candidates in the upcoming provincial election to outline how they intend to address the pressures facing Surrey and other BC local governments.

“Surrey and other BC local governments are continually having responsibilities downloaded onto them from the other orders of government with no new revenues,” says Mayor Dianne Watts. “Provincial legislation requires local governments to balance their operating budgets on an annual basis. This is becoming increasingly difficult to do when traditional sources of funding cannot adequately cover the costs of fulfilling newly added responsibilities.”

Local government services continue to expand into areas such as health care, immigration settlement, social service provision, social housing and addressing homelessness. At the same time, traditional municipal services, such as public safety services, such as police, fire, and by-law enforcement, have become significantly more complex and costly to deliver. The primary revenue sources available to municipalities from which to fund the delivery of services have not changed significantly.

BC residents pay a variety of taxes ranging from income tax, sales tax, gas tax, property transfer tax, probate tax, carbon tax and property tax. Local governments continue to rely on almost exclusively on property taxes, which are not directly connected with the economy like sales taxes and incomes taxes. The result is that municipalities are receiving a smaller proportion of total governmental revenues.

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) 50 cents of every tax dollar collected in Canada goes to the federal government, 42 cents goes to the provincial and territorial governments and 8 cents goes to municipal governments.

More recently, FCM published, “The State of Canada’s Cities and Communities 2012”. This publication states that municipalities lack the funding tools to support the national economy and meet the needs of Canadians. Municipalities are responsible for building and maintaining over half of the country’s core infrastructure; they pay the salaries of two out of three police officers; and they fund downloaded responsibilities for social services, immigrant settlement and law enforcement.

Provincial legislation requires that municipalities maintain a balanced operating budget. Legislation also places restrictions on the sources of revenues available to local governments. Local governments are increasingly stretched financially because they do not have sufficient access to funding relative to their responsibilities.

“Surrey is a fast growing city and it needs to be equipped with the necessary tools and resources to address the challenges that accompany that growth,” says Mayor Watts.

“The senior government downloading burden on municipalities is growing at an exponential rate, something must be done,” adds Councillor Tom Gill, Finance Committee Chair. “Because of this, municipalities are now forced to enter non-traditional roles. This is why we are calling on provincial parties and their candidates to expand on how they will help local governments cover the costs of increasingly complex and expanding services.”

At its regular meeting on Monday, April 8, Council received a Corporate Report on this issue and requested that it be forwarded to each provincial party running candidates in the upcoming provincial election. Council also passed a resolution calling on the individual parties to respond to the concerns raised in the report. The entire report is available on the City of Surrey’s Electronic Council Library website: https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2013-R067.pdf.

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Media Contact:

Judy Mann
Executive Assistant
Office of the Mayor
604.591.4429
778.846.0397