Business lobby group pleased with plan to create local government overseer

CFIB congratulates Victoria for planning to create an Office of the Auditor General for Local Government.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) congratulates the B.C. government on its forthcoming legislation to create an Office of the Auditor General for Local Government.

“We are pleased to see progress on this important Throne Speech commitment,” says Shachi Kurl, CFIB director of provincial affairs, B.C. and Yukon. “We believe having an independent, unbiased body to scrutinize municipal spending and conduct performance audits will be an extremely effective step in curbing municipal overspending.”

Taxpayers bear the brunt of operating spending increases at the municipal level. The 2011 edition of CFIB’s BC Municipal Spending Watch shows that in the past decade, local government spending in this province outpaced the rate of growth in population and inflation by nearly 4-1. In 2009, municipal operating spending in B.C. totalled $4.4 billion, up $339 million from the year before.

“It’s not enough for local governments to tell us the community chequebook is being balanced at the end of every month,” says Kurl. “Taxpayers deserve to know what those cheques are being written for, and whether those expenditures represent good value for their hard-earned dollars.”

Provincial and federal levels of government are already subject to rigorous scrutiny in their spending and management practices. Bringing this kind of review to local government will enable communities to identify and adopt best practices, while addressing areas for improvement.

“An auditor’s work isn’t just about red-circling what’s wrong, but highlighting what’s right,” says Kurl.

It is crucial that the expected legislation enshrine independence. And while CFIB believes money invested in the creation of an audit office for local government is money well spent, it is equally important that the audit office itself deliver value for money in the services it provides.

The CFIB is a non-profit, non-partisan business association that seeks to give independent business a greater voice in determining the laws that govern business and the country.

With 108,000 members across Canada, including 10,000 in B.C., it is the largest organization exclusively representing the interests of small and medium-sized independent businesses to all levels of government.

— Canadian Federation of Independent Business