Caucus ‘step in the right direction’ — Courtenay mayor

The inaugural B.C. Mayors' Caucus was a 'step in the right direction,' according to Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula.

The inaugural B.C. Mayors’ Caucus was a ‘step in the right direction,’ according to Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula.”It was a positive first step,” said Jangula. “Did we solve all the world’s problems? No. But I mean it’s a step in the right direction, and we have to address these issues and I think that there is a message in a united voice.”Jangula was one of 86 B.C. mayors at last week’s meeting, and the only one from the Comox Valley. However, he will pass along his notes to Comox Mayor Paul Ives and Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird during their next mayors’ luncheon, and he noted they’re interested in the caucus, too.According to Jangula, funding for municipalities was a big discussion topic at the meeting. “How do we handle, and how do we get some support for provincial downloading and federal downloading of programs and responsibilities,” Jangula said. “We’re very stuck between a rock and a hard place for raising funds because basically we have property taxes or user fees and that’s about it.”He added municipalities control about 65 per cent of the public infrastructure in the country, but receive about eight per cent of the public revenue — provincial governments receive about 42 per cent, and the remaining 50 per cent goes to the federal government.Although municipalities receive federal and provincial grant funding, Jangula noted it’s irregular and hard to depend on. “It’s critical for us,” said Jangula. “So often with grants, they come and they go, and you get them this year, you don’t get them the next year, and it’s really hard for a municipality to budget to operate on that kind of a system.”For example, there’s no money coming to pay for roads and bridges — we’ve heard that for years — and, you know, like even the gas tax money has been earmarked to go toward green projects, and I’m not saying green is bad but I mean where does the money come from to pay for all this other stuff?”Joint economic development between municipalities was another matter discussed at the caucus.Jangula said municipalities in southern B.C. typically just focused on themselves when it came to economic development in the past, but the caucus wants to shift away from this style of governing. “We need to work together to encourage investment, to encourage growth in job creating industries and not be fighting about who gets it basically; it’s beneficial to all of us,” said Jangula.For example, he said the Catalyst paper mill in Campbell River, which closed in 2010, may have provided taxes to the City of Campbell River, but it also employed many Courtenay residents, which was good for Courtenay’s economy. He added the closure of the mill was felt in Courtenay, too.Jangula said the meeting was a good experience and he’s looking forward to discussing more issues in the future.”It was time well-spent,” said Jangula. “We’re all facing these things together and we never meet as mayors, like we go to UBCM, (Union of B.C. Municipalities), we go to FCM, (Federation of Canadian Municipalities), but it’s never just the mayors talking about issues.”The B.C. Mayors’ Caucus is structured after models across North America and Europe including the Alberta Mayors’ Caucus, the Big Cities Mayors’ Caucus (Canada), Atlantic Mayors’ Congress (Canada), Metropolitan Mayors’ Caucus (United States) and the Summit of Mayors (E.U.).• • •According to a B.C. Mayors’ Caucus news release, the mayors outlined specific areas that need to be addressed including:• Create a Premier’s Round Table with the B.C. Mayors’ Caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets and delivery of services• Eliminate the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allows for long term planning by local governments• Expand the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments• Develop a round table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation• Affirm the core service delivery of each order of government• Redesign the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution• If services are devolved to local governments, a sustainable revenue source for those services must be identified• Develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community;• Call for a full review of ambulance service delivery• Establish flexibility around the federal gas tax to be goal oriented to the priorities of the specific communities• Expand the application of the fair share principles provincewide and include other industry sectors.writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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