In a triumph for local democracy, the bully that is Metro Vancouver has been put in its proper place by a provincial judge. Metro Vancouver should save its taxpayers some money by forgoing an appeal in this case and accepting the fact that it doesn't always know best. Let's see a little more of this "collaborative federation," and a lot less bullying of elected councils.
Today, close to 70 per cent of all Canadians live in suburbs. Most bought homes early in their adult life. Most raised families. And many are now living alone or with an aging spouse in houses designed for four to six people. The kids have grown and left, so nearby schools are unsupportable, too. Even the strip malls are failing as old neighbourhoods hollow out -- as young buyers head to ever-more distant points in search of the latest "cheap" development.
Bill Bennett, minister responsible for the B.C. government's core review, is trying his darndest lately to reassure British Columbians that the government "has no plans to dismantle" the Agricultural Land Commission and that much of the speculation was simply the result of government "brainstorming." That's nice. Doesn't mean much in government-speak, but it sounds comforting. It's what comes next that should be of concern. In an interview with the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Bennett confirmed that the Commission would, however, be subject to the government's core review.
Who knew? Count 'em all up and B.C. has 1,660 elected officials sitting on 250 local councils and school boards across the province. That works out to one for every 2,000 registered voters. It's also a lot of paycheques. Some of the lucky ones get to collect two paycheques, if they happen to be chosen to sit on a regional district. The two biggies of course being Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District.
Garbage -- or to use the more politically correct term, waste -- is big business. Really big. It can also be a messy business, particularly when politicians get involved. So no big surprise that the left hand doesn't seem to care what the right hand is doing at Metro Vancouver when it comes to regional waste management.
A billion here, a billion there, it adds up. That's the problem with shopping lists. The municipalities that make up Metro Vancouver are facing the same predicament as they try to choose between the bare necessities, luxuries and how you're going to pay for it all. While some of these projects may be sold to the public as "self-supported" that's just political-speak for "you're still picking up the tab." Whether it's through tolls or tipping fees, they're just euphemisms for picking your pocket.
At least 30 officials in the communities that make up Metro Vancouver earn a minimum six-figure salary that puts them among the top one per cent of all income earners in Canada. It takes a lot of kahunas for some of these same civic officials to claim that their cupboards are bare when the cookie jar is overflowing for themselves.
While TransLink's habitual tax increases, never-ending budget deficits and lack of direct accountability have been well documented over the past several years, Metro Vancouver has slid somewhat under the radar. This lack of accountability to taxpayers has been a problem at Metro Vancouver for a long time, fostered by staffers playing political games and local politicians distracted by their elected duties at their various city halls.
Regional politicians seem more concerned than ever with looking green — all while sucking more green out of taxpayers' pockets. Whether it is the $783 million sewage treatment plant in Greater Victoria, the $450 million waste incinerator in Metro Vancouver or the $3 billion subway line to Vancouver's University of British Columbia campus, these projects are nowhere near as environmentally green as politicians claim them to be.