05/29/2013 01:49 EDT | Updated 05/29/2013 02:16 EDT

Vancouver Council Spending Out Of Control, Report Says


Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson hit back at a report that suggests City Hall's spending is out of control, by calling the claims made by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, "hysterical".

“Our fiscal record over the past five years is one of the best in Canada, and hysterical claims by the CFIB have no basis in reality,” said Robertson in a press release Wednesday. “Just this year alone, the City paid down its debt by $151 million. Our tax increase was just 1.3 per cent, tracking at inflation and among the lowest in the region.”

The CFIB report compares inflation-adjusted spending growth to population growth, arguing that while municipal spending should necessarily increase to accommodate increases in population and prices, "spending beyond this benchmark is unsustainable and means taxes are higher than would otherwise be the case."

Based on this set of variables, the report states:

From 2000 to 2011, Vancouver’s spending adjusted for inflation grew by 50 per cent — a stark contrast to the 15 per cent population growth in the same period. Moreover, when considered on a year-over-year basis, inflation adjusted spending growth in Vancouver was above population growth in nine of eleven years.

According to the CFIB, had the 2011 Vancouver operating budget been tracked to both inflation and population growth, it would have been set at $863 million instead of $1.1 billion.

“The real problem isn’t overspending, it’s the continued downloading of senior government responsibilities onto local governments,” Robertson countered. “When our health care system fails someone with a severe mental illness, our police are forced to respond. When the federal government closes our Coast Guard base, it puts the burden of life safety on our police and fire departments."

The report - which also looks at the spending record of Toronto and Montreal - comes in advance of the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, set to begin in Vancouver on Friday.

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