West Vancouver’s mayor is defending the municipality from a recent Fraser Institute report that paints the district as a profligate spender of taxpayers’ money.
The report, which analyzes financial information for 17 municipalities in Metro Vancouver over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2016, ranks West Vancouver as having the highest spending per capita in the region.
West Vancouver spends $2,583 for each person in the municipality, according to the report Comparing Municipal Government Finances in Metro Vancouver, 2018 – the highest amount per capita in the region.
Not only does West Vancouver spend far more per person than much larger municipalities like Surrey, the report authors note, it also spends about $800 more per person than the neighbouring District of North Vancouver, which at spending of $1,743 per person comes in at the fifth highest municipal spender in the report.
The report also noted West Vancouver also collects the highest amount of tax – $1,504 – per person in the region. The average amount of general tax collected per person in regional municipalities is $997, according to the report.
But despite the unflattering figures, Mayor Mike Smith said he’s not concerned about the report.
“People realize you get what you pay for,” he said, adding he hasn’t had a single person talk to him about the report’s contents.
“People know and expect that it costs money to do what we do in West Van. There’s a reason we’re Canada’s most desirable residential community.
“Many of the Fraser Institute executives are only too happy to make their home in West Vancouver, so we’ve got to be doing something right,” he added.
In a post on its website, the municipality argues that assessing spending by the number of people living in the community doesn’t make much sense, and states assessing spending on a per-household basis would be more rational, as most services are delivered that way.
The post also points out that West Vancouver has some of the most spread-out low-density single family housing in the Lower Mainland – which means it’s more expensive to service with water pipes and roads, for instance.
West Vancouver also pays for its own municipal police force and administrative costs for running its own Blue Bus service, the municipality notes.
“If you want to have your own first-class police force and very prompt fire and rescue services, it costs money,” said Smith. “That’s what the community wants.”
David Marley is one West Vancouver resident who doesn’t agree.
Marley has been watching spending at West Van town hall for years and says,“they’re spending too damn much money” for a sleepy bedroom community, particularly on salaries.
The issue isn’t new, adds Marley.
“West Vancouver has been way way out ahead of the pack for a long time,” on municipal spending, he said.
“It comes down to political will,” he said. But he acknowledged that depends on the public. “If they are still fat and happy, if they see it as a rounding error,” there’s not much incentive to change, he said.
Smith said he’s not seeing much of a public outcry on the issue.
“The bottom line is figures don’t lie,” he said. “We spend more per capita on municipal services than other municipalities. We’re not trying to hide that. We’re not ashamed of that.”