EDITORIAL: Spending habits need to change

Sidney, Central Saanich and North Saanich do not appear to have major infrastructure challenges right now

A call by municipalities for the province to share some of its revenues at this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver is an attempt to get more of the monies generated in local communities, which they can then use to put back into their infrastructure.

The effort is led by Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and is realistic in that it’s not asking for that money now — but in the future when so-called boom times arrive in this province.

Municipalities are hoping that the province will return a larger share of money collected for such things as the property transfer tax on local real estate sales. It would be used to pay for infrastructure — water and sewer upgrades and transit improvements.

The effort places its hopes that the economy will once again boom in B.C. and local communities will get their share.

At least the municipalities are being realistic about having to wait for such a program to come to pass — if the province even agrees to it.

Whether it’s realistic to expect an economic boom derived from such plans as the province’s liquefied natural gas focus — that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, municipalities facing huge infrastructure costs are going to have to tighten their belts and set their priorities. There’s little doubt they have been doing that for years but for those towns and cities facing enormous costs for water or sewer treatment facilities — or even just the ongoing breakdown of their decades-old pipes and streets — they will probably have to sacrifice the extras their citizens have come to expect.

B.C. municipalities facing added costs down the road should heed the 2012 spending report conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It showed, in general, that spending has outpaced municipal growth. In Sidney’s case, the town saw an increase of 25 per cent in its spending over 10 years (2000-2010) compared with a three per cent population growth. That’s one of the better ratios in B.C. Central and North Saanich fall in the middle of the pack.

Sidney, Central Saanich and North Saanich do not appear to have major infrastructure challenges right now and have sought contributions for their infrastructure from developers. As such, Sidney and North Saanich are able to afford the luxury of $35,000 grants-in-aid programs. Other municipalities have much smaller budgets for this or none at all.

It’s a good position to be in, if you can get it.