Shared efficiencies should be a priority

In 2011, Greater Victoria municipalities spent $1.5 million for the salaries of 13 fire chiefs to serve a mere 335,000 population

It’s comforting to recently learn that the Oak Bay Fire Department is extending mutual assistance and cooperating with neighbouring departments – surely the minimum expectation for multiple fire departments in the same urban area. Can the same mutual assistance be extended to other things, such as our numerous fire chiefs, for example?

In 2011, Greater Victoria municipalities spent $1.5 million for the salaries of 13 fire chiefs to serve a mere 335,000 population. Compare that with Surrey (pop. 468,000), which spent less than $200,000, or Burnaby (pop. 223,000), which spent $170,000 for their fire chief. Overall our costs are seven to eight times higher for the same service.

Greater Victoria municipalities spent $1.7 million on salaries for all the directors of engineering. Surrey (remember, a population 40 per cent higher than Greater Victoria) spent $234,000.

In total, chief administrative officers (city managers) in Greater Victoria were paid more than $1.9 million. Surrey paid their CAO $326,000, while Burnaby paid $237,000. Why? Because they each need only one CAO. We have 13.

Extend the same basic comparison to the costs of multiple police chiefs, deputy fire chiefs, senior financial officers, and the many other senior management staff in each municipality in the CRD. It amounts to millions of dollars squandered annually on inane redundancies. It’s easy to tally up more than $10 million on the back of a napkin, just for salaries alone.

Don’t believe a politician who maintains that costs are well managed in your municipality. If Greater Victoria mayors and councillors truly had the best financial and economic interests of their communities in mind, the opportunities for mutual assistance at the senior management level would be vigorously pursued, at a bare minimum.

Some municipal councils have so far refused to receive their residents’ views on studying potential efficiencies via a non-binding referendum question on the November municipal ballot.

Until then, it’s time to consider supporting those bold, brave, confident municipal candidates who have a transforming vision for Greater Victoria. Candidates who are committed to using limited resources more effectively and who can take our community of neighbourhoods to the next great level.

Lesley Ewing

Oak Bay

 

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