KELOWN – The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, in concert with the BC Chamber of Commerce commend UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) for its efforts to strengthen local government finances, but urges local governments to commit to new levels of spending discipline.
“With B.C.’s infrastructure deficit placing significant costs at local governments’ doors, it’s great to see UBCM taking a serious look at local governments’ financial sustainability,” said Caroline Grover, the Kelowna Chamber’s CEO.
John Winter, the BC Chamber’s president and CEO added: “But while out-of-the-box ideas will be needed to solve this, local governments can’t lose their focus on the tried- and-true financial practice of spending control.”
A hot topic at this year’s annual gathering of local governments is the UBCM local governance finance committee report, Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening BC Local Governments’ Finance System.
Chambers across BC commend the overarching effort to tackle local government finances and support:
- the report’s call for local governments to become far more focused on facilitating economic growth;
- the report’s recognition of the unsustainability of property tax as a funding mechanism for local government, given the substantial tax burden it places on the business and industrial sectors; and
- the report’s call for a dialogue with business over property tax.
“This report correctly identifies the very real opportunities local governments have to facilitate and catalyze local economic growth,” Grover said. “By actively encouraging economic activity, municipalities and regional districts can strengthen their finances, create strong businesses and grow jobs in communities throughout B.C.”
Grover went on to note that Kelowna has a strong municipal government, with an emphasis on responsible financial planning,. Winter noted, however, that while the report offers an interesting discussion on growing local governments’ revenues, it misses an opportunity to emphasize cost control.
“It’s great to see an exploration of more sustainable funding models for local government, but that’s only part of the answer here,” he said. “As cost pressures increase, local governments need to commit fiercely to cost control, spending discipline, and project prioritization.”
Both Grover and Winter also cautioned that some of the report’s funding ideas won’t win backing from the business community. But they commended the overarching effort to launch a dialogue on strengthening local government finances.
“B.C.’s business community looks forward to a dialogue with local governments about more controlled spending efforts and appropriate funding mechanisms that can help businesses grow and produce jobs in local communities,” Winter said.
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce acts as a single powerful voice for their 1200 members and their 25,000 plus employees to promote local business interests. The Chamber provides a cohesive business network for its members to expand their business contacts, value-added benefits, programs, and services aimed at improving the bottom line of Chamber members. Their mission is to foster a positive business environment by providing members with leadership, advocacy and services of value.
The BC Chamber is the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province. Representing more than 125 Chambers of Commerce and 36,000 businesses of every size, sector and region of the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in BC.”