Fraser Forum

Vancouver Sun columnists miss the point of comparing municipal finances

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Saturday’s Vancouver Sun columns by Pete McMartin and Don Cayo about our recent Fraser Institute study, Comparing Municipal Government Finances in Metro Vancouver, make assumptions that ultimately say more about their own views on municipal spending and taxing than what is actually contained in the study.

And both columnists take for granted that Metro Vancouverites are aware of how much municipal governments spend and tax their citizens. In reality, this information is not readily available – and certainly not in a way that allows for easy comparisons. Our report provides comparable data for 17 of the region’s 21 municipalities across a host of fiscal policies (spending, taxes, and debt).

Of course, some municipalities maintain higher spending and taxes than others. For instance, Vancouver city hall spends 78 per cent more per person than Surrey city hall. Ultimately, Metro Vancouver residents will decide where they want to live and whether they’re happy with the quantity and quality of city services they receive. But they need basic data to help make this call. Our report does just that. It is a first attempt to crack open municipal finances in the Lower Mainland and give taxpayers key information about their municipal government’s spending and tax policies.

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