BC Municipal Operating Spending Increases "Unsustainable": CFIB

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
November 6th, 2015

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business  (CFIB) has issued a report on what it calls “unsustainable levels” of increases in BC municipal operating  spending since 2003.   The figures used in the studies end in 2012 and 2013, depending on the figures being cited.   “Operating spending” includes the total cost of delivering services, but does not include infrastructure replacement — capital — projects.

152 municipalities in BC  have been ranked in their different regions, and provincially, on their increases in spending on inflation-adjusted operating spending growth during the period studied.   The highest-ranked municipalities  are those with the lowest percentage of increase in operating spending, and little Rossland sits in  52nd  place out of the 152.    For comparison, here are a few other local communities and their rankings:  Montrose is in 50th place, slightly  better than Rossland;  Castlegar is in 64th place, having increased their operating spending by a larger percentage;  and Trail is in 95th place.

We  don’t have any information on where the various communities would rank based on last year’s spending, but we note that while Rossland was in 52nd place for 2013,  we  had the honour of occupying  10th  place in 2012.  These rankings can switch places dramatically in the course of a single year.

Province-wide, the report states,  BC’s population grew by 13% from 2003 to 2013, while on average in BC, municipal operating spending rose by a staggering  49% during that period.

The report goes further and makes recommendations for municipalities to rein in their spending.  Specifically,  it recommends limiting spending increases to “the rate of inflation and population growth.” 

How to do that?   Municipalities can begin by conducting reviews to identify core services and distinguish them from non-core services, which — one can infer — would then be cut to reduce expenditures.   Municipalities  are encouraged to align municipal sector compensation with private sector compensation,  to freeze compensation until private sector compensation “catches up and reaches parity,”  and to “increase negotiating leverage” —  by “working together with the provincial and federal levels to find ways to increase their negotiating leverage when creating new collective bargaining agreements, and not continually acquiesce to unsustainable and inequitable city worker wage increases.”

The report refers to a past study which found that municipal workers were paid on average 6.8%  higher wages, but the disparity  “balloons to 16.7 percent when municipal sector benefits are included.”

The report suggests  greater transparency in reporting on spending; that the province should collect and publically report the data for each municipality on the number of employees and the amount spent on wages, salaries, and benefits.

For more detail, read the report at:  


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