Penticton not alone in financial crunch

Mayor says local governments across Canada looking for more equitable sharing of tax dollars

Coming out of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference, Mayor Garry Litke said there wasn’t much disagreement about the problems facing communities across the country.

Without fail, he said, the mood from representatives was that local governments are being expected to provide more and more services and maintain infrastructure on a limited budget.

“Our ability to pay is limited by the fact that we only get eight cents out of every tax dollar,” said Litke. “Our only ability to pay is property tax. So we have no access to sales tax, no access to income tax or any of the other taxes that provincial and federal governments have access to.”

Past provincial and federal governments have shared their wealth with local governments, according to Litke, allowing past generations to build the country’s infrastructure.

“Yet our generation has done very little to maintain them. In the last 20 years, nothing has been done and now they are crumbling and we are facing an infrastructure deficit of around $150 to $170 billion dollars,” said Litke. “That equates to about $12,000 per household in Canada that this generation is passing on to our children.”

The question of infrastructure, he said, was addressed by representatives of all four — Conservative, NDP, Liberal and Green — of the major federal parties at the convention.

Local politicians, representing their communities at the convention, pledged that infrastructure funding would be a major issue in the 2015 federal election, said Litke.

“That is why it is so important to be here,” said Litke, who pointed out that 90 per cent of municipalities across Canada belong to the FCM.

“The FCM has a very influential voice with the federal government because it is directly connected to the voters through their locally elected officials.”

Governments do listen to groups like the FCM and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, according to Litke. The proof, he said, comes from the 2010 convention, where similar problems were discussed and a new Building Canada grant structure was introduced in response.

Penticton, he said, accessed the program, including to help fund the waterfront revitalization project. But the 2013 version of that program, he said, doesn’t have the same clear processes for accessing the funding.

“Nobody can figure it out, put it that way,” said Litke. “Up until 2012 FCM was being listened to and the federal government was responding to the need for municipal infrastructure upgrades. But those concerns seem to have fallen a bit by the wayside in 2013 and with the new Building Canada fund, because nobody can quite figure out how to get money into their local municipality.”

Though other communities had larger representation, Litke was Penticton’s lone representative at the FCM conference.

“There were other municipalities, much smaller than ourselves, who brought their entire council and staff. I won’t mention any names,” said Litke. But it is vital, he said, for Penticton to continue attending and participating.

Beyond advocacy and networking, Litke said there was information to be gathered, referencing a workshop looking at other options for funding communities beyond property taxes.

“Why can’t we get one per cent of the sales tax? Why do we always have to go cap in hand to the province and to the feds? Show them our rusted out sewer pipes or show them pictures of our potholes and say we just can’t afford to fix this?” he asked. “We’re the ones that get the phone calls. They don’t get the phone calls. We just don’t have the money to respond to the complaints we are getting from our citizens.”

A one per cent sales tax would give communities funding they could rely on and budget for the future.

“Then we could stop this conversation and stop the begging,” said Litke. “There should be alternative ways of funding local government, but currently there is not.”

 

Just Posted

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read