Province, UBCM commit to review local government finance

THE Province and the Union of BC Municipalities will work together to review the local government finance system in B.C. to ensure that municipal governments and regional districts remain resilient in the face of economic changes.

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne, Finance Minister Selina Robinson, and UBCM President Laurey-Anne Roodenburg have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Local Government Financial Resiliency.

“From the COVID-19 pandemic to recent extreme weather events, we are all facing new challenges that did not exist a decade ago,” said Osborne on Wednesday. “Through this new agreement, I look forward to making progress together on matters of mutual interest as we work to gain a greater understanding of local government financial resiliency.”

The MOU will guide the Province and the UBCM in a review of the local government finance system. This will include discussions about cost pressures local governments may be experiencing around attainable housing, community safety and climate change, and the impact of the new economy. These issues were identified in a UBCM membership-endorsed report and published in August 2021. The report included 20 recommendations that focused on strengthening the municipal and regional district finance system.

This MOU responds to a UBCM report recommendation for the government and the UBCM to work together to strengthen the local government finance system. The UBCM report states that its recommendations are aimed at identifying potential solutions to priority issues that are common to both local governments and the Province. The working group will review the recommendations and develop a work plan for short- medium- and long-term consideration.

“The finance system for local government is facing increasing pressure due to the challenges posed by housing attainability, community safety and climate change,” said Roodenburg. “These issues impact all levels of government, and are best addressed through co-operation and collaboration. The decision by the Province of B.C. to join with local government to examine these challenges and explore solutions is good news for B.C. residents and the sustainability of communities.”

Progress under the MOU will be made through a local government financial review working group made up of staff from the Province and UBCM. The group will review the local government finance system in B.C., analyze the recommendations in the UBCM report and discuss matters of mutual interest.

“I know from first-hand experience the role local governments play in delivering vital services and infrastructure. We serve the same people and share many of the same priorities,” Robinson said. “This MOU is about two orders of government working together to advance our mutual interest – ensuring the strength of the local government finance system to deliver on the needs of people in communities across B.C.”

Quick Facts

* The MOU will be reviewed three years from the date of signing, unless the parties agree to an earlier review.

* The ministers of Municipal Affairs and Finance and the president’s committee of UBCM will meet at least once a year, no later than June 30 of each year, to discuss the work program for review of the August 2021 UBCM report and to assess progress.

* The UBCM report, Ensuring Local Government Financial Resiliency – Today’s Recovery and Tomorrow’s New Economy, published in August 2021, builds on the local government advocacy group’s report from 2013, Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening BC Local Governments’ Finance System.