There are far too many municipal elections in Vancouver

With 24 mayors and 24 city halls, maybe it is time to just get on with amalgamation

Roslyn KuninVANCOUVER, BC, Jan 14, 2014/ Troy Media/ – There are far too many municipal elections in the greater Vancouver area.

With 24 separate municipalities, 24 local political leaders, 24 city halls or equivalent (with their varying degrees of staff, service providers, etc. etc.,), it is no wonder some are calling for amalgamation.

Especially as all are supported, in one way or another, by the same taxpayers who have to pay the election costs of these exercises of faux democracy.

How did Vancouver get so many municipal structures? Most arose from accidents of history that have created a hodgepodge of entities, many of which no longer make much sense. They vary tremendously in both size and other components. The City of Vancouver is the biggest with an adult population in 2011 of 518,975, although Surrey is catching up fast.

We don’t know what the population of the smallest is because some are so tiny that the data is suppressed, but Belcarra’s population of 575 adults is the smallest for which data is provided. However, those 575 people are not poor. Average household income in Belcarra was $169,855, compared to $80,460 in Vancouver.

But the economy of Belcarra did not stand on its own feet. It contained only 37 businesses, of which only three were big enough to be incorporated. Unless they were independently wealthy, the good citizens of Belcarra are relying on the jobs and businesses (to say nothing of the roads and other services) of the rest of Metro Vancouver to support them.

We should not pick on Belcarra alone, however. There are two dozen cities, townships, regions and other local government entities in this one metro area. The citizens (and especially the governments) of each no doubt feel that theirs is a special, unique part of the world worthy of its own elected leadership. Nevertheless, these same people are very likely to work, shop, eat and socialize beyond the border of their home township. In fact, the very multiplicity of jurisdictions makes it more likely that people will be spending time in traffic outside their city of residence.

Traffic tie ups result when too many governments are involved in planning transit and infrastructure with only an unelected and unfunded metropolitan body to try and get everyone on the same page. Job opportunities and tax revenues are reduced when different jurisdictions in the same municipal area compete with each other to attract and retain businesses. And let’s not forget about those too many local elections.

Montreal, Toronto and many other major metropolitan areas in Canada, the U.S. and abroad have turned their historical hodgepodges into unified cites with one central government. It is time the Vancouver area did so as well. However, it will not be easy to convince the leaders of every little fiefdom to agree to let themselves become part of a larger entity, even when that choice is much more advantageous and less costly for most of the population.

The only way this needed change is likely to happen is if the provincial government takes action, decreeing a unified metropolitan government. Judging by its hesitancy to deal with municipal election spending, this is not likely to happen soon.

Troy Media BC’s Business columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker and can be reached at www.rkunin.com.

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One Response to "There are far too many municipal elections in Vancouver"

  1. ada013   January 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Ain’t that the problem with democracy? It’s costly and inefficient and lets groups of people decide how much they want to pay and what they want to spend it on and this annoys some other people who think they know better. Clearly it would be much cheaper and more efficient and would eliminate the possibility of them making the “wrong” judgment calls if we just suspended it altogether and let someone (ooooh, I don’t know: say, me?) make all the decisions on everyone else’s behalf. We could call it “democratic centralism” and I gather it’s been successfully implemented in certain other societies over the past century so it’s bound to work out fine.

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