Amalgamation not way to go: report
FRASER INSTITUTE: Budget rises, but revenue doesn’t
A Fraser Institute report on municipal amalgamation hurts the cause of those pushing for joining B.C. communities together for the perceived savings from reducing duplication of services.
Among the most glaring examples of those duplications are the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver, as well as the Township of Langley and the City of Langley — all of which have their own mayors, councils and bureaucracies, along with the associated costs.
The Fraser Institute study focused on three rural Ontario communities — Haldimand-Norfolk, Essex and Kawartha Lakes — because the provincially imposed amalgamation of more urban areas like Toronto has already been shown ineffective.
A York University report from 2010 indicated that in the decade after Toronto was turned into a megacity, its operating budget swelled to $8.1 billion from $5 billion, but its revenue didn’t keep pace.
The number of employees grew by 10 per cent instead of shrinking.
“We find significant increases in property taxes, compensation for municipal employees, and long-term debt in both amalgamated and unamalgamated communities, suggesting there was no tangible, financial benefit from amalgamation,” concluded the Fraser Institute report, written by Lydia Miljan of the University of Windsor, Zachary Spicer of Wilfrid Laurier University and Adam Found of Trent University.
District of North Vancouver councillor Doug MacKay-Dunn downplays the Ontario examples.
“Ontario runs by different rules,” said MacKay-Dunn, who countered with the successful union of Abbotsford and Matsqui.
What’s critical, he said, is that support for amalgamation comes from “the ground up” — unlike Ontario, where amalgamation was imposed by the government for cost savings.
“Both parties wanted it to happen,” Mackay-Dunn said of the successful creation of greater Abbotsford.
That similarity of opinion doesn’t exist in the City of North Vancouver, at least at the political level.
The district formed a committee to review what would have been studied, like cost savings, before there was any North Shore amalgamation.
“The city basically said ‘No thanks,’ ” North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto said.
“The Fraser Institute report doesn’t surprise me,” he added. “In reality, it costs money to amalgamate — in a big way, where you get your biggest saving is by working co-operatively.”
The two North Vancouvers share policing and a recreation commission while their fire departments are separate, but work together.
The Langley Reunification Association pushed amalgamation in 2011, but the City of Langley remains unconvinced about the benefits, chief administrative Francis Cheung said.
He said the city researched amalgamations around the country.
“It doesn’t make sense (for Langley) at this point in time.”