The Province

Amalgamati­on not way to go: report

FRASER INSTITUTE: Budget rises, but revenue doesn’t

- FRANK LUBA fluba@theprovinc­

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.”

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