Municipal services in urban British Columbia are a bargain compared to what they would cost on the private market. For less than $2,000 a year, a representative household in Burnaby or Richmond receives police protection, fire protection, street operation and maintenance, sewer and water hookups, orderly development, park maintenance and numerous other benefits.
However, the role of municipal government is under-rated — a result, in my view, of often unpopular decision-making processes and poor communication. Public discourse is dominated by complaining, organized and unorganized, about government’s cost and lack of accountability. Electoral upsets over budgeting or management questions are common enough. Three Fraser Valley mayors were turfed in the November 2011 elections. In Maple Ridge, a mayoral challenger with zero background in community affairs tapped a generalized sense of anti-local-government outrage and took 40 per cent of the vote. Continue reading