The current convention of the Federation of Canadian Municipaliuties, taking place in Halifax, serves to remind Langley taxpayers why they need to vote in this November’s municipal elections.
Despite a great deal of concern about tax increases, which average almost five per cent in Langley Township and slightly less in the City, most members of the two councils are at the Halifax junket. In fact, most of them usually attend FCM meetings every year.
What do taxpayers receive in return? A few councillors give reports of the seminars they attended, and what ideas they picked up, but very few have translated into long-term cost-saving ideas. The most prominent FCM idea to be used in recent years in Langley has been an exchange program, facilitated by FCM, between Langley Township and San Fernando, Philippines.
While this sharing of knowledge has been a good thing, particularly for the recipient in the Philippines, it is hard to point to many other concrete achievements that have come as a result of regular attendance at annual FCM meetings.
Perhaps they could take a lesson from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who was elected last fall on a platform of trimming Toronto’s bloated city budget and giving taxpayers more value for their dollars. He decided not to attend the FCM meeting, saying he can be more effective back in Toronto.
A dozen of his council colleagues did go to Halifax, however.
While no one is suggesting that Langley politicians don’t work hard, some of them seem to view the FCM trip as an annual junket they are entitled to. This is wrong.
The number who attend needs to be greatly reduced — perhaps two or three from each council at a maximum. Those who attend should be required to prepare detailed reports on their activities, and these should be given to council at a public meeting, and also posted on the respective City and Township websites.
If there are any ideas to be gained at FCM, they should revolve around making do with less. Property taxes cannot keep rising by close to five per cent each year at a time when many people’s incomes are frozen or falling.
Restraint begins at home, and by saying “no” to expensive trips across the country. Taxpayers must pay attention to the details of this convention, and consider what they have learned when they vote.