LETTER: New low in relationship

The relationship between local governments and the province reached a new low with the “leaking” of a so-called public sector review.

The relationship between local governments and the provincial government reached a new low with the “leaking” of a so-called public sector review last week.

Undertaken by Ernst and Young as part of the BC Liberals’ core review, it claims that salaries and wages in local government are now higher than within core provincial government services.

Ernst and Young, in a note at the end of their report, state that it is “confidential” and that they “have not sought to establish the reliability of information given to us.”

Despite that, using 2006 Census of Canada data, Ernst and Young create a series of bar graphs purporting to show that salaries and wages are higher in certain local government sectors.

Since census data is self-reporting, nowhere does it compare education/training, years of experience and complexity of task. Managers in Vancouver, for example, have a higher and more broad range of population to deal with than, say, a manager in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Further, according to the latest MLS listings and BC Stats, a house in Greater Vancouver now costs on average $767,765, as compared to $276,535 in the Kootenays, and yet one of the proposals is for Vancouver, Nelson, Salmo and Silverton to sit at the same table to bargain union wages in a province-wide agreement.

Further, if local governments do not agree to this, the report recommends going as far as changing legislation, so as to force municipal and regional districts into line.

Having spent the last nine years trying to prevent provincial and federal governments from implementing more and more expensive regulations, rules and required services for local government to provide, I find it highly hypocritical that the provincial government would now come along and propose placing a cap on how much we can increase taxation.

That said, Ernst and Young, in Appendix B, page 49, indicate that there are approximately 57,980 employees in the regional and local government sector, as compared to 31,220 in the core provincial public service. It would be interesting to know what that ratio looked like 20-plus years ago, before many responsibilities were transferred and/or downloaded.

At page 50 they then determine that the per capita cost to the taxpayer for the core public service and regional and local government is equal at $524. Therefore the exact cost per employee in regional and local government is in fact $282 per capita to the taxpayer, as against $524 for the core provincial public sector.

In this context the cross comparison done in Appendix C-1 at pages 51 to 54 is highly problematic statistically, because Ernst and Young’s own data shows that, on a per capita basis, regional and local government employees cost less overall.

It is a sad day in BC when the provincial government feels that it has to “leak” a report that was written without a single local government being consulted about the collection of the data upon which it was based.

Andy Shadrack

RDCK Director Area D

Nelson Star