Friday, May 4, 2018

Will John Horgan's long arm, look to take money away from communities across British Columbia?

If Prince Rupert City council thinks that they have a problem with the province on port cap issues and the Port Edward Ridley Island Tax agreement, wait til they get wind of a plan by the province of British Columbia to reopen an agreement related to Revenue Sharing on Traffic fines.

At the moment, municipalities in the province receive an unconditional grant from the province providing 100 percent of net provincial traffic fine revenues.

For those communities under 5,000 resident in population (hello Port Ed, how's it going?) the province delivers that revenue by way of a reduction in the Police Tax they have to pay to the province.

So far, the main thrust of what would be a provincial revenue repatriation seems to be focused on red light camera revenues, something not found in Prince Rupert yet, though with the community always looking for ways to collect revenue and in this case improve road safety measures, one imagines the concept might be on a list of possible options somewhere at City Hall.

At the moment, there is only One Red Light Camera in all of Northern British Columbia, that traffic enforcement tool found in Prince George.

One of many versions of red light
cameras, this one from 

American Traffic Solutions
In a letter to the UBCM,  Selina Robinson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing made note of the traffic cameras and the plan ahead to use them for speed enforcement measures in the future, something that the government believes could free up resources for police forces across the province.

She also noted that some of the revenue that the province might wish to bring back to its treasury could be used towards reducing the impact of collisions on the financially challenging times for ICBC.

The province recently announced plans to upgrade a number of cameras at high risk intersections across the province.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities has responded to the Minister, providing their view as to the impact that any change to the current share of traffic fine revenue may have on their member communities.

The letter from UBCM President Wendy Booth, makes note of the escalating costs of policing to communities and question the rationale that the province has offered up as cause to reopen the agreement.

Suggesting that the TFRS program should be changed because of the expansion of automated traffic enforcement and other unnamed changes is a one-sided perspective that ignores the state of policing in British Columbia. According to provincial data, in 2014, 75 B.C. local governments spent $1.08 billion on policing services. By 2016, that number rose to $1.19 billion, an increase of over $100 million per year in policing costs borne by local governments. In comparison, local governments received only $58.1 million in traffic fine revenue in 2016/17. 

 This request comes at a difficult time when many local governments are already spending upwards of 30% of their budgets on protective services, with other major enforcement cost pressures looming. I have asked our staff to make this a priority issue for our Board to discuss with you at the May 18, 2018 UBCM Executive meeting. I look forward to further discussion at that time.

You can review the full response from the UBCM to the Provincial government here.

The province hopes to have the consultation process with municipalities completed by the end of July of this year.

The UBCM, which no doubt will be collecting information from municipal governments across the province over the next few weeks,  plans to raise their concerns with the Minister in person as part of the May 18th UBCM Executive meeting.

Further items of interest related to the work of the BC Legislature can be found on our archive page here.

A wider overview of the province's political scene can also be found on our political blog D'ArcyMcGee.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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