Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Municipalities eyeing post Covid period with mixed opinions on financial impact

How British Columbia municipalities come out of the twin hits of a Health Emergency and a percolating Financial crisis is making for some fascinating conversations in some communities, with a number of plans and concerns being revealed in recent weeks.

The views differ on the nature of what may come depending on the community, with the most alarming notes to date coming from the province's largest municipality of Vancouver; where Mayor Kennedy Stewart is getting some significant blow back on his weekend alerts as to the dire nature situation facing British Columbia's signature city.

The Mayor of Vancouver noting of massive shortfalls for municipal spending in the fallout of the COVID emergency, though many that have since weighed in have suggested that perhaps a need to sharpen the Vancouver pencils might be one approach to take to address any financial issues.

Still, the concern is very real across many communities both large and small and British Columbia's municipal leaders are not alone, as the Globe and Mail noted on the weekend, the same kind of discussions are taking place in communities across the nation.

The main focus of the concern are the laws in place to forbid municipalities to carry a deficit from year to year, something many Mayors note leaves them particularly vulnerable financially in the wake of such a massive incident as the last month has delivered.

As well, as the economic hit now reaches individual residents, a growing number of whom may have recently lost their jobs, many communities are concerned about the ability of those in their towns can cities to be able to pay their residential or commercial property taxes, commercial fees and other municipal revenue generating fees.

As it stands now, municipalities cannot offer any deferment plan towards property taxes and are looking to the province for guidance, particularly in the area of the July deadline for tax payments from residents.

Some of the notes from municipalities across the province can be viewed below:


April 12 -- City of Vancouver at risk of bankruptcy
April 12 -- City of Vancouver hopes survey adds to argument for provincial bail out of municipality
April 12 -- Vancouver mayor says 25% of city may be unable to pay property taxes due to COVID-19
April 12 -- Mayor Kennedy Stewart releases results of survey showing grim economic impact of pandemic on Vancouver residents
April 12 -- Vancouver mayor warns of 'drastic measures' without federal and provincial help
April 9 -- Vancouver mayor asks province for $200 million emergency grant
April 8 -- Vancouver asks province for $200M emergency grant to mitigate financial disaster
April 8 -- Vancouver mayor says city could lose as much as $189 million if shutdown continues until December
April 8 -- Vancouver mayor asks BC for $200 million to offset COVID-19 economic hit
April 4 -- Municipalities losing revenue, need help from Victoria and Ottawa to stay solvent says Vancouver Mayor
April 3 -- Vancouver lays off 1,500 city workers
April 2 -- Thousands of city staff laid off in Vancouver, Surrey, Delta
April 2 -- City of Vancouver temporarily lays off 1,500 workers due to COVID-19 crisis

Victoria/Vancouver Island

April 11 -- Cumberland council opts for deferment on utility bills
April 10 -- Colwood mayor advocates for zero per cent tax lift for 2020 in light of COVID-19
April 9 -- Financial relief for Victoria residents includes no 2020 property tax increase
April 9 -- City of Nanaimo sets in motion bylaw to borrow up to $50 million as COVID-19 precaution
April 9 -- User rate payment deadlines extended as COVID-19 financial fallout comes into focus for Nanaimo City Hall
April 7 -- Kamloops expecting millions of dollars in lost revenue in this year's budget because of COVID-19
April 7 -- Victoria hopes to provide financial relief through property taxes, utility bills
April 7 -- City of Kamloops fighting through a financial crisis
April 6 -- City of Victoria looks to shift tens of million sin 2020 budget due to Covid-19
April 6 -- Courtenay council approves 3.22 per cent property tax increase
April 2 -- BC City Halls are shrinking but some have bigger reserves to fall on
April 1 -- Comox plans hikes for water, sewer service


April 13 -- Peachland aiming to cut budget to help taxpayers during COVID-19 pandemic
April 9 -- Prince George mayor shares message prior to long weekend
April 8 -- Kamloops council reconvenes, mulls impact of COVID-19 on 2020 budget
April 7 -- Kamloops staff and council expecting direction on property tax deadline soon from BC government
April 7 -- Modest tax relief plan in West Kelowna does not include extra time to pay
April 6 -- Kelowna provides financial relief to residents during pandemic, other cities consider options
April 1 -- COVID-19 has City of Kamloops parsing the financial figures
March 30 -- City of Kelowna cutting costs to reduce economic fallout
March 30 -- Kelowna Mayor outlines city's economic, public health response amid COVID-19
March 30 -- City of Kelowna preparing to slash budget amid coronavirus pandemic
March 25 -- Especially during a crisis, leaders must be held accountable
March 24 -- City budget needs to be redone

Since their last public appearance of March 23rd, the members of Prince Rupert Council have not made any comments related to the current budget discussions (and they had nothing to contribute on that theme on March 23rd); or if the new financial reality across  the country will have any impact on their financial planning for the rest of the year and on into the future.

As well, there has been little in the way of information from the Mayor and City Council as to whether the City has taken on any special measures, reduced spending, or put in place other initiatives to address current and future revenue reductions as the COVID emergency continues.

The fact that other communities are holding discussions and gauging the impact on their financial plans, makes last weeks cancellation of a public Council session owing to "a lack of business" even more puzzling than it already was.

Considering the commentary from other Mayors and Councils, one might think that a discussion in a public session to explore the local situation might have been a helpful thing for residents in Prince Rupert to hear.

However, so far, with City Council members rather silent on all civic themes, the only commentary related to civic issues seems to come from the Mayor's Social Media page on Facebook.

And for now he and his followers are concerned on other issues far removed it seems from the actual running of affairs from City Hall.

The most recent Budget notes as of mid March can be reviewed from our archive page.

Whether City Council still plans to hold firm to those themes as delivered by the Chief Financial Officer is something that to this point has not been revealed by the community's elected officials.

For further notes on their work at City Hall see our archive page here.


  1. It would be nice to know what the city is doing? is the city still working on Watson Island, the city’s logistics center in competition with the port and Metlakatla. Is this being done with Legacy Fund monies? Maybe revisit and save money for the rainy day that is surely coming. Saying the money is coming from Pembina doesn’t cut it the money should go back to the Legacy fund for the city to draw on.

    Are we still planning on CN Station rebuilt. Save money quit planning. Is it feasible the projects they are working on are going to be done in the near future. Mothball.
    City bonuses to employees are we still paying? Quit
    Hiring freeze? Summer students? Cut fat from city crews, work sharing.
    Prince Rupert airport time to reassess the operation as it stands?

    The above is just a few items that come to mind. The city is so secretive not many know what is going on. I suggest rather then cancel council meetings there should be an increase so people know where they stand. The whole thing about crisis management is truth and transparency. The mayor and council failed miserably.

  2. Good points. Also consider going back to paying the mayor as a part-time position. He doesn't seem to be working very hard or effectively. Facebook posts don't count!