Langford council has voted to send three motions to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), calling for ways to recoup costs for what it calls the Province’s failures.
AVICC is an annual meeting of municipal governments on Vancouver Island and coastal communities to discuss issues to raise to the provincial government to address. Motions passed at the AVICC meeting are forwarded to the Union of BC Municipalities meeting. The motions passed there are then forwarded to the provincial government.
The three AVICC motions were put forward at the Feb. 5 meeting by Langford Coun. Keith Yacucha, who says the province’s inaction on a number of items has put increased costs on municipal governments, and therefore residents through property taxes.
Increased policing costs
The first motion notes that due to the province has not addressed health care, mental health care and social service needs across the province, resulting in an increased cost for policing.
“It is shown that by dollar spent being proactive and dealing with individuals through adequate social services, adequate health care adequate mental health care is significantly cheaper, significantly less of an impact to our taxpayer than dealing with it in an emergency setting,” Yacucha said.
“And that emergency setting would be either emergency health care or through, unfortunately, passing it down to our criminal system.”
Yacucha also notes that Supt. Todd Preston of the West Shore RCMP says more than one in every 20 calls has a mental health component to it and that around the clock there is an average of one officer in an emergency department waiting to hand over the patient to health professionals.
“This is unfair for the individual who just needed some mental health help to be there under the supervision of a police officer, and it is also taking away from our community resources,” Yacucha said.
Preston was not in attendance at the Feb. 5 meeting.
Mayor Scott Goodmanson noted this problem has been developing over decades, so the blame does not lie solely with the current government.
“This is something that is been slowly happening for decades,” Goodmanson noted. “Frog in the boiling water thing, you don’t notice this happening. And we’re at the point now is that it is really, really observant to us here what we’re missing.”
This motion was passed unanimously.
Rethinking municipal taxation
The second motion aimed to address the increased burden faced by issues relating to shared crises such as climate issues, housing affordability, inequality, public health, and infrastructure challenges.
Yacucha notes that these challenges are needing to be dealt with by municipal governments, and therefore placing a higher burden on its taxpayers.
“A lot of the other general social costs that we end up facing as a result of this and as being really the level of government closest to the ground are the ones who often feel the responsibility to step up,” Yacucha said.
“Even though it’s, as was mentioned, isn’t truthfully in our statutory wheelhouse, we still have hearts, we’re humans and we see it so of course, we want to step up and do what we can to help. So it’s a call to the province to either provide us the funds to be able to do it or for them to please help and take over their responsibilities.”
Coun. Mary Wagner noted there is funding available from the government to address these items, but they are often made available through grants that need to be applied for.
“It takes a lot of groundwork and planning and the current way of grants that you may or may not get, and the time it takes for grant processing and the applications having specific criteria,” Wagner said.
“There’s a host of challenges that municipalities face dealing with the granting process, and I think it would be very beneficial to explore either some stable stream of funding that came from the province every year to help with these matters, or that there were new ways for municipalities to get revenue sources to meet these challenges that it’s just going to cost more and more at the local level, and property taxes are not enough of a tool to meet the needs.”
This motion passed unanimously.
Explore legal action for failing to address health care, criminal rehabilitation, public safety
In the third motion, Yacucha notes the provincial government has a constitutional duty to provide essential services, like health care, criminal rehabilitation and the administration of justice, and argues the province is not meeting this duty.
As such, he calls on AVICC to explore whether municipalities have the option to take legal action against the provincial government for failing to provide these functions.
Coun. Lillian Szpak noted these issues not being addressed has resulted in a download of responsibility to municipalities.
“It does seem somewhat harsh,” Szpak noted. “However, the results of what has happened as a result of these downloads are harsh on our community.”
Goodmanson did not support the motion, saying it seemed counterintuitive to be negotiating in good faith with the province, while also threatening legal action.
“In all my dealings with officials from meetings we’ve had I’ve stressed that we want to work together that we’re not asking one party just to solve our problems for us to find solutions that we both can work on both agree with that’s beneficial to everyone because there’s 100 plus other municipalities that are wanting the same thing,” Goodmanson said.
“If you’re wanting to put your hand out and shake and say ‘let’s work together,’ but in the other hand, you’re saying ‘if you don’t do this, I’m going to sue you,’ that message to me if someone did that to me, I wouldn’t feel like they’re actually trying to work openly.”
The motion passed 6-1 with only Goodmanson opposed.
Licence plate recognition and active transportation
In addition to the three motions put forward by Yacucha, motions put forward by Langford Councillors Colby Harder and Kimberly Guiry were unanimously forwarded to AVICC.
Harder’s motion called for more funding from the provincial government for licence plate reading hardware for police vehicles.
She noted that since the province removed the requirement for insurance stickers on licence plates, there has been an increase in uninsured vehicles on the road.
The Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) hardware costs $25,000 per machine and West Shore RCMP received funding for four of the machines when the province made the change.
Guiry’s motion called for the provincial government to take responsibility for all active transportation within provincial highway right of ways.