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Government spending at Vancouver City Hall higher than Surrey

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The City of Vancouver spends significantly more per resident—and collects much higher revenues per resident, too—than Surrey, the next largest municipality by population in the region, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“With municipal elections slated for October, our study helps residents in the greater Vancouver area better understand the state of their municipality’s finances and how they compare to other cities,” said Josef Filipowicz, senior policy analyst with the Fraser Institute and co-author of Comparing Municipal Government Finances in Metro Vancouver, 2018.

The study compares 17 of the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s 21 municipalities on several measures—including government spending, revenue and debt—from 2007 to 2016, the most recent year of available data.

It finds West Vancouver had the highest level of government spending in 2016 at $2,583 per person, followed by New Westminster ($2,225) and Vancouver ($1,944). Surrey, by contrast, was the lowest spender at $1,057 per person, well below the regional average of $1,549.

In other words, Vancouver, the most populated municipality in the region, spent 84 per cent more per person than Surrey, the region’s second most populated city.

Crucially, Vancouver also collected the third highest amount of revenue—$2,693 per person—compared to Surrey, which collected the second lowest ($1,673). Put another way, Vancouver collected 61 per cent more revenue per person than Surrey. And once again, West Vancouver topped the list, collecting $3,253 in revenue per person.

Most of this revenue comes from property taxes on homes and businesses, user fees for services such as water and civic facilities, parking fees and levy fees on homebuilders and property developers.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the residents across the region to decide if they’re getting good value for their municipal tax dollars, but they need comparable information with other municipalities to help make that call,” said study co-author Charles Lammam, director of fiscal studies with the Fraser Institute.

Fraser Institute News Release