Policy & Positions Manual
Provincial Issues - Community, Sport and Cultural Development
Call for Premier’s Council on Municipal Infrastructure (2011)
Urban and regional centres are playing an increasingly important role as engines for economic growth. In recent years, BC has become known as a world-class destination for opportunity, attracting new citizens to the province looking to enjoy the quality of life we value and enjoy. Unfortunately they do not bring their roads, bridges, schools or hospitals with them. This influx has brought a new vibrancy to the province, but with it, significant challenges for our municipal infrastructure, pressures that must be addressed if we are to continue along a path of economic prosperity. The Chamber calls for the formation of a Premier’s Council on Municipal Infrastructure (PCMI) to provide a comprehensive framework for municipal infrastructure finance and investment.
The infrastructure requirements of BC’s urban and regional centers are growing, both in terms of new construction and maintenance of existing assets. The current methods of financing, delivering and maintaining infrastructure are not keeping pace, as witnessed by a growing infrastructure debt. Over the past quarter century this issue has only grown more acute, with the municipal infrastructure gap as a percentage of national GDP growing from 2.7% in 1984 to 5.0% in the early 2000s . For this reason, all orders of governments must take a hard look at new delivery options, funding arrangements and financing that can provide the required resources for infrastructure investment. The issue has come to a critical point as much of our infrastructure, the backbone of our economy, has eclipsed over 80% of its life expectancy.
As Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway, BC is at the forefront of the pacific century. While this provides new opportunities for attracting talent and investment to the province, participation in this marketplace will demand a new look at the level of and commitment to infrastructure investment in the province. Competition amongst jurisdictions is growing and the businesses and individuals within the region are highly mobile, able to relocate to the most favorable environment. Jurisdictions that provide new and innovative solutions for infrastructure investment will experience gains in productivity and increases in their quality of life. While those that do not will find themselves increasingly sidelined and unable to compete.
Starting in 2009, new accounting standards set by the Public Service Accounting Board, a national standards governing body, have required municipalities to inventory and better quantify their capital assets and asset management plans, reporting them in their annual financial statements. These guidelines will help provide increased accountability and will be powerful tools to inform the discussion on municipal infrastructure investment.
Beginning in 2001, the Province has had a number of standing councils that provide potential templates to further the discussion and public profile of municipal infrastructure investment in the province. The Premier’s Technology Council, which is comprised of 23 members from the private sector and academia, is one such example. The mandate of the council is to provide advice to the Premier on all technology-related issues facing British Columbia and its citizens. To date, the council has published 13 reports making a total of 205 recommendations to government, over 80% of which have been adopted or are being adopted.
Another model for providing input to government on issues critical to our economic well-being is the Small Business Roundtable. Appointed by the Province, board members serve a term of at least two years. The Minister responsible for Small Business chairs the Roundtable, appoints new members and provides overall strategic direction to guide the board in the overall achievement of its mandate. Based on information obtained during small business consultations and other activities, the Small Business Roundtable provides recommendations to government and the business community on ways to enhance the growth and success of the small business sector. These recommendations focus on increasing support for skills training and labour market development, leveraging new technologies to improve productivity, continuing the commitment to streamline regulatory processes and develop ways to further increase competitiveness.
Both initiatives have proven to be strong platforms for the provincial government to solicit feedback from concerned stakeholders and provide advice and recommendations to government on how to best address the opportunities and challenges facing our province.
Broad stakeholder representation is an important consideration in the establishment of the Premier’s Council on Municipal Infrastructure. Membership could include, but is not limited to, provincial chamber of commerce representation, the Union of BC Municipalities, the Business Council of BC, municipal elected officials, infrastructure industry representatives and participation from academic and leading NGO experts.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the provincial government:
establish a Premier’s Council on Municipal Infrastructure to advise on:
The accumulated infrastructure debt and projected deficits;
The net revenue required to pay down the accumulated debt and address future deficits, and;
The establishment of benchmarks for debt reduction and enhanced accountability
collaborate with the proposed PCMI to undertake a comprehensive environmental scan to review best practices in municipal infrastructure finance, including appropriate funding vehicles and enabling legislation.