By Mike Little
Published: August 14, 2018
I submitted my property taxes last week, an exercise that always brings about a certain measure of reflection over ‘Do I get good value for my dollar?’ and more pointedly, ‘what could our Municipality be doing differently to deliver services more cost effectively?’
Taxpayers in our community are under a tremendous amount of pressure these days, with rental and purchase prices at record highs, interest rates rising eating into disposable income, and Municipal taxes and fees ever marching upward. It only makes sense for us to ask our Municipalities to look at all possible cost savings including amalgamating the two North Vancouvers back into one, seamless, efficient local government service.
The decision to create two separate municipalities was made over 100 years ago and the reasons for splitting the two municipalities largely no longer exist. The primary reason the City left the District in 1906, was because City land owners were understandably tired of funding the expansion of District roads, including Keith Rd, and instead preferred to spend their budgets on sidewalks and street lighting in the growing urban areas.
Today’s District hasn’t had a land development program for thirty-five years, and the City has comparable levels of service to the District Town Centers. In fact, taxes are now lower in the District of North Vancouver, despite the City’s concentrated urban environment.
Amalgamation would provide real savings for residents of both the City and the District. A larger municipality would be able to leverage its size in contract negotiations meaning lower costs for municipal agreements such as recycling and waste pickup. Also as material and construction costs increase, an amalgamated municipality would be able to benefit from a greater purchasing power when undergoing important capital projects like new recreation facilities and infrastructure investments in roads and bridges.
Consolidation of management and senior staff in municipal departments would create cost savings without negatively impacting front line services. For example currently both municipalities have separate Library Services administration. If amalgamated we could easily manage four branches under administrative umbrella meaning real savings for municipal taxpayers.
While savings may be the offering that brings us to the table over amalgamation, the real deliverable, in my view, is the seamless integration and delivery of services. Both North Vancouvers already jointly operate Recreation Centres, have integrated Fire Services, and even share a lawyer, but amalgamation would provide the opportunity for truly seamless planning that is simply not possible under two separate municipalities.
It’s no secret one of the biggest issues we are dealing with on the North Shore is increased traffic. Sitting in gridlock has become an almost daily occurrence; this is partly to do with a lack of coordination and planning between the City and the District. Right now the District, aided by the Province, is attempting to improve East-West movement by widening Keith Road but the City has recently narrowed their portion of the road and redirected traffic away, preferring the Low Level Road or Highway 1 to move traffic East and West.
Citizens of a combined North Vancouver could also expect better coordination of Road and Utility Construction, where necessary road works are completed with effective alternate routes that are not obstructed in the neighbouring municipality.
Amalgamation would also mean more integration when it comes to planning the future growth of our communities. To maintain the liveability of our communities while tackling issues like housing affordability and the lack of available rental housing we need to take a holistic planning approach. The reality is having two separate municipalities makes this more difficult.
We would also see improvements in other important areas such as the integration of Emergency Services including incident command. This would provide better coordination for our first responders, and would make it much easier for us to plan and prepare for large scale disasters such as an earthquake, landslides or major flooding.
While it is certainly not going to solve all of our problems, the fact remains there is little to no benefit for the residents of either the District or the City to remain separated. Survey results show that people already identify as being from North Vancouver. We are already one community. It makes sense and would benefit all North Vancouver residents for us to amalgamate into one seamless municipality.
Mike Little is a former three term elected councillor for the District of North Vancouver, and he is currently running for DNV Mayor.