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What's in your platform for cities?: Metro Van to BC parties

In recent years, B.C. local governments have struggled to carry out their core responsibilities, with some arguing that cutbacks by higher levels of government have shifted the costs of providing many services onto cities.

With that in mind, Metro Vancouver has asked the four main provincial parties a series of questions on how their election platforms will affect local governments after May 14. The board sent the questions to the BC NDP, the BC Liberals, the BC Conservatives and the BC Green Party in November 2012, and will post the answers on its new website.

Questions are based around six issues: new relationships [between levels of government], municipal financing, protecting the environment, affordable housing, public transit, and regional planning.

"Our core message is, if your city is important to you, then the answers to these questions are going to be important as well when making a decision on who to vote for in the provincial election," said Metro Vancouver board chair and City of Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore.*

So far, only the BC Greens have submitted answers. Answers from the other parties are forthcoming. Moore said he expects to receive them after the writ is dropped on Tuesday.

"What were going to be looking at is the quality and the amount of thought they've given each of these answers," said Moore. "How they answer these questions will say a lot about how they plan to work with local government over the next four years."

The Green Party stated its intention to transfer more power to local government by amending the Local Government Act. It also wants to re-assess how funding is allocated.

"The Green Party believes change is necessary in virtually all aspects of governance if we are to transform B.C. into a sustainable jurisdiction," it wrote.

One question asked was regarding new national standards for wastewater effluence, or discharge into river or ocean. The new regulations will require Metro Vancouver to update two of its wastewater facilities to the tune of $1.4 billion.

The survey asked the parties what commitments they're willing to make to help finance these requirements.

The Green Party answered that the new regulations are an effort to standardize based on a "one-size-fits-all thinking that does not address local realities."

The party wants to move towards zero waste by looking at new ways to approach wastewater management. It answered, "The money to pay for the necessary changes will need to be a shared responsibility. There is only one taxpayer. The Green Party believes we need to look at tax reform that employs strategies like taxation on pollution, carbon and waste."

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has also put forth a platform for the election called Building Tomorrow Together.

Metro Vancouver is part of the UBCM, and comprises 52.5 per cent of British Columbia's population, according to figures from the 2011 census.

"I think it's really important to applaud UBCM and Metro Vancouver on the work we've done on the election platform," said UBCM president and Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom.

Even though Metro Vancouver and UBCM work collaboratively, these are independent projects. Metro Vancouver represents the interests of a specific region, whereas UBCM is taking a province-wide perspective. Sjostrom says the bodies collaborated prior to release, and have similar priorities, but they released their platforms independently.

Carly Rhianna Smith is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

*Story corrected April 15 at 10 a.m.

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