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Municipal election issues: 'Finance, finance, finance': Walton

North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton foresees "Finance, finance, and finance" as the key issues in the coming municipal elections. Issues like dropping the RCMP, smart meters, and funding the schools don't come close, he says, to residential taxation and getting value for the money it raises.

In an interview with The Tyee, Walton said homeowners are happy to see the value of their property going up (as defined by BC Assessment, but shocked when their taxes rise by as much as 20 per cent. For pensioners and others on fixed incomes, the shock is even greater.

"They want value for money," Walton said, and suggested that many municipalities are unhappy about the new Municipal Auditor General position that the provincial government has announced. He added that he is "trying to take an objective approach" to the idea. The UBCM, he said, has issued a policy paper on the issue, and will debate it on Thursday.

"We can't run deficits," Walton said. "We're creatures of the province, very regulated, and we're very public. So why not discuss the auditor general idea before imposing it?" Still, Walton said he is "trying to figure out how a Municipal Auditor General can help."

Looking beyond the elections in the light of a weakening economy, Walton hinted at likely cuts in municipal services. "Infrastructure spending needs to be kept up," he said, citing items such as water mains that must be constantly maintained and replaced. "But if we're going to have cutbacks, transparency is needed in deciding where to make them."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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