November 28, 2022

Metro Vancouver & Why Regional Government Really Matters

CBC’s Man of Municipalities Justin McElroy attended the first meeting of the new board of Metro Vancouver, which is the regional government where all 21 municipalities, one Electoral Area and one Treaty First Nation can participate to discuss things of regional interest.

This is important work as it discusses how we develop together as a region.  Metro Vancouver  “collaboratively plans for and delivers regional-scale services. Its core services are drinking water, wastewater treatment and solid waste management. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system and provides affordable housing.”

There are five sewage facility plants (one that is being upgraded) and basically these plants take care of the entire business of all those municipalities. You can find out more about the work of the regional government in the  regional plan called Metro 2040 which is currently being updated.

Even though you do not hear so much about the regional government, its work is extremely important as we are not a region of cities, but cities in a region that need to address issues like servicing higher density, ensuring adequate public transit, and ensuring that all the municipalities are talking to each other.

The Chief Administration Officer (CAO) of Metro Vancouver is Jerry Dobrovolny. His resume is extraordinary. As Wikipedia outlines, Mr. Dobrovolny “is a Canadian civil engineer, civic administrator, and retired football player. In November 2019, he is slated to begin serving as chief administrative officer and commissioner for Metro Vancouver Regional District, having previously served as chief engineer and general manager of Engineering Services for the City of Vancouver, and as a city councillor in New Westminster.”

Mr. Dobrovolny is one of those people that has served both as a city councillor and as a city public servant. In the City of Vancouver Fritz Bowers was the City Manager from  1977 to 1990 also had been a former city councillor.  So too has the current Mayor of Delta, who was the city manager for Delta from 2002 to 2018 and is now serving his second term as Mayor.

Those individuals have a unique insight into not only the political landscape of how to get things done, but have insight into the overall city operations as well as how policy is shaped.

Prior to the civic election, Vancouver’s former mayor Kennedy Stewart had only attended 25 percent of the Metro Vancouver meetings. That meant he went to 12 of the 48 scheduled board meetings and three of the scheduled Mayors Committee meetings as reported by Kenneth Chan in The Daily Hive.

The previous chair of the Metro Vancouver Mayors Board was Richmond Councillor Sav Dhaliwal. 

The  City of North Vancouver’s Mayor Linda Buchanan and the City of Delta’s George Harvie also ran for the chair position last week as well as Mr. Dhaliwal. Mr. Harvie was successful. Delta has a population of 110,840 (2017 figures).

For the vice-chair, there was a bit of an upset where City of Vancouver Councillor Lisa Dominato was defeated in favour of Anmore Mayor John McEwen. This position had been previously held by Mayor Buchanan during her first term as Mayor. Anmore has a population of 2,210 (2016 figures).

 

Justin McElroy surmised that this shifting and dismissal of a Vancouver vice-chair could have been  a display of the Mayors Committee annoyance at the City of Vancouver. In the last 14 years under Vision and again under Mayor Stewart there was an emphasis not so much on Vancouver’s place in the region, but of creating policies that applied directly to Vancouver. Some policies like the Climate Emergency Action Plan and  discussions of a road tax or parking tax would have been helpful to have been developed in concert with and inclusive of the region.

Mayor Harvie does add another 100,000 dollars to his salary as Mayor of Delta in chairing the regional board.  The vice-chair, Mayor McEwen will add 50,000 to his salary as the Mayor of Anmore.

And the work is onerous: the chair and vice-chair manage the Metro Vancouver Regional District meetings as well as the Greater Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District, and the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation Boards. They will be reviewing the work program of those boards as well as considering the membership for the various committees.

As Justin McElroy writes in his popular newsletter “Metro Matters” it is anticipated that the average annual household regional tax in Metro Vancouver will increase from $595 to $1,021 in five years due to the planned sewage treatment plants and water infrastructure projects needed. Cost? The budget is one billion dollars plus.

Mayor Harvie will be forming a task force to try to reduce that expected regional household tax increase.  You can take a look at the YouTube video which describes the various services undertaken by Metro Vancouver.

images:jmcelroycbc

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