Citizens Need More Input on City Budget

City Hall In an unprecedented move, Vancouver city council announced on Nov. 17 it would be accelerating its budgetting process, severely limiting public comment on the City of Vancouver's 2007 spending priorities.

"City council is making a mockery of the annual City of Vancouver operating budget public consultation process," said Think City board member Neil Monckton. "How can residents, business owners and community groups provide credible commentary on Vancouver's 2007 financial priorities, if they are given little information or opportunity to provide real feedback - it's like being asked to buy a house without knowing the final price or what the home looks like. This is a flawed process."

"In the past, city staff would prepare preliminary estimates for the upcoming year's operating budget and make that document available in mid-December or mid-January for comment through a public consultation process," said Monckton. "This year, no estimates were presented to council before the budget consultation process was hastily announced on Nov. 17, leaving the public with zero opportunity to make informed comment on the 2007 budget."

For the 2007 budget consultation process, the city has provided only ten days for input on next year's budget, through a series of five public community meetings. In addition, council set the deadline for submission of an annual public survey on the budget for Nov. 24 - three days before the final public consultation meeting is to be held.

In 2005, budget estimates were made public on Jan. 18, city council held 17 meetings with community organizations and the general public between Feb. 8-24, and the 2005 City Choices Questionnaire was made available to the public on Feb. 7, with a deadline for submission of Feb. 25.

"City council should move the 2007 City Choices Questionnaire deadline so that the public can make informed comment on the 2007 budget," said Think City board member Kristin Foster. "Think City suggests the new deadline be set six weeks after the annual budget estimates are presented to council in the new year,"

"An $840 million-plus city budget that will inform the day-to-day decisions of city council deserves more public scrutiny then a hurried ten-day process can provide," said Think City board member Kristin Foster. "And while the Vancouver is reducing citizen input on important matters of the day, other Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto are taking the lead in involving residents in civic life."