Statement regarding Vancouver budget task force
On April 12th, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, and the ABC-majority council, voted to establish an external budget task force.
The six-member task force will be responsible for reviewing the city’s spending in search of “efficiencies” and potential new revenue sources.
Taken on its own, this would not sound like an outwardly alarming concept. However, there are several reasons why we are, in fact, deeply concerned, and will be watching closely.
During debate on the task force, ABC voted down amendments by opposition councillors to ensure no cuts to front line services, homelessness, arts & culture, and climate initiatives. They also voted down proposals to include the Park Board budget ($152M), and the VPD budget ($383M) in the task force’s review.
This means the door is open to potential cuts to programs and services that Vancouver residents rely upon, and the accompanying family-supporting, community sustaining jobs. It also means, oddly, that the review will not even look at the full scope of the city’s spending.
ABC’s decision to vote down these amendments leaves Vancouver residents with every reason to fear that “efficiencies” are a euphemism for cuts and austerity. This cause for concern is heightened by recent actions taken by ABC, such as the abandonment of the living wage for municipal workers, and the defunding of the renter’s office, which have signaled priorities that are at odds with the interests of working-class Vancouverites.
We stand firmly opposed to cuts to programs and services, which would harm working people and families, and especially impact low-income families and the most marginalized in our city. We believe that other solutions must be found, including the development of more progressive taxation policies, and the exploration of new forms of revenue generation within the public system.
We call for the task force to be meaningfully representative of Vancouver’s diversity, and of different lived experiences. It is also crucial that it consults broadly and deeply with the public, and actively ensures that the voices of those who would be most impacted by cuts are heard and given their due weight.
Finally, it must be acknowledged that while solutions to the problems our city faces do cost money, the cost of failing to address those crises will be much greater and much more devastating. A balanced budget alone does nothing to solve those crises, which should be the real focus of our energies.
We can build an affordable, equitable, resilient city, but not through austerity policies that leave our coworkers, neighbours, and communities behind. We’ll do it through addressing the root causes of the problems we are facing, through strong public services that support people and communities, and though solidarity. Let’s make sure the task force, mayor, and council hear that.