Clark’s AGLC pet project is a tax-hungry monster

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John Horgan Premier Designate, B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader

By John Horgan, Leader, BC New Democrats

You have an absolute right to demand that your tax dollars are used efficiently and responsibly.

Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have broken that trust, and now you have to pay more.

The premier made a lot of flashy promises just before the last election. One of them was to set up an Auditor General for Local Government. This office was supposed to improve the performance of municipal governments and save taxpayers’ money. When it was set up in 2013, the new auditor promised to produce 18 reports in the first year. Two years have gone by, and the Liberals have spent $5.2 million of taxpayers’ money.

What has the local government auditor produced? One report.

Actually, only half of a report is ready. It deals with the City of Rossland, a small town of 3,500 people in the Kootenays.

That’s right – not a single full report completed after two years and more than $5 million of your money spent.

Every month, you have to pay more and more under Christy Clark’s Liberals. Your MSP bill is going up, your ICBC bill is going up. You pay more to use bridges and ferries. School fees are going up. University tuition fees are going up. Soon, the price of many beers, wines and spirits will go up. It just never seems to end.

And this is how your money gets spent – wasted on a new office that burns through piles of cash and produces nothing.

How did this happen?

A shocking internal government report, leaked last week, shows the office of the Auditor General for Local Government is in total chaos. According to the report, nobody bothered to figure out what sort of skills or accounting qualifications the auditor’s staff needed. Nobody gave the staff a clear idea of their objectives. Large amounts of time and work have gone to waste when management abruptly changed their mind about their priorities. The report paints a picture of total mismanagement from start to finish.

The cost to the taxpayer doesn’t end there. The local auditor’s office is so dysfunctional that the government has already conducted two separate investigations there, at your expense. On Wednesday, we learned that a third investigation is being launched. Taxpayers are on the hook for that too.

The costs don’t end there either. The auditor herself, and the committee that supervises her office, have both hired lawyers to try and figure out who’s in charge. Who pays for those lawyers? The taxpayer.

And we may never know how much time and energy has been wasted in city and district halls right across this province, as local staff try to work with an auditor that doesn’t know what it’s doing or how to do it. Who covers those costs? Local property taxpayers.

What makes this all even worse is that we already have a provincial auditor general, who could easily have taken on this work with existing experienced staff. New Democrats said this in 2012. Only Christy Clark thinks you can save money by creating more bureaucracy. Only Christy Clark could create an auditor that actually produces new waste.

The premier’s pet has turned into a monster, and it’s eating through more of your tax dollars every day.

Every one of us can think of something worthwhile to do with $5.2 million. I can’t help but think of all the students and parents who found out this week that their schools, despite being at high risk to collapse during an earthquake, won’t be fixed until 2030. There are dozens of schools like this in Surrey, Vancouver and Richmond alone. Surely keeping our children safe from harm must be a higher priority than endless investigations and lawyers’ fees for an auditor that produces nothing but new costs.

Not according to the premier. With Christy Clark in charge, you pay more and get less.

We need a premier that understands what matters. British Columbians demand and deserve a premier who treats every tax dollar with the greatest respect.