Municipalities and their spending – Editorial

Within a few weeks, taxpayers and ratepayers will be going to the polls to elect their representatives, people who will be running the municipal administrations at every level from villages to cities.

In democratic societies, municipalities constitute the bedrock of the process of government of the people, for the people, by the people.

As such, that is the level where the elected have to respond to the concerns of the electorate: Because that is the level where the one who asks for the supportive vote will look into the eyes of the one who gave that vote at one time or another before the following election. If what has been promised is delivered, that look in the eye will have a touch of confidence and pride, if not, embarrassment and frustration.

As the platform of “representative democracy” gets higher, however, the responsibility that vote seekers feel towards the vote givers shrink considerably, or rather that responsibility shifts in another direction, that of contributors to election campaigns.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has recently issued a report criticizing municipal governments for increasing their spending beyond the levels of population increase and inflation.

This conservative interest group is a staunch defender of less government and more private entrepreneurship in economy and in social life.

So, it is not surprising that they come out against increased spending on the part of municipal governments.

What is surprising is how they can keep this rhetoric going despite all the evidence that increasingly less government in this time and age means increasingly poorly managed economies and inefficiently governed societies.

As you may have heard, last week the United States Labor Department announced statistics on the state of poverty south of the border: One in seven working-age person lives in poverty, the highest ratio since the early 60s.

And that is at a time when that country has a record number of billionaires.

If one looks at how that happened, it is not difficult to see the damage done by the successive Bush administrations, but that is not the point.

The point is that increasingly less government at every level has been contributing to increasing poverty even in the biggest economy of the world.

Municipal governments are the avenues through which citizens can receive the services they are promised (and that they deserve).

Shrinking spending, particularly at a time when the economic recovery remains fragile and job creation stagnant while uncertainties prevail, may very well be spicing up a recipe for bigger trouble.

Those incoming municipal administrations after next month’s elections will be well advised to ignore CFIB’s alarm bells about spending.

— Mustafa Eric