The Canadian Taxpayers Federation will be referencing KTW’s series of stories on spending at the TNRD on Monday, Feb. 22, when it calls on the provincial government to keep the office of the Auditor General for Local Government open.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is expected to issue a press release on the matter on Monday.
Kris Sims, British Columbia director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, called KTW’s revelations of spending at the TNRD “shocking.”
She said those in charge of the public purse should always ask: Is this really needed? She called the spending “very questionable,” pointing to dining bills, She added that buying high-end gifts for staff and politicians is not normal practice in government, regardless of a person’s tenure.
“The main thing we always ask is: Would this happen in the private sector?” Sims said. “If you work at the grocery store, if you work at a newspaper — would this happen there? Probably not. What would probably happen is, you would pass the hat and you would each put in $5, $10 or $20 and you would get the person something nice. That would be a really nice place to work if that happened every five and 10 years. It’s not appropriate to just dip into the taxpayer piggy bank and hand out gifts worth thousands of dollars. That’s completely inappropriate.”
Sims pointed to the Plecas Report of 2019, which detailed questionable spending in the Speaker’s office, including the highly publicized wood-splitter purchase. Last year, the province cut funding for the Auditor General for Local Government and announced plans to close the office.
In the wake of KTW’s stories on spending at the TNRD, Sims is renewing calls to keep the office open, noting the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a petition against closing the office.
Sims told KTW the office serves as a place for whistleblowers to call when misspending occurs at the municipal level.
“We are asking for the provincial government, led by Premier John Horgan, to not shutter the provincial municipal auditor general office,” she said, stressing the importance of a well-funded, well-resourced and nimble office. “Right now, we have a toothless lapdog. We need a team of dobermans and we need that because people need a place to call when they see wrongdoing and misspending at the municipal level.”
Sims said staff who see misspending should not be fearful of losing their jobs. In addition, she said politicians have oversight.
“That Jiminy Cricket in their minds, saying ‘Uh, uh, uh! If you spend this, you will be caught and the auditor general for cities will get you and you will be on the front page of the newspaper, so don’t do it,’” Sims said. “It’s for transparency, accountability and deterrence. It’s because so much money and power is now flowing through our city halls throughout the province that the citizens of B.C. — those of us who live in cities and towns — need accountability and we need a tool to hold our local governments to account and we think that a non-partisan, permanent municipal auditor general office is what they need.”
Asked what mechanism could be utilized should the regional district seek review, Sims said the the TNRD could hire an outside firm or auditor. Former chief justice Beverley McLachlin was hired to investigate following the Plecas Report.
— with a file from the Vancouver Sun