Regional Coordination and Governance
Since the last civic elections in 2014, both of our Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecards 2016 and 2018 identified several significant challenges facing the Greater Vancouver region. These include poor housing affordability, lacklustre attraction of head offices, underinvestment in public transit and road infrastructure, and dwindling industrial land. An important step in addressing these issues is for Greater Vancouver's local leaders to align their efforts and improve regional coordination.
Improving coordination among the local jurisdictions is not only essential for successfully addressing our region's most pressing challenges but also for improving competitiveness on a global scale.
There are two binary indicators in Scorecard 2018 that evaluate the degree of regional coordination across Greater Vancouver:
Regional economic agency
A regional economic agency is key to promoting a region's economic growth and indicates coordination and inclusivity of the municipalities within a metro area.
Regional transit agency
Strategic decision-making and implementation is more efficient when the decision-making body is a regional transit agency rather than multiple local transit agencies coordinating across municipal borders.
Stock of Greater Vancouver Industrial Land, Q2, 2018
|Total Inventory (ft2)
|Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows
|Greater Vancouver Total
Local fragmentation hinders the effective delivery of services and undermines Greater Vancouver's economic competitiveness. Diverging interests among local governments tend to increase friction and complicate the coordination of services.
Certain local responsibilities should be coordinated within a metropolitan area, given that the political borders of individual local governments rarely coincide with a region's effective economic boundaries. The mismatch between political and economic boundaries, which is reflected in a growing number of cross-municipality commuters, often leads to a misalignment between where people pay taxes and where they benefit from local government services and infrastructure. For instance, individuals living in Surrey and commuting to downtown Vancouver pay property taxes only to the City of Surrey despite consuming local public services and infrastructure in Vancouver. Similar situations are repeated every day across Greater Vancouver, suggesting that some form of municipal services coordination is warranted.
SURVEY: Do you support some degree of amalgamation of Local Governments within the Greater Vancouver region?
- Explore innovative ways to deliver local government services in a more efficient and cost-competitive manner. Promote the centralization of services, inter-municipal cooperation agreements, or private sector participation in service delivery whenever appropriate.
- Use private sector outsourcing and private-public partnerships, but only when there is sufficient competition among potential service delivery contractors to generate cost savings and efficiency.
Business Licenses and Permitting
A higher level of integration across the Greater Vancouver region would reduce red tape for already-burdened businesses. Creating single programs across the region to streamline the application process for licenses and permits will reduce costs and uncertainty for businesses, save time and foster greater commercial activity. For example, until recently, a mobile business was required to obtain a different licence for every jurisdiction in which it conducted business. This led to unnecessary inefficiencies and costs. Fortunately, the provincial government, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and local governments have created a mobile business licence program to streamline the licensing process in the province. The program takes the form of agreements that allow mobile businesses to operate across multiple jurisdictions under a single licence. To date, 15 mobile business licence agreements exist in British Columbia, but none of them encompass all of Greater Vancouver. Instead, four separate agreements, signed between 2012-13, cover most of the region.
A higher level of integration across the Greater Vancouver region would reduce the amount of red tape and facilitate business activity.
- Work on establishing a region-wide mobile business license to ease doing business across Greater Vancouver;
- Streamline the permitting and licensing process for businesses across Lower Mainland municipalities; and
- Ensure transparent timelines and reduce unnecessary delays.
Regional Economic Development Agency
Presently, ten or more individual economic development agencies around Greater Vancouver pursue mandates to attract inbound investment and promote their municipality to the exclusion of neighbouring municipalities and the overall region. Results include duplication of effort, unnecessary rivalry, and confusion about the region's brand in target markets overseas. These micro-mandates ignore the positive spillover benefits of investments into neighbouring jurisdictions, such as potential property tax revenue from new residents.
Establishing a single-purpose body responsible for economic development and/or investment promotion would reduce some of these drawbacks. While previous efforts to launch regional economic development initiatives—like the Greater Vancouver Economic Partnership and the Economic Leadership Council—have failed for a variety of reasons, the case for such an agency has never been greater. Metro Vancouver's Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI), a group of local public and private stakeholders with the objective of promoting the region for mutual benefit, is a significant step in the right direction. The GVBOT supports the establishment of a single regional economic development agency, such as envisioned by the RPI.
SURVEY: Do you support the creation of a single economic development agency for the Greater Vancouver region?
- If the RPI becomes a stand-alone entity, ensure that its mandate includes harmonizing or centralizing efforts to promote Greater Vancouver as a single economic unit abroad for inbound investment; and
- Ensure the RPI is established with sound governance structures and has the resources necessary to effectively act in the best interests of the region.