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Letter: It's not the right time for Coquitlam city hall to expand

I always smile when I hear the old trope "government should be run like a business."
money getty
Cash money floating to the ground.

The Editor:

I always smile when I hear the old trope "government should be run like a business."

This remark rightfully implies that government should make wise investments and spend money judiciously. However, it wrongfully presumes that government habits in these areas are held accountable to a third party such as a board of directors or shareholders.

So, I like the implication of financial discipline at the government level.

However, the comparison between government and business falls short in many ways.

If you view government as a private business, you need to allow for two glaring distinctions: First, when businesses face an economic crisis, they have no choice but to make hard decisions, cut costs and fire people or face insolvency.

Government is under no such constraints.

As an example, consider the latest financial news from the City of Coquitlam.

On Dec. 6, city council will decide whether to proceed with a new spending package worth roughly $75 million, which includes new management and staff in almost every department at city hall.

This comes as the economy is recovering from one of the steepest economic shocks in history.

Tremendous economic damage was inflicted on our communities during COVID-19. People are struggling with loss and an uncertain future. On top of that, we’re facing the highest inflation in 20 years.

Still, spending goes on, unabated at Coquitlam city hall.

How does one reconcile this proposed growth in the bureaucracy with our current economic situation? True, we need a strong private sector to support a strong government. But the facts only support half of this equation.

The second big distinction ties heavily into the first.

It relates to local government’s potentially unlimited ability to tap into revenue from the taxpayer to cover any cash flow shortfalls.

Any business should be so lucky! This creates a kind of moral hazard and can lead to undisciplined financial behavior during a crisis. Sure, there is some allowance for good financial management at the government level. And the city deserves credit certain areas in this regard. 

I am very impressed with the calibre of individuals staffing Coquitlam city hall. My experience with staff over the years has been excellent. However, given the shaky state of our local economy, now is not the time for this massive expansion of government.

On Dec. 6, Coquitlam city council will vote on the aforementioned $75 million spending package. We MUST remind Coquitlam city council who their masters are. They are the last line of defence from an ever-expanding bureaucracy!

If you agree please sign my petition.

- Ben Craig, Coquitlam