Imagine that you were responsible for organizing the government of a brand new city. What services would your government provide?
Our little debate this week isn't just a pie the ski scenario - it has some real life real-life linkages.
Over the next number of decades, for a variety of reasons, government expenditures will rise at astronomical rates. At some point, we (in the collective sense) will need to need to make some decisions about what services government can afford to offer.
It's already happened in other jurisdictions.
Last Fall, in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford ordered a core services review in response to a $774 million operating deficit. Accounting firm KPMG was hired to review each of the city's services and started by identifying each service as essential, traditional or other.
That's where we need to start in our new fictitious city.
I think we can all agree that services such as fire and policing are essential for public safety while things such as waterworks, roadworks, planning and licensing are critical city responsibilities.
All other non-essential services, however, should only be offered if they meet one of two criteria:
A large number of people use the public amenity
Taxpayers (through city governments) realize considerable savings as a result of economies of scale
Garbage pick-up and transit are two examples that meet both criteria.
My city government would then examine the role and necessity of all non-essential services and funding for capital assets, festivals, arts, and sports programs.
Do enough people use them? Is there monetary and societal benefit of city-owned ice rinks, for example, compared to privately run facilities? Why, in another example, does the city of Coquitlam operate a gym at the Sports and Leisure Centre when there are already several private gyms in the region?
Both sports and arts are important for youth development, but I would suggest those things aren't the responsibility of local government. They should be the responsibility of parents, schools, and non-profit groups.
Cities should focus on core services that are essential or provide a net benefit to the majority of residents.
One thing is for sure, my city's property taxes - and therefore rents - will be a lot lower than those of my colleague.