Surrey gets an A-, Vancouver a B- in city finances report card

Compared to its other Canadian counterparts, Vancouver performed relatively well.

Plus, deeper cuts for Teck and reality show for Whistler 

Teacher’s pet
Surrey (A-) and Vancouver (B-) received high marks for financial transparency, while their eastern counterparts—Toronto and Winnipeg (D-), Vaughn (F)—floundered, in a report card on city budget practices from the C.D. Howe Institute. According to the report, “no major city in Canada offers a clear budget presentation and none earns an A.” The report says it’s way too difficult for citizens to find out how much our municipal governments plan to spend this year, how much they spent last year, and if that amount was more or less than what they said it would be. The culprit? An “antiquated form of budgeting,” called cash budgeting. Municipalities budget capital on a cash basis, exaggerate on the up-front costs of capital projects, like buildings and infrastructure, and understate them later on expenses. The result is that cities can overcharge taxpayers for long-lived capital projects, according to the report.

Deeper cuts
Teck eliminated 1,000 positions across its operations in North and South America, reducing senior management positions and bringing their total labour force reductions over the past 18 months to over 2,000 positions. They’ve also cut dividends to five cents per share in an effort to reduce total spending by $650 million in 2016, through $350 million in capital spending reductions and cutting $300 million in operating costs. “We are implementing these additional measures to conserve capital, lower our operating costs and maintain financial flexibility in light of very difficult market conditions,” said Don Lindsay, president and CEO, in a release

Reality TV hits the slopes
This weekend Whistler opens ahead of schedule due to early snow in B.C. Among those making the first tracks? Cast and crew for for the champagne-and-caviar reality drama Après Ski, a hybrid of Apprentice, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with just a hint of Survivor. Two million visitors come to Whistler every year, and one hospitality mogul hopes to nab the richest and most demanding and make a billion dollars by providing them once-in-a-lifetime experiences. To supply these experiences? That’s the quest of young and telegenic “concierge” snowboarders and skiers who strive to take hedonism to new heights. And what if they fail to meet the heli-skiing, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, hot-tubbing, night-clubbing dreams of their clientele? You guessed it, voted off the mountain.