Vancouver mayor angered first responders by warning of possible layoffs

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VANCOUVER –
The mayor of Vancouver warns that unless the provincial government steps in, the city could go bankrupt. And because municipalities are not allowed to run deficits, Kennedy Stewart says the severe budget cuts could include layoffs for police and firefighters.

“The fire department is funded primarily by property taxes. If we see massive property tax losses, then we will have to deal with our budget, and so will the police, “said Stewart.

“The police have an operating budget of a quarter of a billion dollars a year, and almost all of this comes from property taxes. “

New polls found that about a quarter of Vancouver residents did not think they could pay their entire property tax bill this year because of the COVID-19 layoffs, which would have serious implications for the results of the city.

“We provide the basic services that keep people safe and the economy going well, and they are threatened now because of our financial situation,” said Stewart. “Half of our budget is spent on protective services, firefighters and the police. About 70% of our overall budget is spent on labor, so what we have to do is lay off. “

Longtime member of the Vancouver police force Tom Stamatakis and president of the Canadian Police Association said he was shocked by Stewart’s comments.

“I don’t hear other mayors from other parts of the country engaging in these types of messages,” said Stamatakis. “At a time when first responders already feel very worried about their work and the services they provide to the city, I don’t think this is the time to speak, we think the city is going to bankrupt, or we will have to. fire police and firefighters. “

Stamatakis says the VPD members he spoke to are angry, adding, “I don’t think that is the kind of message we need to hear from a mayor at this particular time.”

The mayor’s terrible message was probably aimed at getting the provincial government to consider a financial bailout for cities. Stewart has a scheduled call with British Columbia Minister of Municipal Affairs Selena Robinson later this week.

In a statement to CTV News, Robinson said, “We are working closely with our partners, including the Municipal Finance Authority and the Union of BC Municipalities, to develop solutions and a way forward to support local governments like Vancouver and will have more to say as soon as possible in the coming weeks. “

Stamatakis says he supports the mayor who travels to the province for financial assistance, but doesn’t think Stewart should talk about the possibility of firing first responders.

“I think it sends the wrong message to the people who do important work there, who are concerned for their own health and safety, who are concerned for the health and safety of their families,” said Stamatakis.

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