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The issue isn’t spending, it is how and why we spend

The CVRD came under criticism for paying CAO Warren Jones makes more than what taxpayers pay Premier Christy Clark. - Peter W. Rusland/file
The CVRD came under criticism for paying CAO Warren Jones makes more than what taxpayers pay Premier Christy Clark.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

People love to talk about money.

In 2012, government spending was a hot-button issue in Cowichan, especially with the $1.3 million communication crack-up known affectionately as the Eco Depot.

In 2011, some residents started trash talking civic building expansions, dubbing the $3 million needed to create more space in North Cowichan municipal hall, excessive. Some thought it an unnecessary expenditure, especially to fit the ballooning number of bureaucrats making high wages.

So it was no surprise 2013 saw more of the same. The mantra of too much spending of hard-earned tax dollars is so often heard, it has become a staple that’s no longer questioned but accepted as truth.

And each year the spending continues. And each year people complain.

I’m not saying there isn’t good reason for it, either.

This year we learned the top CVRD bureaucrat’s salary was higher than B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s, and that 34 senior staff earned wages above $75,000 annually.

If this is what we have to do to offer competitive wages to the private sector, then let’s stop competing with the private sector.

Farther up the road, another round of proposed tax increases in North Cowichan raised the ire of some residents and councillors.

Of course, some of the head-in-sand arguments against this year’s wish for a 1% tax increase for the Climate Energy and Action Plan are ridiculous, but expected from the more bombastic opponents who fancy themselves fiscally responsible.

It was once again spun as economics versus environment, which the majority of us are learning is simply not the case.

This year it was clear there is a disconnect between the cost of our values and where we think that money should come from.

What baffles me most in this back-and-forth between perceived wanton spending and belt-tightening at the expense of services is the lack of awareness that the average resident has when it comes down to a topic that is ostensibly deemed so important: money.

In mid-December, on the heels of reports that the ratio of household debt to disposable income was reaching record highs, the Bank of Canada came out and said the biggest threat to our country’s economy is the money we owe as individuals.

For every dollar we earn, we owe $1.64. I’m no Archimedes but that doesn’t seem like a formula for getting ahead.

When it comes to managing our cash, the majority of Canadians are more attracted to the spending than to the saving side of the ledger. There could be many reasons for this, but I’d like to propose one of the biggest is we simply don’t get it.

Our wants outweigh our wallets, and we have been given the green light in the form of gold plastic cards to chase our desires with fervor.

So why are we surprised when the officials we elect — our neighbours, our colleagues, our peers — are not automatically gifted when it comes to managing money?

I know I didn’t vet the bank accounts of any of the potential politicians I voted for.

I voted on their values, their beliefs and the direction they wanted to take the community.

If managing money were easy, we’d all be rich. But sometimes it isn’t the spending that is the important part. It’s the values that we’re trying to reach.

Yes, people love to talk about money. But that doesn’t mean we understand how to use it for what it is meant, making our community stronger.

Aaron Bichard writes for newspapers and recycles them. Connect with him at cowichanrecyclists@gmail.com.

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