Quality of life Index: Community Consensus Means Less Political Maneuvering

In addition to the balanced scorecard, taxpayers will benefit from a common understanding of the economic and social health of this community.

The stock market, for example, is comprised of many stocks with varying degrees of importance. Therefore stock exchanges developed an index that summarizes whether their market is improving or declining.

In sports, teams keep many statistics that monitor aspects of performance both individually and collectively. The bottom line, however, is based on the win-lose column compared with competitors.

Performance is monitored in finance, sports, and business. Why not government?

In business, there is a discernible bottom line on the balance sheet. Profit (loss) is the critical index used to determine organizational health.

Governments frequently fail to operate within their budgets and lack a summary of whether their leadership is effective. The public has conflicting evidence regarding whether their tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently.

Placating special interests increases costs, taxes

The public sector is frequently criticized for yielding to special interest groups over the needs of the greater public, without regard to implications. Inevitably, placating special interests increases the cost of government and taxes paid by citizens.

A recent report (Fraser Institute) finds taxes on Canadians have grown more rapidly than any other single item of expenditure for the average family. In 2013, that added up to 41.8% of income, compared to 33.5% in 1961. Since 1961, the average family’s tax bill rose by 1,832%, dwarfing increases in the costs of housing, clothing, and food.

Deficits are deferred taxes

Many governments resort to deficits to finance their expenditures. The total tax bill of the average family would be even higher if, instead of financing its expenditures with deficits, all Canadian governments had simply increased tax rates to balance their budgets. Deficits should therefore be considered as deferred taxation.

In politics, politicians, media and the public may choose “pet” performance measures to illustrate their point regarding how government is performing. Without a consistent interpretation of performance, governments are readily susceptible to partisan politics.

Community consensus on priorities means more teamwork, less political maneuvering

The public is then confronted with various interpretations that lead to confusion and petty politics. Governments then react to the issue of the day, which some people endeavor to portray as a crisis, by responding in a knee-jerk reaction.

Inevitably, hasty reactions result in money being thrown at issues to “make the problem go away.”

Countering these tendencies requires a community’s consensus on priorities. When a consensus is achieved, politicians can devote less time on being political and more time on teamwork.

As your mayor, I will work with Council to expand the work of the advisory committee assigned to construct the balanced scorecard to include a process for gaining community consensus on a quality of life index that all citizens of Abbotsford can use to measure government performance. 

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.