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Vancouver cuts fire department funding by $1M, adds $180,000 to mayor’s office

Vancouver city council approved an amendment to the city’s 2024 budget Tuesday morning that will see the fire department’s funding cut by $1 million and the Mayor’s Office topped up with $180,000.

City council had been discussing the city’s draft budget for next year, with Mayor Ken Sim putting forward the amendment.

The amendment stated the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service operating funds would be reduced by $1 million “to reflect the estimated timing of hiring and on boarding of new staff given current levels of attrition.”

It notes the “balance of funding” will be moved into the city’s 2025 budget. The VFRS operating budget will still increase for 2024, but by $1 million less than originally approved on Nov. 28.

It then went on to suggest that council increase the City Clerks Department by $80,000 to hire one new full-time role to “provide administrative support to the Mayor’s Office, funded by previous amendments to the 2024 Operating Budget.”

It then suggested the mayor’s office has an increase of $100,000 for “discretionary expenses.”

Sim’s ABC Vancouver councillors voted in favour of the amendment, with the Green and OneCity councillors opposed.

The city’s overall draft budget will see property taxes in the city go up just over seven per cent next year, approved at the end of last month.

Before being elected, Sim ran on a platform that included cutting costs at city hall and finding efficiencies to save taxpayers’ money.

Sim created a city “budget taskforce” in April, which was created to go through spending “with a fine-tooth comb,” he said at the time.

Ironic to bump in Mayor’s Office budget, opposing councillor says

Speaking to CityNews Tuesday, Green Party Coun. Pete Fry said the increase to the Mayor’s Office “certainly has a bit of irony there,” as Sim was critical of former mayor Kennedy Stewart’s spending budget.

“It’s a pretty secretive process as far as how the Mayor’s Office operates,” Fry said. “I [can’t] explain exactly what that additional funding is going to actually be necessary for.”

Fry claims the Integrity Commissioner previously issued a bulletin advising councillors of the “fundamental principles of open democratic meetings.”

“Because that’s not really what’s been happening, and we do have an obligation as elected officials to conduct our business under the scrutiny of the public,” he said.

“Increasingly … more things are happening behind closed doors, and I think this extra bump for the Mayor’s Office is … an indication of what we could probably expect, a lot more centralization of power in the Mayor’s Office, and a lot more operations behind closed doors away from the scrutiny of the public.”

CityNews has reached out to the union that represents Vancouver firefighters for comment.

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