Fraser Valley Regional District office on Cheam Avenue in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/The Progress)

Fraser Valley Regional District office on Cheam Avenue in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/The Progress)

Fraser Valley Regional District rejects request for lobbying money

Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked for more cash to lobby federal politicians

You have to spend taxpayers’ money to get taxpayers’ money.

That, at least, seems to be the idea behind a request from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) for its members – which include the City of Abbotsford and Fraser Valley Regional District – to pitch in money to further boost lobbying efforts leading up to the 2019 federal election.

The FVRD rejected the request, after its financial services director said it would have forced it to hike taxes. The FVRD already pays the FCM more than $40,000 every year to act as “the national voice of municipal government.”

But the FCM wants significantly more than that in order to fill a “special advocacy fund” that would be used to try to get federal political parties to pay attention to municipalities’ infrastructure needs. It said the funding would be used to pay for “polling, detailed platform development, sustained outreach and an innovative communications and media plan.”

The FCM stressed that contributions to the fund are voluntary, but said it marks “a vital opportunity for municipalities to take our historic progress to new heights.” The organization cites a “breakthrough” during the 2015 federal election, referring to a series of infrastructure announcements by the incoming Liberal government.

But while the FCM wants to raise its voice, it declined to discuss the fund when approached by The News.

Repeated requests for an interview were rebuffed or ignored by the FCM, with a spokesperson sending only a quote from CEO Brock Carlton.

“Contributions are voluntary with an aspirational goal of over $1 million,” Carlton said in the statement. “FCM advocates on behalf of our members to ensure federal programs and policies work for municipalities. Our efforts have paid off with specific policy achievements like the permanent Gas Tax Fund, the National Housing Strategy, and federal infrastructure investments that include a $2 billion rural and northern infrastructure fund.”

Carlton’s statement did not address questions from The News about how much was being requested from each individual member and about more specifics on how the funds would be used. The FCM already employs several lobbyists in Ottawa.

The organization had asked the Fraser Valley Regional District for a $16,300 contribution, on top of the FVRD’s annual fees of $45,233.

But FVRD financial services director Mike Veenbaas said in a report that the organization would be forced to hike taxes to pay for the increase going forward – although contributing funds this year would be possible if the FVRD dipped into last year’s surplus.

The City of Abbotsford has not yet received a request for funding, a spokesperson said.