Best Run City in Canada
In 2009, noting that Burnaby is “lean, debt-free, and offering great public services”, Maclean’s magazine described the City of Burnaby “a model for the Country” and named Burnaby the Best Run City in Canada.
The Maclean’s survey was conducted by the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), a public-policy think tank that, based the ranking on a broad range of criteria, considering performance over a range of criteria that included: socio-economic status, crime, fire services, transportation, road and sewer conditions, economic development, recreation spending, and such indicators of civic engagement as voter turnout and library use.
Following is an excerpt from the Maclean’s publication that announces Burnaby as the “Best Run City in Canada.” The full article can be accessed here.
““Generally when you end up first, it means you’re doing well across the board, and that’s pretty much what you find in Burnaby,” says AIMS executive vice-president Charles Cirtwill.
Corrigan, an advocate of open government, was pleased at Maclean’s first attempt at ranking municipalities, even before learning of Burnaby’s first-place finish. “I think it’s a healthy exercise,” he says. “It’s important to always be benchmarking yourself against what’s happening in other cities.” Burnaby was the only community to rate a B, scoring at or near the top in areas like environmental health, recreation and culture and economic development. It has spent millions to achieve its goal of turning 25 per cent of Burnaby into parkland, one of the highest rates in the survey. It bought out private lands surrounding its two lakes, creating, at Deer Lake Park, one of the great concert venues in the Lower Mainland. The city has also bought industrial lands along the Fraser River and converted them to public use. Its overall cost of government, $148 per person, is substantially below the $235 national average. Spending on economic development initiatives is also modest, yet it has reaped an A-list of knowledge-based industry giants, including Telus and video-game maker Electronic Arts. Members of the region’s development community heaped praise on Burnaby’s planning department this year, rating it the best in the Lower Mainland, “based on competence and ethical professionalism.”
While many Canadian cities are hamstrung by borrowing costs, Burnaby is not only debt-free, it sits on $633 million in financial reserves and a municipal land bank worth hundreds of millions more. The refusal to go into debt, says Corrigan, is a legacy of the dirty thirties, when welfare costs drove Burnaby into bankruptcy and the community was run by trustees. “We always save for what we’re going to buy,” he says. “If we buy a fire truck, we immediately start saving for the next one.”