Government Debt and Other Liabilities in the City of Vancouver

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The City of Vancouver has the unique ability among British Columbia’s municipalities to directly issue long-term government debt. This means the city is not subject to the same regulatory process that applies to long-term borrowing for other municipalities in the province.

In addition to long-term debt (debt outstanding for more than a year), the city has other liabilities such as pension obligations and other future claims on government resources. Added together, all these liabilities make up the city’s gross liabilities.

Starting in 2002, and continuing through to 2013 (the most recent year of available data), the City of Vancouver’s gross liabilities exceeded its financial assets in every year, putting the government in a net liabilities position. In contrast, the collective financial assets of the other Metro Vancouver municipalities exceed gross liabilities, putting other city governments in the region in a net financial assets position.

The City of Vancouver’s gross liabilities reached a record high of $1.8 billion in 2013, more than double the amount of liabilities in 2002 ($857 million). A consequence of growing gross liabilities is increased annual servicing costs (repayment of principal plus interest on past debt). With more money going to servicing past debt, less is available for municipal services.

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