E-News Bulletin--February 2014

President's Message

Dave Corkum--face on resized

Mayor Dave Corkum

It has been a very busy few months so I would like to outline a number of activities and initiatives we are working on.

I am pleased to report that on February 14, the Board adopted by motion the package of Towns Task Force Recommendations as prepared by the sub-committees of Land Use Planning, Economic Development, and Regional Service Delivery. These three reports outline a number of legislative changes to the MGA along with a number of financial incentives for the Province to consider. Copies of the reports have been sent to the SNSMR Minister and posted to the UNSM website. We will be asking the Minister to advance the legislative changes as soon as possible and to accept in principle the financial recommendations. The UNSM will be requesting that the Fiscal Review Committee assess and prioritize the financial recommendations contained in the reports. Clink on the links for a copy of the three reports:  Economic Development Sub-Committee Summary Report; Land Use Planning Sub-Committee Summary Report; Regional Service Delivery Sub-Committee Summary Report.

On February 15, the Ivany Report was released titled Now or Never: An urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians. In a nutshell the report indicated that Nova Scotia is at a crossroads; significant changes need to occur if our communities are to survive and thrive. Recommendations range from population growth through immigration, municipal reform, building a culture of entrepreneurship, and better utilization of our natural resources. Municipalities will need to step up to the plate to do their part in this call to action. To this end, the UNSM will initiate a dialogue with the membership to look at the role municipalities can play in addressing the report's recommendations.

The Federal Government recently announced the Building Canada Plan worth $53 billion over ten years. Nova Scotia's share will be $1.006 billion−$580 million for gas tax and $426 million for Building Canada fund over 10 years. Under the Building Canada Fund, the Federal Government will contribute 1/3 of the cost towards municipal infrastructure. The use of gas tax funds cannot be applied to the Building Canada Fund with the exception of public transit where the federal government will provide up to 50% funding.

There are questions on what is eligible under the Building Canada Fund including local roads, opportunities for funding beyond gas tax for recreation and cultural facilities, how much the Province will share with municipalities, and how the small communities component will be handled in Nova Scotia.

UNSM continues to work with the Province and FCM to get more information from the federal government. The next FCM Board meeting will be in early March where we hope more information will be revealed.  

The UNSM Board was asked to consider changes in the formula allocating gas tax funds among municipalities. There were suggestions that the formula be based on assets, or the share of gasoline purchased in each community. Nova Scotia's current formula is based on the number of dwellings units, population, and level of standard expenditures. The Board considered the existing formula, the ideas put forward from UNSM members, and the various alternatives used across the country. The current formula recognizes density, service responsibilities, and infrastructure. Each alternative had benefits and challenges. The Board after a lengthy discussion, concluded to maintain the existing formula. The board accepted staying with the current gas tax formula to avoid funding delays this year. The number of requests received to amend the current formula were few. However, in future, if a large number of municipalities requested that the UNSM have another look at the formula, we would consider this in consultation with the membership. This process would need to take place early on so as not to delay funding.

On February 27, the Province released draft regulations to promote standards of care for cats and dogs. On January 21, myself, Vice President Hunter and Past President Walker met with Agriculture Minister Colwell and Minister Furey to discuss these regulations. We view this as an important step in reducing animal cruelty while making dog and cat owners more responsible for their pets. Both ministers assured me these proposed legislative changes will not result in increased costs to municipalities but will provide additional tools for our bylaw and animal control officers. The Minister also indicated the Province will be providing training for municipal animal control officers to assist in interpreting the regulations. The Province is seeking public input on the proposed regulations over the next month.

On January 29, we again met with Minister Furey to discuss UNSM priorities. This meeting went very well with Minister Furey making a number of positive statements including his intention to develop an MOU with UNSM. He also indicated that the establishment of a Municipal Auditor General was a low priority and ensured that UNSM and municipalities will be consulted prior to the introduction of any provincial regulations.

On February 13, I made a presentation to the Avon Chamber of Commerce in Windsor. The presentation highlighted the role of UNSM and our priorities. It was well received by the chamber membership.

On January 13, I wrote the Federal Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs outlining a proposal for UNSM to assume the administration of the Gas Tax Program. We continue to work with the Province towards this goal. For a copy of the letter, click here

On February 12, I wrote the Minister of Education regarding the school review process. I indicated that because municipalities fund significant education costs and play a key role in the community, we should have an important role in determining the use of new, existing and closed schools. For a copy of the letter, click here.

Since December I have conducted several media interviews with the Chronicle Herald on various subjects including Canada Post terminating home delivery, rising policing costs, Regional Enterprise Networks, the Ivany Report, Property Tax Study, and the Building Canada Fund.

I would like to congratulate the following UNSM members appointed to the following committees:

  • 211 Information and Referral Service Committee - Warden Diana Brothers (County of Kings)
  • Joint Police Services and Community Safety Advisory Committee - Councillor Lee Nauss (District of Lunenburg), Councillor Linda Mosher (HRM), Councillor Alta Munroe (Town of Pictou), Councillor Cheryl Fritz (Town of Truro)
  • NS Local Government RCMP Contract Management Committee - Councillor Barry Dalrymple (HRM)
  • E-911 Cost Recovery Committee - Councillor Clarence Prince (CBRM)
  • Building Officials Training and Education Working Group Appointment - Warden Russell Boucher (County of Antigonish)

I would also like to congratulate the following, who should have received their Long Service Awards at the 2013 Annual Conference:

  • Councillor Blair George, District of Guysborough, 25 Years of Service
  • Lloyd Hines, former Warden for District of Guysborough, 25 Years of Service
  • Councillor Janet Marie Peitzsche, District of Guysborough, 16 Years of Service

The Board passed a revised Committee Appointment and Reporting Process Policy. Key revisions include:

  • differentiating between board and non-board committees
  • giving applicants up to ten business days to submit an application rather than two weeks
  • giving preference to non-board members in those cases where there are a sufficient number of applicants and where the application criteria is met
  • having staff prepare an applicant checklist highlighting relevant skills, experience and competencies for the board to utilize in their selection process
  • excluding applicants who do not submit a resume when asked to submit one.

We hope these revisions will encourage more of our members to apply to committees when announcements are posted.

The Board agreed that UNSM staff will provide administrative support to all three caucus chairs. This will include such functions as organizing caucus meetings, assisting with setting agendas, taking meeting minutes, and sending out minutes, agendas and other support materials to caucus members.

The Board agreed to write the Minister requesting an expanded list of items to include under the Municipal Elections Act Review. These include campaign contributions, campaign surpluses, fundraising start dates, reporting of campaign expenses, and voting recounts.

A committee will be formed to update and revise the UNSM Bylaws including the resolutions process. The committee will be comprised of the President, Vice President, Past President, AMANS Representative on UNSM Board, Executive Director, Policy Analyst and up to two other UNSM members appointed by the UNSM Board. The committee will submit proposed bylaw amendments to the UNSM Board for consideration by June 2014. If approved by the Board, they will go to the membership for a vote at the 2014 AGM.

Mark your calendars for Municipal Awareness Week 2014 which will be held from October 20-26. A presentation on Municipal Awareness Week will take place during the UNSM Spring Workshop to encourage units to participate.

The UNSM Board supported the recommendations of the Library Boards Association of Nova Scotia (LBANS) to promote the sustainability of public libraries. The recommendation is for an increase for fiscal year 2014-15 that corresponds to a 6% increase in the book and materials budgets (2% inflation for each year) and a 2% increase in the cost of living for staff salaries (equivalent to the increase for civil servants for the next year). This is a request of $326,694. The second recommendation is to begin immediate work on establishing a cabinet level sanctioned funding committee with the goal of providing sustainable levels of funding coming into effect in 2015-16.

Please mark your calendars for the following upcoming sessions. The UNSM Spring Workshop will take place May 7-9 at the Pictou Wellness Centre. A registration notice will be going out by the end of March. The annual CAO-CEO Forum will take place April 3-4 at the Holiday Inn in Truro. The topic for this year's session is Charting the Course for Change. The 2014 Ken Simpson Municipal Lecture Series be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., one day prior to the start of the UNSM Fall Conference. The topic is on the benefits to municipalities using mediation to resolve disputes.

Until next month!