e-News Bulletin--January-February 2013

President's Message

russell-walker

Councillor Russell Walker

I hope everyone is enjoying the winter and that you purchased a good snow blower!

I would like to update you on a number of activities that have transpired over the past few months.

On January 31, myself and UNSM Executive members met with a number of provincial ministers for a round table meeting. Ministers in attendance included John MacDonell (Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations), Sterling Belliveau (Environment and Fisheries and Aquaculture), Ross Landry (Justice), Leonard Preyra (Communities, Culture and Heritage), and Maurice Smith (Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal). The UNSM presented the following items:

  • Building the Provincial -Municipal Relationship
  • UNSM Pre-Budget Submission
  • Fiscal Review
  • Infrastructure Program
  • Towns Task Force Update
  • Regional Enterprise Networks.

The UNSM Executive highlighted the following points with respect to our pre-budget submission:

  • UNSM recognizes the Province's “Back to Balance” goal
  • Municipalities have contributed to this goal through provincial changes to the MOU ($50 million +)
  • At a minimum UNSM expects a “Do No Harm” approach with no further unexpected financial impacts on municipal budgets
  • Federal-Provincial regulations will have enormous financial impacts on Nova Scotia  municipalities – well over $1 Billion
  • Municipal expenditures are growing slightly less than provincial expenditures
  • UNSM recognizes that municipalities must be viable – this is being addressed through the Towns Task Force and Fiscal Review
  • Municipalities expect more support in 2014-15

Because the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Maureen MacDonald, was unable to attend the Round Table meeting, a separate session was held with Minister MacDonald on February 7. The same items were presented to the Finance Minister by UNSM Executive members.

The Round Table meetings serve an important function to educate provincial ministers on key municipal issues, to receive information from the Province, and to to build on our relationship with the Province. 

At both the Round Table meeting and the meeting with the Finance Minister, I stressed the importance of the Province partnering with municipalities on the new federal infrastructure program. Both the SNSMR and Finance ministers agreed that the Province needs to shoulder its share of responsibility for this program. To this end, we requested a meeting with the ministers of Treasury Board, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, and SNSMR to discuss the infrastructure program. I also requested a meeting with the SNSMR and Finance ministers to discuss the possibility of reopening the MOU. All indicated their willingness to meet to discuss these important issues.

As indicated in the previous e-news bulletin, the UNSM has commenced a communications strategy to encourage discussion among all orders of government and the private sector on the new federal infrastructure program. To date I have sent letters to each MLA requesting that the issue of the new federal infrastructure program be discussed among their caucus. Notices were also sent to each municipality encouraging them to use FCM’s templates to communicate key messages on the infrastructure program including a letter to the federal infrastructure minister, letter to the editor, and a council resolution.

We are pleased that the following municipalities passed resolutions in support of FCM's proposed strategy for the federal infrastructure program: Town of Trenton, Town of Lunenburg, and Municipality of Digby. Each of these municipalities has forwarded their resolution to the Honourable Denis Label, Federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The UNSM has also passed a resolution and will be forwarding it to the federal minister. If your municipality has prepared similar correspondence, please notify the UNSM office so we can document this important information. In the coming weeks, the UNSM will be scheduling meetings with key infrastructure stakeholders including the NS Chamber of Commerce, Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Engineers NS, and the Construction Association of NS.

While on the subject of infrastructure, we received correspondence from Minister MacDonell indicating that while the Province supports many of the principles set out in FCM's report including long term and predictable programs, it does not support the recommendation of shifting all federal funding under the BCF Program to municipal infrastructure. The Province has stated that this will reduce their capacity to undertake important provincial infrastructure projects.

The UNSM Board passed a motion to support the final report of the Municipal Indicator Review Project including the revised Financial Condition Index (FCI). The FCI is an excellent tool that will provide a snapshot of a municipality's financial condition and ultimately serve to assess and improve the financial situation of municipalities. The application of the FCI to all 54 municipalities is a key recommendation in the Towns Task Force Report. A letter of support on behalf of the UNSM Board has been forwarded to Minister MacDonell. For a copy of the final report, click here.

The MAG Oversight Committee has been working with human resource and financial experts including Knightsbridge Robertson Surette Executive Search Firm and the Provincial Auditor General. Through these discussions, the committee has identified a number of issues and critical indicators for success. These are currently being discussed with the Province.

A Towns Task Force implementation committee has been formed among UNSM, AMA and SNSMR staff to implement the report recommendations. Some recommendations will be implemented quicker than others. Those requiring legislative change will require more time.

UNSM, in conjunction with SNSMR and AMA, have prepared a 2013 training plan for municipal elected and appointed officials. Workshops of particular interest to elected officials include Municipal Law with Kevin Latimer of Cox and Palmer, regional workshops hosted by SNSMR, Effective Decision Making and Rules of Order with Eli Mina, and Strategic Planning and Building an Effective Municipal Team with Jack Novack. For a copy of the training plan click here.

I wanted to inform you of two surveys the UNSM office will be sending out shortly. One is to obtain feedback from municipal elected officials on the recent election process in terms of identified issues and ways to resolve them. A second survey will seek feedback on when to hold the UNSM Annual Conference in an election year.

UNSM has been working with ERDT and SNSMR on the issue of economic development. Six sessions have been held throughout the province, led by UNSM Past President Deputy Warden Jimmy MacAlpine, with staff from ERDT. A number of questions and concerns were raised and we are working with the province to address these issues. Municipalities are being asked to continue the discussion through liaison committees, where each municipality is represented.  The committees will explore the particular issues and opportunities in each of the areas. 

The UNSM will be holding regional meetings either in the spring or fall of 2013. We will be sending out an expression of interest to all municipalities interested in hosting these meetings. As per UNSM policy, preference will be given to those units who did not host last year's meeting.

The Province has proposed revisions to its Statement of Provincial Interest Regarding Agriculture and has sent a copy to each municipality for review and comment. The revised statement comes as a result of recommendations in the Province's report on Protecting and Preserving Agricultural Land in Nova Scotia. I would encourage those municipal units with a strong agricultural base to respond to the draft revised statement of provincial interest. Deadline for responding is February 28. For a copy of the report, click here.

The UNSM Board approved a revised process which will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of addressing resolutions. Resolution updates are now summarized in a table format and updated quarterly. We have also requested that SNSMR appoint a senior staff person to coordinate provincial resolutions on behalf of UNSM. This has been done successfully in other municipal associations across the country. I have sent a formal request to Minister MacDonell asking that he give consideration to this request. For a copy of the 2012 resolutions update click here.

The inaugural Ken Simpson Memorial Award will be given out at the 2013 UNSM Annual Conference being held at the Westin in Halifax in November. The award honours former UNSM Executive Director Ken Simpson who tragically passed away from cancer in 2011 at the age of 51. The award will be given out every two years to a current or former municipal elected official who exhibits many of Ken's qualities including exceptional community leadership, statesmanship and commitment to good governance, efforts that improve the quality of life for residents in the municipality, personal qualities of integrity, intelligence and vision, respect for others’ views and treatment of municipal colleagues, employees and other stakeholders with courtesy, openness, patience and fairness. A formal notice will be sent out to all municipalities by the spring.

I would like to congratulate the following UNSM member appointments:

  • Councillor Joseph Janega, Town of Port Hawkesbury - Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee and the Nova Scotia Building Code Training and Certification Board
  • Councillor Jennifer Watts -  Minister's Round Table on Environment and Sustainable Prosperity.

Congratulations to Ramesh Ummat who was recently hired as the new CAO for the Municipality of the County of Colchester. Mr. Ummat previously served as Director of Public Works for Colchester. His position begins April 1.

Municipal Awareness Week for 2013 will take place the week of April 22-28. This initiative is a public awareness campaign aimed at:

  • promoting the importance of municipal government in peoples' daily lives;
  • encouraging citizens to participate in municipal government−including attending council meetings, public hearings or joining an advisory committee−in a way that is inclusive to all Nova Scotians; and
  • increasing voter turnout rates during municipal elections.

I would encourage your municipality to participate in Municipal Awareness Week. Last year a number of municipalities participated in a variety of ways including hosting a council meeting at the local high school, conducting presentations to schools and NSCC students, and sending out a flyer to all households. The UNSM website has further information on Municipal Awareness Week including a brochure, a PowerPoint presentation for schools and a sample proclamation for your council to consider. To access these materials, click here.

The Property Valuation services Corporation (PVSC) has recently updated its website which will provide property owners with the information they need when reviewing their property assessment. To access the website, click here.

The UNSM was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Daurene Lewis on January 26. Dr. Lewis was a real trailblazer. When elected Mayor of the Town of Annapolis Royal in 1984, she became the first Black mayor in Nova Scotia and the first Black female mayor in Canada. At the time of her passing, she served as NSCC Principal of the IT and Akerley campuses in Halifax. Dr. Lewis had been a guest speaker at the UNSM Spring Workshop. Addressing the delegates on behalf of the Women in Local Government Project, she spoke eloquently on the subject of women in municipal politics. The UNSM will be making a donation in her name to The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.  

Please mark your calendars for a municipal law workshop taking place on Friday, June 7 at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel in Halifax. The workshop will be conducted by UNSM Solicitor Kevin Latimer from Cox & Palmer. An email will be going out soon to all municipal elected officials and CAO's with more details on this session.

Until next month!