E-News Bulletin -- May - June, 2013
Councillor Russell Walker
From May 31 to June 4, I attended the FCM Annual Conference in Vancouver. Nova Scotia members on the FCM Board for 2013-14 include myself as UNSM President, HRM representative Councillor Bill Karsten, and Mayor Don Downe, District of Lunenburg. Congratulations to Mayor Downe who was also chosen as the Vice Chair of the Atlantic Regional Caucus. A special thanks to Warden Lloyd Hines who stepped down as FCM Board member after serving close to ten years. The Board members work hard on behalf of Nova Scotia municipalities, influencing FCM policy and advocacy efforts.
There is a current vacancy on the FCM Board for a Nova Scotia member. Municipal elected officials are encouraged to consider putting forward an application to FCM to serve for the coming year. All applications must include Council support for the application, as the municipality pays expenses of the member to attend all four FCM Board meetings and annual conference. FCM will provide information on the application process. Applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on June 28.
During the FCM Conference, Nova Scotia received two awards of excellence for outstanding contributions to international programs. These awards recognize municipalities, local government associations or individuals that demonstrate exceptional innovation and leadership in their participation in FCM's international programs. Congratulations to Roger MacIsaac, Director of Community and Economic Development, Town of Amherst for being awarded FCM's Mike Badham Award for Outstanding Contribution of an Individual to International Programs. Mr. MacIsaac has been active in FCM's international programs for more than ten years. Most recently, he has been providing technical support to the Cambodia component of FCM's Municipal Partners for Economic Development Program, which provides valuable input and training to local government staff. Also congratulations go out to the Municipality of the County of Kings for being awarded the Mike Badham Award for Outstanding Contribution of an Institution to International Programs. The County of Kings spearheaded FCM's municipal programming on environmental hygiene and waste management in Battambang, Cambodia.
Our Spring Workshop in Yarmouth was a great success. I want to thank the Town of Yarmouth and the surrounding municipalities for hosting an excellent event. 168 delegates registered for the workshop representing 47 municipalities. We had a number of new councillors attend for the first time which was nice to see. Overall responses to the workshop have been positive.
The Executives of the UNSM and AMA met on May22 to discuss shared priorities. Key agenda items included AMA's strategic review of municipal training needs, UNSM resolutions process, strategic plans of both organizations, Fiscal Review, Towns Task Force, and Caucus Structure Review. These meetings are beneficial as it helps coordinate the work of both the AMA and UNSM Boards. These meetings will take place at least annually.
On May 2, myself and UNSM Vice President Mayor David Corkum met with Premier Dexter to discuss a number of important municipal issues including revisiting the MOU. As a follow-up to this meeting, I wrote Premier Dexter indicating that the UNSM would like to negotiate with the Province another MOU in two parts−one non-financial; the other financial. Non-financial elements could include working with the Province as partners to develop a vision for municipal government including identifying challenges and opportunities, a review of roles, responsibilities, funding mechanisms, and legislation including the MGA, Municipal Elections Act and HRM Charter, a commitment to implementing recommendations from the Towns Task Force and Fiscal Review, and the development of a policy that ensures provincial legislation or regulations affecting municipalities be discussed with municipalities from the beginning prior to implementation. Potential elements for discussion in a financial MOU include support for the new federal infrastructure program including a separate fund for wastewater, mandatory contributions to education, corrections and housing, financial resources to support recommendations of the Towns Task Force and Fiscal Review, additional funding for roads, the MAG Office, and a province-wide asset management strategy.
The UNSM Board will be seeking input from each municipal council on the current caucus structure which was introduced in 2004. The caucus structure model was developed as a way to bring together common interests of different types of municipal units−towns, rurals and regionals. Since its inception, a formal review has not been undertaken to determine the opportunities and challenges associated with this model. Over the next month, the UNSM office will be sending out information to each municipal unit on the caucus structure seeking your input. I encourage each municipal council to discuss this issue and provide feedback to the UNSM. The UNSM Board will utilize this input in its review of the caucus structure.
The biggest issue raised with the caucus structure has been the lack of opportunity to bring municipalities together as regions similar to the previous structure. For this reason, UNSM re-introduced annual regional meetings beginning in 2012. The next regional meetings will take place in September 2013. The UNSM office will notify all municipal units with times and locations.
To implement the recommendations in the Towns Task Force report, a Coordination Committee has been established to oversee the work of four sub-committees comprised of members from the UNSM, AMA, and the Province. The sub-committees will encompass the areas of Economic Development, Regional Service Delivery, Land-Use Planning, and Municipal Indicators. The sub-committees are currently staffed with initial meetings taking place in mid to late June. Each sub-committee will prepare a work plan within two months of their initial meeting which will include timelines for completion based on tasks listed in each terms of reference. In the near future, the final sub-committee on Governance and Dispute Resolution will be established.
The AMA is undertaking a municipal government long-term education and professional development strategy. An RFP has been issued and a consultant will be hired to carry out the work. The strategy will assess the current and future education, training and development needs of municipal staff and elected officials to ensure that they have the critical knowledge and skills required in the provision of municipal governance and administration.
The Province continues to develop their response and support for the new Regional Enterprise Network (REN) model. Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) has become engaged and is willing to talk to municipalities about what NSBI can and cannot do, and is encouraging municipalities to work together if they are interested in investment readiness and attraction. NSBI works directly with businesses, and has indicated they look at a radius around a potential location; municipal boundaries are not a factor. NSBI would also like to work at the local level to document assets and strengths. It views a larger region as having more assets and therefore more attractive to potential businesses. The UNSM continues to play a facilitation role in the set-up of the RENS, bringing forward comments, concerns and suggestions to the province, and to help seek possible solutions to municipal needs. Former Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Association of RDA's, Emilie de Rosenroll, has been engaged to facilitate discussions among municipalities and the Province. Municipalities are encouraged to contact Emilie with questions regarding the RENS. Her phone number is (902) 809-1734; her email is .
It is likely the Provincial Government will call an election by the Fall of 2013. The UNSM will be preparing a questionnaire for each of the three parties on a number of key municipal issues. Results of the questionnaire will be shared with the membership in advance of the election.
Until next month!