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Nova Scotians’ Constitutional Right to Equalization

November 10th, 2012 No comments

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Post editorials fail to take clear-cut positions on community’s behalf

September 30th, 2012 No comments

Post Edtiorial fail to take clear-cut positions on communitys behalf

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The Supreme Law is being violated wilfully and openly

September 30th, 2012 No comments

Printed in Inverness Oran September 5, 2012

The Supreme Law Is Being Violated Wilfully and Openly

 

Dear Editor:

 

On rare occasions, words spoken by politicians when free from any inhibitions can expose hypocritical behaviour later under changed circumstances.  These words, recorded in provincial Hansard, were spoken freely and with a truthfulness of the existing reality free from any encumbrances or thoughts of ever being in a position of governing this province.  In 2005, any prospect of the NDP forming the government was more a reflection akin to wishing the impossible.

Consequently, on Thursday, May 5, 2005, during Oral Question Period, Assembly 59, Session 1, while in Opposition NDP leader Darrell Dexter gave notice that on a future day he would move the adoption of Resolution No. 3695 dealing with the provincial equalization formula which reads: “whereas the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has released a landmark report entitled: A Question of Balance: An Assessment of the State of Local Government in Nova Scotia; and Whereas the report concludes that because the province only equalizes to a standard of 40 per cent of normal expenditures, it does not enable municipalities to provide reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable tax rates”…he further resolved that the province, “close the widening gap in ability to pay for basic local services.”

While in opposition on October 13, 2005, Darrell Dexter repeated his call for equalization reform with Resolution 4468: “Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the government to use the UNSM reports as the basis for negotiating a new municipal equalization formula and new standards for local services so that Nova Scotians do not suffer unduly high taxes or unduly poor local services.”  Again, on November 3rd, 2008, Darrell Dexter introduced Resolution 4488, “Whereas equalization was confirmed when a previous generation of leaders added to the Constitution, stating that each province should be enabled to provide equivalent services.”

MLA Frank Corbett now deputy premier, too, was previously forcefully vocal on May 5th, 2005, with the following comments: “The report says that Nova Scotia’s equalization program has been compromised due to chronic underfunding.  “This chronic underfunding is crippling areas like the CBRM.”  “Indeed, when you look at the NSPI property tax shortfall for CBRM alone, it is almost $7 million per year.

“We know that in the next 20 years we will lose over 40,000 people off Cape Breton Island in spite of the best efforts of these hard working people to turn that economy around.  So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, is to the Premier.  Mr Premier, the real measure, the real true idea of leadership is to offer an olive branch.  Will you give an olive branch to the leadership at CBRM to sit down and deal with the economic crisis that’s there so we can turn this thing around – will you do that?”

Then Premier John Hamm replied, “There are additional resources being made available to individual municipalities to allow them to provide comparable levels of services right across the province.”  However, no action followed to match his rhetoric.

Today Premier Dexter has shelved his own resolutions and shamelessly continued the practices of past governments while using the wording of Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982, when rightfully objecting to the federal government’s policy on future health care transfers to the provinces while simultaneously using flawed court decisions that ignore the explicitness of Section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Recently it was learned that the federal government allocates/provides 26 percent of the total equalization transfer to provinces specifically to enable municipalities unable to generate sufficient property tax revenue to provide services at the national standard.  In 2011-12, that criterion alone provided approximately $349 million from the federal transfer that the provincial government would have to distribute to the eligible municipalities to reach the national standard.

However, the provincial government used only $13.5 million from the total federal equalization ($1,344 million) for its provincial equalization program that is capped at $32,050,000.  The remainder ($18,550,000) of its capped provincial equalization was provided by the grant-in-lieu-of-taxes from the Nova Scotia Power Inc.

This year CBRM received approximately $16 million or about 50 percent of the capped provincial program.  The rest was distributed to the other 41 eligible municipalities.

The almost 99 percent remainder ($1,330,500,000) of the federal equalization payment was put into general revenues.  What happened to the constitutional obligation pursuant to sec. 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982, that specified the purpose for providing this money?  Under what constitutional authority has this diversion into general revenue been sanctioned?  Which government level is ultimately responsible for sanctioning this diversion into general revenues, thereby skirting the constitutional obligation clearly specified?

Sadly, none of the political parties, provincial or federal, have indicated they are going to comply with this constitutional obligation.  Sadly, too, the courts have failed to enforce compliance with the constitution.  Clearly, the supreme law is being violated wilfully and openly.

What, too, has caused such a metamorphosis backwards in the political representation by MLAs and Nova Scotia MPs, particularly our other Cape Breton MLAs: Alfie MacLeod, Manning MacDonald, Gordie Gosse, Eddie Orrell, Keith Bain, and Geoff MacLellan?  Their deafening silence about equalization within this province, even as this area and other parts of this province continues to haemorrhage its young people along with its crumbling infrastructure, is disingenuous and defies rational explanation in any accountable and democratic political system.

This October, communities throughout this province will again select candidates seeking office to municipal government.  Unless these candidates are seriously questioned on their commitment to fight for a community’s constitutional right to reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation, this election process will be a meaningless exercise.  And as long as an essentially disenfranchised people continues to robot-like select candidates for municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government who then quietly acquiesce by willingly falling in step with this lack of meaningful political representation and accountability, don’t expect substantive changes to the current discriminatory policies adversely affecting most municipalities in this province.

The hierarchical control exercised by the political parties over each elected member’s freedom to represent his/her riding appears to have successfully placed a muzzle on any discussion outside what each party’s hierarchy sanctions.  Why are taxpayers rewarding this silence with handsome salaries and pensions for MLAs and MPs?  When “elected representatives” prioritize their duty to a political party’s agenda above that to the people who directly hired them, it’s time the people demanded changes to this political system to make it more accountable and transparent to each taxpayer.

Without such reform to the political system, it will take Danny Williams-type politicians who are independently wealthy and ready to fight without any reservations for the rights of constituents.  Unfortunately, these individuals are virtually nonexistent.

 

Yours truly,

 

Charles W. Sampson

Sydney Forks

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Unfair equalization a major factor in region’s decline

August 28th, 2009 No comments

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan documents the vast range of expenditures that municipalities make in providing their services. The definition of standard expenditures contained in the Municipal Grants Act covers only a fraction of actual municipal expenditures each year.

If the provincial government, however, was fully funding the services provided by municipalities under an adequate equalization program, the municipal grants would have to be at least three times their current levels.
For example, the report cites the year 2006-07 where Class 1 standard expenditures were funded $303,810,320 when the actual expenditures by municipalities were $924,772,582 (pp.72-3)

Meanwhile, the deafening roar of silence from local MLAs and MPs of all parties continues while CBRM residents are paying approximately $18 million more in property taxes than comparable properties in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

When, for example, a resident in Sydney in 2008-09, with a property assessed at $100,000, pays about $882 more annually than the equivalent-assessed property in HRM, where were the outcries of unfairness from your MLAs?

This unfair equalization policy of the provincial government, supported by all provincial political parties and aided and abetted by the federal government’s Pontius Pilot stance of annually washing its hands of its responsibility, has been a major factor to CBRM’s economic decline.

Due to this government policy, the resultant gloomy economic future depicted in CBRM’s sustainability plan has CBRM officials calling for the people to seriously consider a political restructuring so that decisions affecting their economic survival will be in their own hands. “This process would culminate in a plebiscite on the creation of a regional government with broad responsibility for the delivery of all provincial and municipal services in the region.” (p. 140).

The newly elected provincial government, however, has an opportunity to comply with Section 36 of the Constitution Act of 1982 in its coming fall budget. If it fails to do so, the residents will have to seriously proceed with the recommendation in the sustainability report to democratically demand control over their own self-determination.

Charles W. Sampson
Sydney Forks
Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness

http://www.capebretonpost.com/index.cfm?sid=281717&sc=595

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Wanted: CBRM Councillors

August 28th, 2009 No comments
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Absent councillors have a second chance

August 24th, 2009 No comments

Absent councillors have a second chance - Charles Sampson - NSEF

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Shaming N.S government into negotiating an equitable municipal funding formula

August 24th, 2009 No comments

Shaming N.S. government into negotiating an equitable municipal funding forumla - Frances Oommen

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Public Debate Needed

August 24th, 2009 No comments

 Public Debate Needed - Chronicle Herald - J.D.F Young - NSEF

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Citizens aim to improve grasp of equalization

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

Cape Breton Post August 4 2009

The taxpayers of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are very much concerned about the $105 million debt. How in the world are we going to pay this down?
Regional council members are very often attacked for spending without the visible revenue to cover the expense. No doubt these councillors are dedicated citizens willing to work hard for the betterment of the region. Shouldn’t it bother these members that the cheque sent to the provincial government from CBRM for services such as public housing, corrections, education and libraries is more than the cheque received from the Nova Scotia government for equalization to CBRM?
The annual discrepancies in provincial transfers to CBRM, measured by actual grant as a share of entitlement, is very revealing — shocking is a better word.
If we take CBRM’s entitlement grant share as 100 per cent, since the 1999-2000 taxation year the grant has steadily decreased by an average of about five points per year so that in 2009-2010 our share received from the province is 54 per cent.
It was grossly unfair back in 2000; it is getting progressively worse. I am reminded of a saying by Sam Goldwyn: “I improved it worst.”
The councillors and MLAs should be screaming for fairness in equalization as set down in the Constitution.
Some well-intentioned citizens meet at the Cedars Club on MacKenzie Street in Sydney each Wednesday at 6 o’clock. They have titled themselves Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness, NSEF. They intend to get facts and present them to the public, and to invite councillors and MLAs for their input and commitment.
These citizens are from all parts of CBRM and we welcome newcomers, people who are fed up with the way our area has been treated on equalization.
You see, there is no security in the amount of the transfer from one year to the next. Under such circumstances, how can council be expected to set a realistic budget?
Carl MacIntyre
Big Pond Centre

http://www.capebretonpost.com/index.cfm?sid=275031&sc=595

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Glaring inequities need to be pointed out

August 21st, 2009 No comments

July 24 2009 Glaring Inequalities Need to be Pointed Out - Carl MacIntyre

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