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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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