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NDP asks supreme court to reject CBRM lawsuit

September 3rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

BY ERIN POTTIE
The Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — Nova Scotia’s new NDP government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to reject an appeal by Cape Breton Regional Municipality, which claims it is entitled to more equalization dollars.
In July, the CBRM filed an application to have its case heard in the top court.
In response, a lawyer for the Nova Scotia Department of Justice filed the province’s defence last week seeking dismissal of the appeal.
The province argues the municipality lacks a sufficient foundation to advance a constitutional claim in Canada’s highest court.
Shawn Fuller, spokesperson for Premier Darrell Dexter, said Wednesday evening the NDP Leader was made aware of the defence filing.
He said it doesn’t stop the province from seeking to negotiate equalization with municipalities.
“We support the filing of a defence,” said Fuller. “This is a process that’s required to go through when matters are before court, but it does not in any way dampen our willingness, and preference frankly, to negotiate a solution that’s satisfactory to CBRM and other municipalities.”
Fuller said no meetings have been set to discuss equalization, noting the NDP have only been in office for about 90 days.
CBRM Mayor John Morgan said the municipality will file a response to the province’s defence this week.
He said the lawsuit is not the only way to settle municipal equalization distribution, but said higher taxes and fewer services in the CBRM compared to Halifax must be addressed.
“The region will continue to depopulate and cease to exist as an urban centre unless there’s fundamental changes to the region,” said Morgan.
The municipality argues that under Sec. 36 of the Constitution Act, the province has an obligation to provide a reasonably comparable level of service to residents for comparable taxation, and that the province has underfunded CBRM by $20 million a year, dating back to municipal amalgamation in 1995.
To date there has been no precedent set on the argument under Sec. 36 in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Morgan said rulings in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, though they went against the CBRM, were also inconsistent on issues of justiciability and whether or not a municipality can pursue a claim on behalf of its residents.
“At the lower court level, the court said that CBRM had standing but it wasn’t justiciable… the Court of Appeal arrived at the exact opposite conclusion on both issues — they said it was justiciable but CBRM doesn’t have standing,” said Morgan.
“The thing that I think is critical to keep in mind here is we ought not to be dependent on the courts to have our own provincial government treat us with fairness,” he said.
Morgan said it’s unclear whether the Department of Justice is acting on behalf of Dexter or if they are continuing to follow the former Progressive Conservative policy.
He also said the province’s response is inconsistent with a principle of fairness Dexter endorsed in his election campaign.

epottie@cbpost.com

http://www.capebretonpost.com/index.cfm?sid=283371&sc=145

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