Nfld. & Labrador

Dwight Ball offers forum but no concrete solutions to municipalities

Dwight Ball promised to listen to concerns from municipalities but offered no real change at the first premier's forum on local government.

Issues of taxation, regional government discussed at first premier's forum

The premier's forum brought together municipal leaders from around the province to discuss issues like taxation and regional government. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Dwight Ball promised to listen to concerns from municipalities but offered no concrete changes at the first premier's forum on local government Wednesday.

The forum was an Liberal election promise and brought together municipal leaders to discuss ideas.

"Let's be creative and innovative about our thinking, let's bridge those gaps between rural and urban issues," Ball told reporters during a break from the session.

"It's moving today, it's in real time, the discussion from here is being captured."

Dwight Ball promised to listen to new ideas from municipalities at the first premier's forum on local government. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

What Ball didn't offer is any solutions to two of the big issues that have been raised by Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador.

President Karen Oldford said municipalities are overly reliant on property tax and that needs to change.

"Right now, our act is very prescriptive of what we can and can't do," she said.

"Other sources of funding like income tax, and access to sharing of income tax is something that would help municipalities."

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador President Karen Oldford says municipalities need more than than just property tax to fund operations. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

But the province isn't committing to any changes.

Ball said he's open to discussing ways to use tax money better, but when asked if the province is committed to bring in alternate funding, Ball replied "Not as of yet." 

The premier also made it clear the province won't force regional government.

Communities shrinking

Right now, unincorporated municipalities don't pay any local tax, and MNL is pushing the province to establish regional government.

Oldford pointed out that 75 per cent of municipalities have one or fewer employees, and recent statistics show that some communities will be half the size they are now in 20 years.

"Now is the time that we have an opportunity to take the bull by the horns and plan, and to ensure that we have strong communities," she said.

Ball said if municipalities come forward with a proposal to work together the province will help, but the province isn't going to push for it.

"Forcing anything, on any community, on anybody, is really not the way to show you're willing to work with people," said Ball.

Ball said the results of the discussions will be presented to MNL's annual meeting set for the weekend.

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.