NDP bill would provide more climate change support to municipalities
Fund would provide matching money to municipalities for projects
The NDP is calling on the provincial government to do more to help municipalities confront climate change.
The party introduced a bill last week that would create a local action on climate change fund.
It calls for a pot of money municipalities would be able to access to help with climate change-related projects that require new staff, or to support existing staff, planning work or in construction of physical infrastructure.
NDP municipal affairs critic Lisa Roberts said the goal is to reduce the barriers for municipalities looking to take action on climate change.
That also includes addressing questions of jurisdiction. The bill would clear the way for municipalities to be in control of green energy generation.
"We want to make it clear because we recognize that there is urgent need to act," she said. "And where there is energy and good ideas from municipalities, we want to say, 'Yes, go, do it now.'"
The other key aspect of the bill is setting aside up to $62,500 to create a staff position within the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities that would be dedicated to helping municipalities access federal funding programs for climate change or environmental sustainability projects.
Roberts said her caucus has heard concerns from some smaller, more financially challenged municipalities that they don't have the resources to dedicate the necessary time to pursue federal funding.
"It doesn't make sense necessarily to try to put those resources at each municipality, especially when often there can be learning that can be done across municipalities," she said.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood, who is also vice-president of the federation, said they support anything that would make things easier for cash-strapped municipalities, especially if it's something everyone can share.
"I think it would make a huge difference," said Mood.
"As municipalities big and small, we're certainly doing everything we can with regard to climate change. We know how important it is, but somehow we have to be able to pay for it."
Currently, municipalities have access to provincial programs for flood-risk infrastructure and a program that can be used for storm water and wastewater projects.
Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter said that while he's not heard concerns from municipalities, he knows climate change is a pressing issue across the province.
Porter said he believes the programs in place are working, but he's also open to reviewing what's offered and considering other ideas.
"We're always open to this. This is ever-changing, and we have to be — it's very fluid."
The minister noted municipalities also have the ability to work together when it comes to planning. He said they can share resources or one council can buy a service from another council.
"It doesn't really matter about how big or how small you are," he said. "It makes sense from a financial perspective for two or three or four municipalities in a region to work together on this thing," he said.
"There's nothing saying they can't do that. We encourage that and certainly our office is there to support them as well."