Nova Scotia

N.S. mayors march for funding deal

Mayors from around Nova Scotia are urging the provincial government to keep a funding agreement in place.
Mayors from around Nova Scotia march into Province House on Friday. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Mayors from around Nova Scotia are urging the provincial government to keep a funding agreement in place.

Several municipal leaders, including Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly, marched to Province House on Friday.

"It was a dark day, the day this government dishonoured an agreement that was made in 2008 and legislation was put through to cover that agreement. Housing and corrections was accepted by that government—to be covered for forever and a day, never to reappear again," said Billy Joe MacLean, mayor of Port Hawkesbury.

"This government found in that MOU [memorandum of understanding] a clause that they could opt out. Worse than that, they gave us two hours' notice … no negotiation, no discussion. Not only that, but they lifted the cap on education. The residents of this city are going to be dinged in 2014 with increased taxes."

MacLean asked that the public not blame mayors and council for tax increases, but the blame falls on the provincial government.

Kelly encouraged people to call MLAs and give their input on the tax bill.

"In year four of this agreement, this is going to cost the average tax payers $100 more on their taxes. The average business, $400 more on their taxes because of this legislation change … it should not be happening," said Kelly.

The government says it can't afford to cover $100 million in costs laid out in a 2007 funding deal for municipalities.

The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities says downloading those costs will likely mean layoffs, cuts in service and even tax increases.

The group reached the seven-year funding agreement with the previous Conservative government.

"Our word should mean something—that's the point I wanted to make today," said Conservative leader Jamie Baillie. "The province's signature should mean something."

Under the agreement, the province would gradually assume municipal contributions for public housing and jails. Municipalities would limit their education contributions to the consumer price index.

The NDP government says the deal has cost the province about $21.5 million already and would have cost more than $100 million after seven years.

The agreement remains in place this year, but the government is scrapping it as of 2012-13.

"This speaks to a larger issue in the sense of the arrogance of this government quite frankly," said Nova Scotia Liberal leader Stephen McNeil. "Whether it's with municipalities, school boards, whether it's with hospital authorities, they have shown zero respect for other members of our community—people who are elected officials ...  their partners."