NDP proposing new bill to help with CBRM's failing finances
NDP Leader Burrill says party will introduce CBRM fiscal viability bill when legislature resumes Thursday
Nova Scotia's New Democrats plan to focus squarely on the financial concerns of Cape Breton Regional Municipality when the legislative session resumes on Thursday.
The party plans to introduce a bill to cut CBRM's expenses and boost its revenues in the wake of a recent viability study that found the municipality's finances are in trouble mainly due to a declining population.
Provincial NDP Leader Gary Burrill said his party will go back to the legislature this week and immediately introduce a CBRM fiscal viability bill.
Burrill said the province needs to review how all municipalities raise revenues and pay for services.
"In the meantime, the CBRM is a particular case and it must not be allowed to drown," he said.
"If one of our two cities in Nova Scotia ... is not able to effectively carry out its responsibilities with the resources that are available to it, then this is a problem for the province as a whole and the provincial government needs to step into the breach."
The NDP bill would help CBRM with economic development and immigration, cut its provincial costs for housing, corrections and education for five years, and give it an additional $50 million a year for three years.
Burrill said all municipalities are facing a fiscal crunch, "but there is no place where the situation is as deep and troubling and severe as it is in the fiscal capacity of the CBRM."
Tammy Martin, the NDP's MLA for Cape Breton Centre, said the viability study was not just an abstract exercise.
"I have people coming in every day who are looking for help," she said.
"They're couch surfing, they don't have enough food to feed their families [or] school supplies for their children. CBRM is in dire need of some assistance and somebody needs to wake up and pay attention."
Tim Houston, leader of the opposition Progressive Conservatives, said he hasn't been presented with the proposed bill yet.
However, he said, the NDP suggestion fails to address the problems of out-migration and municipal taxes and services.
"Hats off to them for acknowledging the problem, but I think the solutions will actually require a lot more thought," Houston said.
Instead, the PCs would focus on increasing immigration to CBRM and ensuring economic development dollars are spent wisely, he said.
No one from the Liberal government was available for comment on Monday.
However, Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter has said in the past he thinks CBRM is viable and he wasn't planning to cut a cheque to the municipality.