Province moves to quash CBRM's equalization appeal
Nova Scotia's new NDP government has asked the country's highest court to reject an appeal by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), which claims it's entitled to more equalization money from the province.
The provincial government filed its position with the Supreme Court of Canada last week, a few weeks after the CBRM asked the court to hear its case.
Stephen McGrath, a government lawyer, asked the court to dismiss the CBRM's appeal, arguing the municipality has "not developed a sufficient foundation to advance a constitutional claim."
In his submission, McGrath said the court shouldn't waste its time reviewing a case that is so "fundamentally deficient."
This is the first time the NDP has weighed in on the issue since coming to power in June.
CBRM Mayor John Morgan said the New Democrats had a different position when they were campaigning for votes and promising improvements to the equalization formula within a balanced budget.
"The position taken by the party [was] we ought to have a province that gives every region of the province an opportunity for success," Morgan told CBC News.
"The point I would raise is whether the Department of Justice is acting on autopilot and ignoring the fact there is a new government that has taken a different position during the campaign," he added.
Shawn Fuller, a spokesman for Premier Darrell Dexter, said the premier supports the government lawyer's position.
"We are aligned with it. We support it," said Fuller. "We are still prepared to negotiate with CBRM on improving equalization, but we are also obligated to file a defence in a court case."
Morgan said the CBRM will file a reply document by Sept. 7 and wait to hear whether the court will hear its arguments.
The municipality turned to the Supreme Court of Canada after losing earlier court battles.
Last year, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court rejected the CBRM's case, saying it had no basis in law.
The CBRM had accused the province of underfunding it by $20 million since 1995, when Sydney and neighbouring communities were amalgamated into one municipality.
It argued 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.
The municipality claimed the province was not giving it enough money to provide that level of service, nor was it furthering economic development to close the gap with other Nova Scotia communities.
In May, the CBRM tried to appeal the court's decision, but the court refused to hear the appeal.
The appeal court ruled that neither municipalities nor citizens have the right to sue the provincial government over alleged disparities in equalization payments.