Change in deals leaves municipalities in trouble: UNSM

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UNSM President Jim MacAlpine speaks with various town leaders from Pictou County following a presentation to Westville council Monday evening.

WESTVILLE – Municipal leaders from Stellarton, Trenton, New Glasgow and Pictou made a trip in the snow Monday evening to sit in on the Westville council meeting and listen as the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities president spoke about the struggles facing towns in the province.

President Jim MacAlpine focused the bulk of his presentation discussing the Memorandum of Understanding which the province reneged on in April.

Under the agreement the province had committed to assume $100 million in municipal costs for corrections, public housing and education over a seven-year period.

Westville alone will now have to pay $97,472 on those expenses in the upcoming fiscal year.

“I think we have to take them to task on it,” MacAlpine said during the meeting. “I encourage you to talk to your MLAs and let them know the importance and the impact this has had on your community. The only way we’re going to get them to move is if they start hearing it from the ground up.”

The biggest impact, he said, will be on municipal units that had capital plans in place for the coming years with the assumption that the province was covering the costs.

“Let’s face it, if you have to pay $100,000 more, that’s $100,000 less you have to do your sidewalk or do your roads with,” he said.

Westville Coun. Lynn MacDonald expressed her concern as well.

“In 2008 the NDP supported the change with the MOU and now without even consultation with the UNSM they’ve changed it. That’s a huge worry,” she said. “What can we do about that? We are basically at the pleasure of the province.”

MacAlpine also expressed his frustration with the cap on taxable assessment that the province has in place. The cap limits how much a house assessment can increase each year to the consumer price index.

“It’s a fairness issue,” MacAlpine said. “It’s not that we’d get more tax dollars. It’s a shift in the tax dollars going onto the lower-assessed properties.”

He said the province has done a review on the assessment and have indicated they don’t plan to change anything, although it appears they are open to other suggestions.

“When I talked with the premier last week, I asked, ‘If the UNSM comes forward with a sound logical alternative to the cap will you look at it?’ and he said ‘yes.’”

Following his presentation, MacAlpine chatted with the other municipal leaders in the hallway while Westville council continued.

Organizations: Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Westville council, NDP

Geographic location: Stellarton, Trenton, New Glasgow

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  • John
    January 31, 2012 - 17:09

    Shadow Warrior You have some good points. However, to set the record straight....the 3 artists in residence DO NOT get paid for their time they spend at the studio. They are graduates of NSCAD university and the residency is to promote the university and use their talents to promote the arts within the community. They buy their own supplies and they also do a lot of volunteering in the community. I know one has already done a lot of volunteering in the various schools, the library, and helped with the adult literacy program "read on"

  • Ken Rankin
    January 31, 2012 - 13:13

    Surprise surprise, yet another broken NDP promise. Yet another thing they cried for in opposition for so long, only to flip flop on and raise the taxes more. "A Better Deal For Today's Families". people were warned, but didn't listen.

  • the shadow warrior
    January 31, 2012 - 07:03

    Maybe the towns should consider cutting the hiring of consultants for such things as downtown renovation? 2.5 million into New Glasgow's downtown has done little to stop the slide in vacant space available in the Town. You can't buy a stick of lumber in the Town limits because Central Home Improvement left for Stellarton and soon Proudfoots will be in Stellarton as well. Three Artists is residence a PR person , an assistant to the PR person for the worst place to do business with in Canada according to surveys

  • watchdog
    January 31, 2012 - 05:08

    Let me get this right, the provincial government raised the HST by 2% now they are shifting the burden to the municipal governments. I am sure glad we have a "socialist government" in power as i would hate to see what a right wing government would do. All kidding aside folks would the real NDP please take a stand and stand up for the working class.

  • taxed to death
    January 31, 2012 - 04:52

    Is there one politician who will take a stand for the little people? its not that we would get more tax dollars? No it is that the burden of taxation will go to those who can least afford it. people protected by the cap are those who built or bought years ago who lived in affordable housing, not those today who are building houses costing $250,000 or more. People in the lower income brackets now are living marginal existances at best. Electrical rates just went up again, heating oil is extremely high for an oil exporting country, the provincial government raised the HST by 2% and wages are all but stagnent. We in Pictou County have three members of the provincial government and a cabinet minister in the federal government, I would like to know where they stand in light of what is transpiring. But then again we have a nice new sports complex under construction which I know with certainty will be another crushing blow to the taxpayers of the county. I guess we should not worry, look at the addition to the Pictou East MLA residence in Westville, must be no problem on the horizion for property tax payers. I forgot the federal government wants to raise the age for OAS so young people will have a harder job to get into the labour market and to buy or build a house. Is there a politician in power in this country with a lick of common sense?