It is not news that municipalities in Nova Scotia face many challenges: declining population and outmigration which result in a shrinking tax base; ticking infrastructure deficit time bombs; the rising cost of safety services. Plus, there is growing pressure to take a more active role in issues that were always outside of the municipal jurisdiction such as doctor recruitment and broadband. As we all know, there is only one taxpayer and they are understandably opposed to take on more tax burden.
In 2016, Mayors, Wardens and CAOs got together to talk about municipal structure. At that session there was general agreement that the status quo is not an option; however; it was agreed that amalgamation was not the panacea for every municipality and while shared services is a step in the right direction, it is not enough--other options need to be explored.
In Minister Mombourquette’s speech to the UNSM delegation in the Fall, he speaks about a call for change that he heard from municipalities on his Minister’s tour. He references a province where municipalities are working cooperatively and have a modernized legislative framework to advance the work of local governments. The Premier, in his mandate letter to the Minister, talks about municipal modernization. The time is right for change.
The Association of Municipal Administrators, Nova Scotia (AMA), Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) and the NS Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) are hosting a one-day session for Mayors, Wardens and Chief Administrative Officers of all municipalities in the Province to come together to lay the practical and relational foundation for continued discussion of, and action toward, municipal modernization. Change leaders Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan Hart will facilitate the session which will be held at the Westin Nova Scotian, January 31, 2018.
It is key to have municipalities partnering in the development of any strategy for municipal modernization. This event is a step towards assessing the appetite and building ownership for change among elected and appointed officials.