No equality in Equalization payments

Opinion

Dear Residents of Pictou County:

The following email has been sent to all mayors, councillors and wardens of Pictou County but only one has replied to date, Trenton Mayor Shannon MacInnis. It is important for all Nova Scotians who are living in rural areas to be aware of the funding they generate for the province that we do not receive.

Dear Pictou County Politicians:

We have contacted you in the past regarding the severe under-funding that the rural towns and municipalities are experiencing in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Provincial Government is receiving well over $2.1 billion per year in Equalization that it receives to “equalize” all its citizens to live to a similar standard as Nova Scotians and Canadians. The HRM does not qualify to receive Equalization and without the rural areas of the province, Nova Scotia would not qualify as a province to receive Equalization at all.

The Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness have been studying this situation now for over two decades and to date, no high-ranking government official will sit and discuss our claims. When we contact the Federal representatives, the prime minister, the Finance minister, Justice minister, etc), they say the Federal Government is doing their part by providing the means to the Nova Scotia Provincial Government to ensure we live equally with the rest of Canada. The Federal Government tells our group that we must deal directly with the province and that these funds are transferred unconditionally but our lawyers can not find any legal justification for this practice. This is a policy and not a law.

When the NSEF reaches out to the province, we receive a stock, canned response and they refuse to meet with our group. This practice has gone on for far too long and we have seen five towns dissolve now and many more have applied for dissolution. Tax rates are increasing in rural Nova Scotia due to a weakened fiscal capacity and this category is one of five that the province uses each year to apply for more Equalization funding. The provincial program that was once called “Provincial Equalization” and now is called the “Fiscal Capacity Grant” has been frozen in the province since 2007/2008 at $30 million for all the towns and municipalities combined. Pictou County including New Glasgow, Pictou, Stellarton, Trenton and Westville are currently receiving $3,477,553 collectively but Pictou County’s share of the Fiscal Capacity portion (26 per cent of the total transfer to the province) is to the tune of $59,465,244. Here are a few examples: Trenton receives each year $420,922 but should receive $6,833,957. Another is New Glasgow who is currently receiving $1,055,434 but is entitled to receive $18,524,370 and the Town of Pictou is receiving $545,521 but should receive $9,129,596 each year. Please keep in mind that these are the Provincial Government’s data and not ours. All numbers used have been compiled over the past two decades and the province stopped reporting them in 2015/2016 because we were challenging them and publishing them for the public to see.

The premier and the Finance minister are taking credit for balancing the books while they download financial pressure on the entitled municipalities and towns in rural Nova Scotia. The Province is taking 95 per cent of the money that should be sent to the entitled communities and they are using that to prevent them from effectively managing their affairs, for which they are responsible. We hope that you and your community would contact representatives from the NSFM (Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities) and discuss this issue. The simple truth is that the Government of Nova Scotia is using the poor economic situation in rural Nova Scotia to apply for over $2.2 billion per year. If you are told by government officials that our claims are false or inaccurate, please investigate for yourself and we are available to assist you because this has been going on for far too long.

Dr. Rev. Albert Maroun

& The Nova Scotians

for Equalization Fairness