Fair equalization payments needed so municipalities can survive

Opinion

To the Editor:

The federal equalization program as administered does raise some of the following questions for citizens in the economically struggling areas of Nova Scotia:

Why is the town of Mulgrave probably the next town to dissolve? Why have five towns already disappeared as a municipal unit? Why is this federal tax money handed over to the eligible provincial governments and there is no separate transparency or accountability for where it is being spent? Why did the N.S. Appeal court close any further legal action to citizens or municipalities by ruling only the two governments who were privy to s.36 of the 1982 Constitution Act, can do so? This appears to be more a matter of a “political” interpretation of s.36 for obvious reasons, rather than a “legal” ruling? Why are all politically elected representatives at every political level unwilling or forbidden to publicly question senior levels of government about the one category of the five in the equalization formula that pertains to municipalities?

Recall that approximately 26 percent of each year’s total equalization transfers IS generated by the deficiency in tax capacity “related to property,” but it has never been applied to address this deficiency. Why? And why are the politicians in the financially struggling communities not also questioning why?

In this year 2020-2021 alone, the equalization payments are $2.146 billion and 26 percent of it is over $557 million. That $557 million represents the amount of tax capacity deficiency related to property — the main municipal tax source deficiency which is being funded by the federal government year-after-year, but never used by provincial governments to correct that municipal tax capacity deficiency. Why?

It should be obvious to anyone the economically struggling municipal units in this province would NOT be in the process of considering dissolution if they were adequately funded from this federal equalization funding. Isn’t is about time after almost four decades since this governments commitment was enshrined in the supreme law (constitution) that it was complied with? Isn’t is time our elected “representatives” earned their salaries and pensions by representing their constituents’ interests?

Charles W. Sampson

NSEF Member

Sydney Forks, NS