Another Provincial Election Ignoring Citizens living in Municipalities

Ron Bolin: May 9, 2013

Think about it.  There will be a provincial election next week which will see either some new faces in an old party in power or some old faces in a new party in power.  From none of the participant parties have I heard much about the governance of our municipalities even though these contain the bulk of our population, demand a predominant portion of the money we pay for governance through property taxes, fees and levies, and often have Councils made up of well meaning, but often politically and financially naïve people, i.e. a disaster waiting to happen.

To exacerbate this problem, in 2004 municipalities were given “natural person powers” enabling them to enter into a broad range of agreements, just like a real individual (or ‘natural’ person). They have, too often, taken on the mantle of Captains of Industry, imagining themselves to be Masterminds of Community Development and Prosperity.  Thus they take on debt, forgive taxation, and donate land and services to commercial enterprises seemingly following the pattern of government/corporate integration which is characterized by fascist governance on the right and communist governance on the left, while at the same time personally accepting none of the financial accountability which is associated with corporate officers in the capitalist sense.

Ask yourself, do you as a citizen of a municipality feel that you as a person are equal to such a “Natural” person? Try to question the system, even in an interpretation of legislation which may appear clear, and you may find yourself having to take the same course of action required if you have a dispute with a neighbour or business: i.e. take it to court.  And good luck to you in that endeavour as it is your tax money that will be used against you there.

You can be misled by an “alternate approval process” where, by means of a negative option, if you want to actually force a referendum which is called for by a municipal action, you will be required to undertake a procedure to obtain over six thousand signatures which is even more taxing than a referendum.

And if a referendum is undertaken, it appears that a municipality can pick and choose which parts of a referendum question they wish to honour.  For example, the referendum question leading to the conference centre affair was quite clear.  It spelled out an amount to be borrowed ($30 million) and a purpose for the borrowing (a contract to build the conference centre for $52.5 million in public money and a Marriott Hotel to be built with private money.)  The $30 million was borrowed, but the rest of the referendum deal was subsequently forgotten.  Had the referendum deal made with the public been honoured, we would have, instead of a money gobbling VICC, tax revenue producing private properties along Commercial Street.  Whether one likes the conference centre as it stands or not, the deal with the public was broken.  Can these folks be trusted in any new deals?

The Community Charter legislation must be reviewed and the powers of municipal governments and their officers to act as corporations without personal risks, must be curtailed.  Ask your Candidate for MLA about the Community Charter.