When federal and provincial governments make decisions, municipal governments often get stuck with more than their fair share of the work and expense.
Last week Nelson council decided to lobby senior governments for change on four such issues: capital funding for hospitals, income assistance service delivery, marijuana legislation, and marijuana revenues.
Capital funding for hospitals
Municipal taxation covers 40 per cent of provincial hospital funding and that cost is reflected in residents’ annual property tax bills. Council believes this is asking too much of municipalities, and its resolution asks the Union of BC Municipalities to petition the provincial government to “acknowledge that property tax revenue is an unsuitable avenue to fund hospital infrastructure renewal projects, and prioritize the urgent review of the historic cost sharing ratio with a recommendation to amend current policy accordingly.”
Looking for strength in numbers, council will take resolutions on that issue, and the three discussed below, to the annual meeting of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments to be held in Kimberley April 27 to 29. If passed there, the resolutions will be taken to the annual meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). If it adopts them, the UBCM will lobby the provincial and federal governments.
The full text of the resolutions and some background information on each can be found attached below.
Income service delivery
Recently the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has been delivering social assistance services remotely by centralized phone lines and online. Council thinks these changes create barriers for the people being served.
Their resolution asks the UBCM to lobby the provincial government to “ensure that people requiring help to access income assistance receive such help appropriate to their needs and abilities (in-person where required) in a timely manner, and in a way that does not place additional economic burden on that person (e.g. repeatedly using pay as you go cell phone minutes waiting on hold for excessive lengths of time, paying for computer/Internet usage, travelling long distances to ministry offices from surrounding areas due to local office closures, etc.) and further, in a manner that does not download the responsibility for this assistance to other service providers without compensation for such additional work.”
Councillor Valerie Warmington supported the proposed resolution by pointing out that wait times in social services offices can be more than 70 minutes. Councillor Robin Cherbo said the new procedures discriminate against people who don’t have, or don’t know how to use, computers.
Recognizing that the federal government intends to legalize marijuana, municipal governments are unclear about what their regulatory role will be. (See related story, page 1.)
In its resolution, council asks the government to commit to “consultations with provincial and municipal governments, and adopt a coordinated approach when introducing regulation of marijuana by providing provincial and municipal governments adequate time to align and integrate regional and local regulations and practices with new federal laws when they are enacted.”
Recognizing there will be tax revenues from legalized marijuana and that policing costs are likely to decline, council’s resolution asks the UBCM to lobby the federal government “to share a portion of revenues realized from the legalization and regulation of marijuana together with a share of savings realized from reduced enforcement costs with provincial and municipal governments given the marked impact that marijuana sales and distribution will have upon Canadian communities and the need for direct investments to youth engagement initiatives not limited to recreation, employment, community and cultural programs.”
Council supported Cherbo’s suggestion that the wording of this resolution should “include health programs, because people will still have addiction problems.”