A troubling sign of things to come

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The mass resignation of the town council and mayor of Bridgetown certainly sent shockwaves through municipal circles across Nova Scotia, but it could be a precursor of things to come as other small towns struggle to survive financially.

In a statement, Bridgetown’s mayor and council said it lacks the financial and human resources to manage the magnitude and complexity of its money problems and is acting on the advice of accounting and legal consultants.

Municipalities are not permitted to carry a deficit and any shortfall has to be the first expense on the following year’s budget. Unfortunately, municipal units have limited options when it comes to offering services and balancing the books. That usually means increasing taxes to offset growing costs or cutting services.

The province has given municipal units permission to carry deficits over several years when the situation warrants, but there is only so long this practice can go on before the decision on whether to continue has to be made.

Bridgetown’s council faced that decision and decided it was time to get out. UNSM president Bill Joe MacLean is very outspoken on this issue. He says Bridgetown is just the tip of the iceberg. It has happened in Canso and he believes it’s going to happen again.

He feels the province needs to either work with its municipal units or be prepared for the fallout when those smaller units begin to struggle and eventually fail.

At the same time the question needs to be asked as to whether we need 55 municipal units in a province of this size. Using the “A-word” in Nova Scotia is unpopular, but amalgamation may be something that needs to explored.

The province really needs to work with its municipal units to find a workable partnership that allows them to survive while helping those in trouble consider those alternatives.

The province is appointing a panel to run Bridgetown in the short-term, but unless it changes its relationship with its municipalities it may find itself running other municipalities.

 

Geographic location: Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, Canso

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  • james grace
    June 24, 2011 - 10:53

    Mr. Wolf is a very wise man. He is right in his facts. You look at small towns in Canada, you have a teacher, a nurse, in some cases RCMP officier, municipal worker professional, a postel worker, other govornment workers. Some of these people work hard and have difficult jobs but we all work hard and have difficult jobs. The problem is the people in these town that are not govorment workers struggle to make ends meet and they have to pay a large percentage of their earnings in tax so that govorment workers can enjoy their good pay and pensions. These people struggle to keep their business running or to earn enough money working in private companies that are also taxed to pay for the others. Of course many leave their towns for the city or other provinces. What ends up happening is that private sector workers in the city can generate enough value in their work to earn a decent living and fund govorment in the city, the province and these small towns. They have to be smart though to manage their money and make decisions that allow them to keep money in their own pocket and not lose it to taxes. I believe that if the provincial and federal governments pulled all funding out of small towns then there would be no well paid jobs with pensions such as teachers, nurses etc. Small towns on their own cannot support govornment jobs which means private sector workers in cities are doing it. I agree with Mr. Wolf's comments about Trudeau and Quebec and all the other comments and could write 10 more articles on these subjects before even doing a minute of research. Not sure if Canada will be proactive and change the spend today and tax your grand children tomorrow to pay for it, wait for us to get in the same financial position as Greece or heaven forbid have our grand children decide they would instead of paying our debts for spending more than we earn, decide they would like to earn decent living, have families, buy a car etc. and cut us off. If they do rightfully decide to cut us off, these govorment workers with the big pensions and expected health care spending may find themselves in an undesirable position in their old age.

  • James Wolfe
    June 09, 2011 - 11:26

    We now have over 3.5 million people working for government across the country. Average salary in government is 70 thousand (including benefits, pension, bonuses...) yearly and rising. Average salary in the private sector is 45 thousand yearly and dropping. Over 10% of government employees now make over 100 thousand yearly. In the private sector the number is under 2%. Look to Greece, Ireland and Quebec (all bankrupt), this is where Canada is headed if we don’t stop equalization and get spending and government growth under control. This tax and spend, union, socialist, big government, social engineering that has been destroying this country has got to stop. Yes, it has left Quebec and has been spreading throughout the rest of the country since the 1960”s, that’s right over 5 decades of massive government growth, massive government hiring, skyrocketing government salaries and more and more debt. Thanks Trudeau, Tanks kebec (original native spelling). Don’t believe me; go check the stats for yourself. Yes indeed, the brain dead, socialist, union mentality at work. “We don’t want the party to end, the “free” trips, expense accounts…perks, gold plated pensions, free this, free that…Yes indeed, see we in government, are all entitled to our entitlements folks and we can’t stop that, at least not until we retire. Our unions say so, it’s ours and we want it now...$$$” Its all about greed, just follow the money… ... parasitic unions, police, all government…all the same, bankrupting future generations…and they don’t give a damn. Do you ever wonder why politicians and government officials have this big phony smile on their faces, all the time? They are laughing at us all the way to the bank.