Provincial Issues--September-October 2017
Provincial Budget Highlights
- Mandatory education rate remains unchanged, but individual municipalities will contribute more if their assessments have increased.
- $2.4 million more to support recruitment and retention of doctors, including adding 10 new seats in the Dalhousie Family Medicine Residency Program a funding 10 spaces for a new practice-ready assessment program for doctors who were trained internationally and who want to practice in Nova Scotia
- Work with the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine to develop a new clerkship program for third-year medical students for communities in Cape Breton. This will allow the school to be ready to accept and place four medical students in Cape Breton in September 2018.
- $1.8 million to increase ACCESS-Ability grants for community buildings and open a new grant program for small businesses to become more accessible
- $14.5 million for rural high-speed Internet
- $4 million to support innovation initiatives, including a new rebate program and more support for business start-ups
- $2 million to revitalize the province’s key tourism sites and $500,000 to advance Nova Scotia’s tourism marketing in China
- $600,000 to support additional settlement programming, employer liaison supports, and the new Atlantic Immigration Pilot, all designed to meet the needs of a growing immigration population in our communities and workplaces
- $40 million for municipal clean water and waste-water projects
- $38 million for affordable housing, including creating new affordable housing units and improving affordable housing options, in partnership with the federal government
- $250,000 more for the Seniors Safety and Age-Friendly Community grant programs
Amendment to the Municipal Government Act and Halifax Charter
During the Fall sitting of the Legislature, the Province passed amendments to both acts requiring all municipalities and villages to: report on travel and hospitality expenses; have a code of conduct; and improve their auditing and finance committees.
Regulations are being prepared for certain sections of the Act and the Department of Muncipal Affairs has indicated there will be consultation with municipalities. In the meantime, you are encouraged to begin reporting online, if you are not already doing so.
The amendments are similar to the recommendations of the Joint Municipal Accountability and Transparency Committee, with a few additional requirements added.
Some of the key requirements are as follows:
- Each council will have expense and hospitality policies that will be reviewed by each council following a municipal election.
- The travel policy will identify persons with signing authority, rules for the use of corporate credit card if applicable. No alcohol purchases will be eligible for reimbursement by individuals. Expenses to be reported include travel related (including accommodation, incidentals, and any transportation costs. Professional development and training expenses are to identified as well.
- The hospitality policy will identify rules around the purchase of alcohol, the approval process, the scope and applicability of the policy.
- Expenses for mayors, wardens, councillors, CAO’s, village commissioners, and village clerks will be required to report, as well as any other position prescribed by the regulations. Reports are to be prepared quarterly, and be posted to the municipal website. An annual summary report will be required.
- Audit committees must meet a minimum twice a year, and should include an independent member.
- Each municipality and village will adopt a code of conduct which includes compliance with the expense and hospitality policy.
12 Month Notice: WCB Costs
The Minister of Municipal Affairs wrote to the UNSM President on October 27, 2017 informing municipalities the Province had passed An Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Workers’ Compensation Act. (letter is on the UNSM website). The amendment establishes a presumption respecting causation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for front-line or emergency-response workers. The amendment will have a positive impact on our emergency workers submitting claims for PTSD. It will likely result in an increase in approved claims, which will impact assessment rates and associated claim costs. The Workers Compensation Board will determine the method for allocating these costs. If the costs are applied only to those employers of front line emergency workers, it is estimated the impact for all Nova Scotia municipalities that have opted for WCB coverage for their police and paid firefighters is in the range of $23,000 - $47,000). Similarly, for those municipalities who have opted for WCB coverage for their volunteer firefighters, the estimated increase in costs is in the range $52,400 - $107,200). Note these are totals, to be shared by those municipalities who have opted for coverage from WCB.
Alternatively, given the nature of the public service provided by these workers, WCB could allocate the costs to all employers. This could result in an employer with a $1 million payroll would see an increase of $100 per year.
There are no estimates for those municipalities who have opted out of Workers Compensation for these workers.
The Minister’s letter also notes it is possible a savings could be realized, as the amendments will speed access to treatment, meaning workers could be back on the job earlier. This will be monitored over time.
Joint Municipal/Provincial Cannabis Committee
UNSM requested municipalities be represented at the provincial level in discussions around cannabis regulations. The Province has invited UNSM to participate in a joint committee with the departments of Justice and Municipal Affairs. This will provide an opportunity to push for compensation in the enforcement of the regulations and any other incremental costs to municipalities.
To assist in this work, UNSM has formed a joint committee with municipal police officers and administrators. Their work will be shared with municipalities.