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Atlantic Mayors Focus On New Revenues, Housing, Immigration
(HALIFAX, N.S., Saturday,
October 30/2004) — New sources of revenue, better relations
between the three levels of government, more affordable housing
programs and better immigration incentives to encourage uniform
settlement patterns across the country highlighted a two day meeting
of the Atlantic Mayors Congress here.
Three federal ministers-- Infrastructure and Communities Minister john Godfrey, Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro- addressed these various issues and responded to questions from the municipal leaders yesterday and today.
Although delegates welcomed the new federal focus given to municipalities across Canada, there were a number of concerns expressed about the criteria, equity, delivery mechanism and timing of partnerships/programs to provide new sources of revenue to local government, such as a share of federal Gas Tax revenues.
The municipal leaders passed a resolution that new revenues to municipalities from the federal share of the Gas Tax should be based on a 13/87 sharing principle; that is, one per cent off the top for each of the 10 provinces and the three territories, and the remaining 87 per cent to be distributed, based on population.
There was considerable discussion on the wide-spread lack of affordable housing for the homeless and many other low-income earners. Delegates urged the federal and provincial governments to live up to their responsibilities to provide more shelters for the homeless and more affordable housing units, particularly in the urban centres.
Delegates also held discussions on policing and growing concerns about public safety issues, such as crimes involving youth, drugs, increasing number of break and enters and robberies in communities across the Atlantic Region.
The Mayors Congress plan to hold a special meeting next spring to focus on immigration issues and to discuss more effective methods and programs to encourage more immigrants to settle in Atlantic Canada.
Mayor Peter Kelly, of the Halifax Regional Municipality, was unanimously re-elected chair of the Atlantic Mayors Congress for a third two-year term, while Mayor Basil Stewart, of Summerside, was elected Vice-Chair.
Delegates approved resolutions to take action on the following issues:
New Deal for Municipalities- The Atlantic Mayors Congress will press for new partnerships among all orders of government - based on respect for jurisdictions and leading to cooperation, collaboration and consultation, as well as leading to municipal autonomy to address local infrastructure priorities.
New revenue sources - providing net new funding, ensuring there is no claw-back of funds, recognizing that infrastructure needs grow with the economy.
Sustainable communities - to build communities that balance economic opportunity, social well-being and environmental conservation.
Equity - different communities face unique challenges that may require individual solutions, one solution will not fit all, but equity is important.
Accountability and results - regular reporting to citizens on outcomes to ensure transparency.
Administration- Flexible, simple and transparent program administration - local administration of programs should not be unduly burdensome.
Revenue Flow- In the event a province does not reach an agreement with the federal government regarding a share of the federal Gas Tax revenue for its municipalities before the those revenues flow in 2005, that province’s share for its municipalities will be held in reserve until such an agreement is reached. In other words, municipalities should not lose out on much-needed new revenues simply because the federal and the respective provincial government(s) are unable to reach agreement.
Affordable Housing-- The Atlantic Mayor’s Congress will urge all of the Atlantic Premiers and appropriate Ministers requesting that they, in partnership with the Government of Canada, directly address affordability problems in their provinces by addressing deficiencies in the shelter components of provincial income assistance programs and by creating a new shelter allowance program for working poor renters.
B) The Atlantic Mayor’s Congress will write to Prime Minister Paul Martin and federal Housing Minister Joseph Fontana to request that the Supporting Communities Partnerships Initiative be established as a permanent program, to include long-term operating programs and social development funding in addition to capital funding.
C) The Atlantic Mayor’s Congress write to Prime Minister Paul Martin and Housing Minister Joseph Fontana requesting that the Federal – Provincial-Territorial Affordable Housing Program be modified to:
• extend the program beyond its 5 year anniversary sunset date,
• reduce provincial cost sharing requirement from 50% to 25%,
• allow 100% of federal funding per unit up front, with the understanding (by formal agreement) that the provinces will put in its share subsequently,
• allow greater flexibility on how the money can be spent,
• increase the maximum level of subsidy per unit to achieve affordability, equivalent to 30% shelter to income ratio of households up to the 25th income percentile for the area in which they are located.
Immigration- The Atlantic Mayor’s Congress will work to demonstrate commitment to fostering welcoming communities in our own regions, by eliminating barriers within various structures and by reviewing programs/services to ensure they are accessible to diverse communities;
b) encourage the provincial and federal government to fully engage local government and other stakeholders in the development of strategies aimed at immigration; and
c) encourage the provincial and federal governments to consider options and opportunities to increase recognition of international credentials.
Mayor Peter Kelly
Chair, Atlantic Mayors Congress
(902) 222-9999 or (902) 835-6097
Corporate Communications Officer
Halifax Regional Municipality