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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

They just don't get it.

Fiscal Framework. In the municipal community it was a buzzword a few years ago as the Gov of NL was on the verge of starting a process that would see a new funding arrangement for communities in the province. Guess what happened? Nothing. On the verge of the budget release municipalities found out that the province had decided it wasn't ready to start that work and it would be delayed just a little bit longer. And that was when the Gov of NL was flush with cash. 

Fast forward about 4 years and we still have no new strategy or fiscal arrangement for municipalities in NL. And it looks like they, and their provincial association MNL, have had about enough. MNL has said that communities are beyond cash strapped and are practically on the verge of collapse in some cases. They recently held a news conference requesting some action from the current administration. You know, the government that is bringing in austerity measures, cutting public sector jobs (unless you're John Noseworthy) and they can't seem to grasp the idea that communities are actually important and worth investing in.  MNL is getting some media coverage here and here

If you are a regular reader then you know how I feel about the underfunded communities in NL. I have visited many of them, spoken with their residents and their leaders, and they need help. Both financial and program wise. They need money for infrastructure and strategic investment but they also need help with training, setting priorities, attracting new staff, volunteers and councillors. They need a better grasp of strategic planning and proper economic development. They get some of this from MNL and a couple other organizations, but it's not enough. 

Both the Federal and Provincial levels of government have basically decided that their responsibility is to provide the very minimum of financial support, usually via infrastructure cash, and thats pretty much it. Last year I had a look at the federal platforms (1, 2, 3)  and provincial budget (here and here) with an eye to rural investments, and it's coming up on budget time again. This time around I'll look for those rural investments and you can bet they will be even more scarce then last year, as both conservative governments have moved into cost saving mode. 

Where does this leave the communities on NL? Not in any good place, thats for certain. The other levels of government just don't seem to get the fact that services delivered at the local level are often much more efficient and effective than those at the provincial and certainly the federal level. Yet both levels of government are incredibly reticent to relinquish control over their programs and their cash. 

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the up coming provincial and federal budgets show foresight and courage and they provide communities with the funding and support that they need to provide healthy environments for the people of this province and this country. I hope...   

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