Category Archives: Municipal politics

Congratulations

Congratulations to Keith Irving and Garry Balcom, for their results in the Wolfville Election.

A letter on the Property Valuation Services Corp

This letter in the Chronicle Herald this morning is worth noting. Since it may eventually disappear from the Voice of the People” we copy it here in full to preserve it for ratepayers future reference.

Not-so-minor details

In a Feb. 25 opinion piece, Kathy Gillis, CEO of PVSC (Property Valuation Services Corporation), says, “All property owners are assigned a PIN number for their assessment account and by using the PIN, details of their accounts are readily accessible.”

In fact, the information is limited and what is provided is not helpful in an appeal. One page of the online report is a map of the property, a second page deals only with the CAP program, and one-half of the third page is devoted to the address. None of this is useful. The remainder is sketchy, at best.

My own for 2011 and 2012 had significant differences. The construction went from “average” to “good,” the area from 2,060 sq. ft. to 2,017 sq. ft., and the garage that was detached in February 2011 became attached in February 2012. No work was done on the house since 2008 so it must have been magic.

The PRC report, on the other hand, is usually six or more pages with breakdowns of the assessment and dwelling details such as number of fixtures, heating details and the quality grade.

The important thing that is not available is the comparators report, which Ms. Gillis neglected to discuss. One has to ask for it and may have to wait months to get it. Few know it exists. I had to request mine from PVSC’s freedom of information officer (although I did not have to file a formal request).

[I have left off the letter writers name, although you may see it now at source]

The Assessment Office, which was supposed to be at arm’s length from  municipal government, was never very independent, prone as it was to reassessment requests from various town administrations,  but now with this corporate model ( which they copied from other provinces where it has proved to be a disaster for taxpayers), the municipalities are both clients and overseers of the “service” (Roy Brideau used to be on the Board). Note that the PVSC gets paid partly on the basis of assessment value. That is, the higher the assessments the more they get paid by the municipality. Isn’t that a sweet deal?

One thing is sure, taxpayers are not served well. The formula or information the PVSC uses to come to a figure is a complete mystery and prone to all kinds of adjustments behind closed doors, always to the taxpayers detriment.

Municipal administrations consider assessments to be their “revenue stream” (which they are not and should not be) and they want to keep it flowing at higher and higher amounts.

Please follow the rest of the links from our past posts on this subject (some were already linked specifically in the above text ) – we are tired of repeating ourselves.

Municipal Madhouse

Does municipal government need reform? You betcha!

Shame!

It’s not just Wolfville.

Could Dexter learn from Thatcher?

This caught our eye:

As the privatization of state-owned industries proceeded, and unemployment temporarily rose to one million, then two, and finally three-million (before sharply declining), the London County Council, dominated by Marxists, was almost screaming for her blood. Mrs. Thatcher replied by abolishing the municipal government, put one of the greatest cities in the world under direct rule from the Home Office, sold the London government headquarters, County Hall, the largest building in the country, to Japanese developers to be turned into an aquarium, and London enjoyed better municipal administration. [read the rest]

All of NS isn’t as big as the London Municipality. Some amalgamation is going to be needed – school Boards, Municipalities. Has Dexter got the balls courage?

Gaspereau Ave Appeal

David Daniels has submitted this to pass on. It is from the latest issue of the Mud Creek News. Watch for more items in the next few days.

THE GASPEREAU AVE. APT. APPEAL
The developer appealed the decision by Council to reject the proposed 4-storey apartment building along Gaspereau Ave to the Utility and Review Board. The developer’s solicitor sought to adjourn the appeal.  “Our client wishes to explore whether a redesign of the project will meet the approval of the Town Council by way of development agreement while reserving its rights with respect to the refusal which is the subject matter of this appeal.”  The Town agreed to the requested adjournment.  
Mr. Morrison, the Town’s Director of Planning, previously negotiated the development agreement which the Council unanimously rejected.
I assumed, correctly, that Mr. Morrison would again be representing the Town in the new negotiations with the developer.  I asked at the Dec. 5th Committee of Council meeting whether Mr. Morrison would be receiving any direction from Town Council concerning the negotiations.  The answer was “no.”  I did not ask “why not” but that surely is a question which Councilors may wish to ponder.  I was told that Diane Mombourquette, the CAO, would be joining Mr. Morrison at the negotiation table.  
David A. Daniels

Sound familiar?

Does any of this remind you of Wolfville?

“It’s a ticking tax time bomb,” … Read the rest

We are just a microcosm of Toronto.

Our Debts

In case any Canadians are feeling smug about our debt situation compared to US debt woes we offer this cautionary article to consider:

Our federal debt is about 35% of GDP while the U.S. passed 100% on Tuesday, and Ottawa’s deficits are only 2% of GDP rather than Washington or London’s staggering 10%. But let me try to wipe the smile off your face.

For starters, a more realistic on-book number for Canadian public debt is over 80% of GDP. That’s what the IMF gets by including provincial as well as federal debt (for instance, Quebec’s $238 billion) and such “hard” unfunded liabilities as public sector pension funds.

An even bigger reason for worry is soft unfunded liabilities for things such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Health Act. In 2006 the Chief Actuary of Canada formally estimated the unfunded liabilities of the CPP at $620 billion. …Then there’s infrastructure.

Read the rest. And what about Municipal debt? So you had better listen up Municipal councillors everywhere, and especially in spendthrift Wolfville. Are you listening to Councillor Irving or ignoring him?

Cities bristle at Liberal plan

This headline grabbed our municipally minded attention.

Cities bristle at Liberal plan to scuttle $1-billion infrastructure fund

Canada’s cities say a Liberal proposal to scrap a $1-billion infrastructure fund will rob them of one of their few remaining sources of federal cash.

Weighing in on the election campaign, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities says the Liberal plan would give cities money with one hand while taking with the other. …

The Liberal plan, released Sunday, promises a $275-million-a-year “Affordable Housing Framework,” aiming to reduce homelessness, and build and maintain social housing. To pay for this, a Liberal government would end the $1-billion Public Private Partnership Infrastructure Fund on the grounds that it has “accomplished virtually nothing.”…

The P3 fund was created in the 2008 Conservative budget as a Crown corporation with $1.25-billion to spend. So far, it has contributed $25-million toward a road extension in Winnipeg, $50-million project in the Maritimes to expand emergency radio services and $25-million to a commuter-train maintenance centre in Montreal.

Guess that leaves the NDP

… or the Greens.


Whose responsibility?

The mayor’s?

The Legal Dept? ( Or other staff?)

The Council’s? Did they ask? Did they look? Were they interested?

A letter in Voice of the People:

Harperland East?

On Tuesday, HRM council met in camera to discuss the $400,000 provided by the CAO to Power Promotional Events re: the Black Eyed Peas concert.

I have looked at Section 22 of the Municipal Government Act of Nova Scotia and see that “… council meetings and meetings of committees appointed by council are open to the public.” Section 22(2) defines the only subjects about which council meetings may be held in private. I also see that Section 22(4) requires council to make public the subject of any council meetings held in private.

I have a hard time trying to fit a discussion of this type of payment into any of the valid reasons to meet in private. Has the council violated the Municipal Government Act by meeting in private and not releasing the subject and discussions of this serious issue?

Do I now live in Harperland East?

Ward Carson, Granville Ferry

Will Mayor Stead think of himself as part of Harperland East?

Those who do not see the parallels in our own house are blind.

Expenses

Politicians’ expenses have been much in the news in Nova Scotia. Wolfville, which considers itself a leader among municipalities in the province, can go to the forefront and be an example as we have on other issues like smoking, pesticides and uranium mining. Let’s be a leader in good governance.

How about putting the Mayor’s, Councillors’ and senior manager’s expenses on line. Ottawa has done it.

Ottawa taxpayers will be able to keep track of how much money their city councillors are spending, starting Monday.

The city will start posting councillor and senior manager expense reports on the Internet.

Mayor Jim Watson, who campaigned on what he called an ‘integrity platform’, says residents will be able to see how their money is being spent.

“We will be releasing for the first time ever councillors and senior management expenses online, so that you can see what we’re spending your money on,” said Watson.

The information will be separated into categories such as hospitality and travel, which will help taxpayers to understand how their money is being spent.

“[City officials] do have to spend money on hospitality or travel, that’s part of doing business,” the mayor said. “But it also disciplines us to make sure that we’re being respectful — day in and day out — with your money.”

Hear, hear we say. If you don’t have anything to hide you don’t need to hide it.

You can see what Ottawa has online re  expenses here.

Ottawa has an auditor and  a fraud and waste hotline. We notice they  are having a Spending Control Town Hall Meeting soon. They also have audio and video of meetings and don’t seem too concerned about people hearing them or quoting them. But perhaps they don’t have an Ow [Ottawa watch] to twist their words worry them.

A lot has been spent on IT in the past so many years in Wolfville. Isn’t it time that resident tax dollars for this benefited residents?

We don’t see why, for example, the Mayor’s words and expenses couldn’t go on line if he wasn’t embarrassed by them and he felt he could justify them.