The revision of the Municipal Act has resulted in more powers being bestowed on local governments but, says West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling, the new legislation is nothing more than a leash that has been extended one that can be snapped back any time the provincial government is not in agreement with a local authority.
Nebbeling was speaking at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Board monthly meeting Monday, Nov. 27.
The municipal affairs critic met with the SLRD board as part of a B.C. road show to promote the Liberals Community Charter. Should the Liberals win the next election, the charter would be introduced within 90 days of forming a new government, Nebbeling told SLRD board members.
He said the charter, first introduced in 1995, would see the relationship between the province and local governments revised and more decision-making power given to local authorities. It would also prohibit downloading of provincial costs and programs.
Nebbeling said he was pleased to be able to talk with board members in a public forum. "Far too often I travel and meet with boards or councils and most of the time the meetings have been in camera. I think this is much better and a little step toward democracy. I would like to compliment the board for doing this."
He told the board that three years have been spent by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Union of B.C. Municipalities in trying to modernize the Municipal Act. "But I personally have concluded that there is no further clarity to the act. The name has been changed to the Local Government Act but it clearly has not been successful."
He said it is still an incomprehensible document with more than 1,000 sections. The community charter on the other hand, he said, has less than 200 sections.
Nebbeling acknowledged that some municipalities and regional districts may have burnout when it comes to reforming local government laws. "And there is some trepidation over possibly having to go through another three-year exercise to get the work done."
But, he said this would not be the case.
He said municipalities have already had opportunity for comprehensive review of the charter since it was introduced in 1995 and, although aspects have been altered since it was made public, the principles remain the same.
"We intend to present this to the UBCM the day after the election. This will give the UBCM board good opportunity to go through the sections."
He said copies of the revised charter will not be released until after the election.
He said this is because after the Liberals introduced the charter in 1995, the following year the NDP government announced it intended to revise the Municipal Act, taking sections directly out of the charter. "We dont want to do that again. There will be a 90 day period after we are elected where we will introduce all kinds of matters. We will introduce the Community Charter in the fall most likely. We will then come back for second reading in the spring session." Nebbeling said this should give local governments enough time to go over the recommendations.