Kevin Barr to Yukon Party government: more changes needed to Municipal Act amendments

On Thursday, 29 October Yukon NDP Community Services Critic Kevin Barr asked the following question about the government's proposed Municipal Act amendments:

Kevin Barr (Yukon NDP MLA for Mount Lorne--Southern Lakes): Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party government’s Municipal Act review has been getting mixed reviews from Yukon’s communities. Just last week, the Association of Yukon Communities took the government to task for failing to clarify the process for future reviews of the act and specifying the terms under which municipalities can generate revenue. The AYC has been clear: the government should table amendments to the Municipal Act changes before third reading so that Yukon communities can have more clarity on these two important issues.

Will the government listen to the AYC? Will they table amendments that clarify these two outstanding questions?

Community Services Minister Currie Dixon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The amendments to the Municipal Act that are before the House currently are the result of considerable and extensive consultation with the public, municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities. The proposed changes make the act more functional and consistent with other acts and, importantly, simplify and clarify the act.

Since the tabling of the bill, however, the president of the AYC has written to me requesting clarity on two specific matters in the bill — the first being the process for review and the second being the issues related to municipal revenue generation. On the first matter, I have indicated to the president of the AYC, and will do so in writing later this week, that of course we will be conducting a review of the Municipal Act in the years to come and that the AYC will most certainly be involved in that review to the extent that they determine is appropriate. I indicated as well that we didn’t believe it was necessary to put a fixed date in the legislation for review of the act, but would rather allow a more flexible approach that seeks input from the AYC moving forward. On the second matter, on the issue of revenue generation, it’s my belief and my officials’ belief that the legislation in its current form provides a full set of revenue-generating tools for municipalities, although I do understand that there have been some further questions about this so I have scheduled a meeting with the AYC executive for later this week to review that aspect of the legislation.

Mr. Barr: There are more aspects of the Municipal Act review that remain bones of contention, Mr. Speaker. The findings report from “Our Towns, Our Future” underscored frustrations over a lack of transparency at the municipal board, which is composed of government appointees with indefinite terms. During the consultation on the Municipal Act amendments, municipalities expressed interest in either supporting transparent, fair and financially efficient municipal board operations or removing its requirement altogether.

Why haven’t communities’ requests for more transparency at the Yukon municipal board been included in the government’s Municipal Act amendments?

Mr. Dixon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the member opposite’s question, he neglected to point out a very important aspect of the Municipal Board, and that is the fact that it has representatives from AYC on the board. As well, it also has representatives from the CYFN. The Municipal Board provides an important function in the territory, although we acknowledge that some of the roles that it previously took in the legislation should have been amended and are amended in this legislation that’s before us. Now, Mr. Speaker, the review of an OCP, for instance, will no longer be put forward to the Municipal Board, as it was deemed to be an unnecessary step.

There are still some roles and functions for the Municipal Board — I think that everyone understands that — but it’s important that we acknowledge that the Municipal Board isn’t just made up of Yukon government appointees. There are appointees from CYFN, the AYC and from Yukon government.

Mr. Barr: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that these amendments cover a wide variety of issues in a complex piece of legislation, but as more people digest the Municipal Act amendments tabled by this government, it has become clear that amendments need to be made to better reflect the findings report that followed “Our Towns, Our Future”. We have to take the time to get this right instead of rushing through the amendment process.

Will the Yukon Party government press pause on these Municipal Act amendments so that they can be updated to reflect what our municipalities are actually saying?

Mr. Dixon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m not sure what the member opposite means when he says “press pause”, and I would have to seek further clarity on what exactly he means in the context of the passage of legislation. But, Mr. Speaker, what I should note is that earlier this year, we were prepared to table a Municipal Act bill in the spring at the request of the AYC. We delayed that and conducted a further review and further discussions throughout the summer. We did that and have now tabled the bill in this Sitting of the House.

As I’ve said, there are some further questions — requests for clarity about certain aspects of the bill. That’s why I’ll meet with the AYC executive later this week to provide information about how I see the current act providing a full set of revenue-generating tools for municipalities and how those can work. As well, Mr. Speaker, we’ll offer further training and further assistance with the implementation of the new act for municipalities by way of perhaps a workshop or forum on revenue generation in the coming months, Mr. Speaker.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I think that this is an excellent step forward. We have one of the best municipal acts in the country and these amendments — I think, Mr. Speaker — only improve the current framework legislation that we have for municipalities. I think that a lot of other jurisdictions will look to us for guidance with regard to their own municipal acts and that the amendments that will be brought forward this Sitting will enhance the good standing that we have here in the territory.


Photo: dlbezaire / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.