EDITORIAL: Time to act on outdated act

Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre believes it’s time to scrap Canada’s founding legal document.

OK, OK, perhaps ‘scrap’ is a bit excessive. But the mayor does feel that the 1867 British North America Act was written to establish governance of a Canada which no longer exists in a form that would be recognized by its original signers.

The BNA Act — better known today as the Constitution Act, 1867, as it was renamed in 1982 — created the federal dominion of Canada and established governing principals and law for what was then a predominantly rural populace.

The population has long since flooded into Canada’s cities and towns, but their tax dollars haven’t necessarily followed.

As Lefebvre shared during a speech last week to the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce, tax revenues still flow upward, with 50 per cent accruing to the federal government and 42 per cent to the provincial governments.

That leaves eight per cent of income and business tax proceeds to trickle to municipalities, which as a result find themselves in competition with each other for the federal and provincial grants-in-aid that help make badly needed capital investment possible.

Meanwhile, cities are increasingly being downloaded the responsibility for issues that were never part of their original mandate, from parks and recreation to health-care facilities, affordable housing and homelessness.

The pending federal legislation to legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana brought the issue to the forefront, when provincial governments across Canada banded together to push back against what they perceived as a federal grab of the lion’s share of tax revenue from the sale of legal pot.

The provinces promptly found themselves in a two-front war, as municipalities pointed out they — and not the province or the fed — would be on the front lines of enforcement, bylaw control and mitigating societal impact of the legislation.

We’re not sure we’re ready to call for elimination of the balanced budget requirement for municipalities, any more than we were when the local school board called for the same thing a few months ago.

But it’s clear that cities, towns and other municipal governments should be provided financial flexibility appropriate to a 21st-Century Canada.

A new set of local taxes and fees, piled atop what taxpayers are already sending to Ottawa, Victoria and local coffers, will find no favour with voters. But, as Lefebvre noted last week, municipal governments can — and should — leverage their combined voices to turn the federal-provincial-local governance structure into a partnership.

Rather than a heirarchy.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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