P.E.I. municipalities ask for more provincial support

·3 min read
Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities president Bruce MacDougall said there are 59 municipal governments on the Island and many of them are very small. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities president Bruce MacDougall said there are 59 municipal governments on the Island and many of them are very small. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I. municipalities are asking the provincial government for more support, both financial support and to help municipalities work more effectively together.

The Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities held its annual general meeting on Monday.

MacDougall says a lot of the municipalities on P.E.I. are cash strapped, especially the smaller ones, with a limited tax base.
MacDougall says a lot of the municipalities on P.E.I. are cash strapped, especially the smaller ones, with a limited tax base. ( Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities)

Federation president Bruce MacDougall said the federation is asking for a reduction in provincial taxes on non-commercial properties within all municipalities.

He said that would free up some room for municipalities to increase their tax rates.

"We're going into negotiations for a revenue-sharing program and that will be part of it, but it's basically to open up some tax room for municipalities," MacDougall said.

"A lot of the municipalities are cash strapped, and it's just an idea that we have, and we have discussed it with a few of the ministers, but we'll be dealing more with that in our our negotiations with the province, hopefully starting soon."

Small municipalities struggling

MacDougall said there are 59 municipal governments on P.E.I., and many of them are very small.

One in three municipalities is smaller than five square kilometres in area, and 34 municipalities have a population of fewer than 400 residents.

MacDougall says there needs to be more long-term solutions for small municipalities.
MacDougall says there needs to be more long-term solutions for small municipalities.(John Robertson/CBC)

MacDougall said a pilot program by the province helping neighbouring municipalities work more closely together is a good first step.

But he said there needs to be more long-term solutions for small municipalities.

"I know with the smaller municipalities that are having a challenge to come up with the local tax base, that they have a small population, but this is something that will help assist the smaller municipalities," MacDougall said.

"I know that the minister has been working hard on that, and we look forward to working with them to assist in anything we can do to help that move forward."

Working together

In a statement to CBC News, Communities Minister Jamie Fox said efforts to get more municipalities working together are paying off.

"Over the winter, the department has partnered with the Federation of P.E.I Municipalities to offer various education and training programs including emergency services, sharing services, and CAO training," Fox said.

"Thanks to changes made to the Municipal Government Act, Island municipalities can now share services such as utilities or office space. Municipalities across P.E.I. are encouraged to explore this option as it is a step toward working together to provide beneficial services for residents."

A pilot program by the province helping neighbouring municipalities work together more closely is a good first step, MacDougall says.
A pilot program by the province helping neighbouring municipalities work together more closely is a good first step, MacDougall says. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

When asked about more municipalities amalgamating, MacDougall said he doesn't like the term amalgamation — he prefers to call it restructuring.

He said the current of number of small municipalities is not sustainable in the long run.

"I would say not, no, and that's the issue we're into right now, the governments have got to look at the situation and there is a problem," MacDougall said.

"They know there's a problem, and we have to deal with it, and we're there to help them. But the governments of the day have a decision to make, and it's trying to find some harmony within the municipalities, to make it work for them."

One in three P.E.I. municipalities is smaller than five square kilometres in area, and 34 municipalities have a population of fewer than 400 residents.
One in three P.E.I. municipalities is smaller than five square kilometres in area, and 34 municipalities have a population of fewer than 400 residents. (Google)

MacDougall said municipal capacity remains a serious problem, with some municipalities making the decision to dissolve.

He said when that happens, local communities lose their local voice, and the ability to make local decisions.

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