Recently, I received an e-mail from Minister Brian Kenney because I’ve been bugging MLAs & the Premier’s office about Local Improvement Charges (Or, as they are called in NB: LIAs.)
Finding out how to get a response from the government was a bit of a frustrating process… but guess what? Once I got through to the right channel, they were so thankful I’d gotten through because I had seen something that was a blindspot for them. I found them friendly, receptive & appreciative. It also turns out that the piece of legislation I wanted to change was thought to be archaic and no longer in use– therefore it was the first thing on the chopping block. No one had ever talked to them about this little line of legislation in all their consultations. Even though, in my mind, if this little line of legislation changed Municipalities & citizens would be empowered through economies of scale to change the way we use energy, create jobs and adapt to climate change.
As one of my favourite councillors often says municipalities have no intrinsic rights. They are given powers through the document known as The Municipalities Act. Ours, in NB, is the oldest in the country–dating back to the 70s. By 2018 our government plans to release the modernized & reviewed Municipalities Act. Had I not been a total geek about Local Improvement Charges ( how they are an AMAZING tool for adapting to climate change, creating jobs, greening the grid, saving tax payers money and emboldening Municipalities to lead the charge in social innovation)? This tool would have been erased from the act because no one had spoken up. I would’ve cursed the government for being backwards, and we would’ve been without an amazing tool until the next time a government modernized the act.
Moral of the story? Get geeky! Get bees in your bonnet about making where you live a better place & help your governments to do better however you can. They need the help, and the problems we face together are grand . Sometimes it just takes a few changes to a few lines of legislation and our communities can change.
Want to know more? Here’s my last e-mail to the policy analyst for Local Government in NB.
I’m e-mailing you as a followup to our conversation and to make sure you had all the information needed to move forward with our request to look into changing the explicit definition of “Local Improvement Assessments” (otherwise known as “Local Improvement Charges” or LICs) in 127(4) of the Municipalities Act of NB.
As of 2011, New Brunswick is now the only province or territory with explicit definitions of LICs. Since this report was released on how to implement LIC programs to finance energy efficiency programs, both Ontario & Nova Scotia have changed the legislation and are now running flagship programs for solar power, biomass, green retrofits etc.
A simple amendment to the Municipalities act to change the definitio
n of LICs would cost the province nearly nothing, and give municipalities the power to create green jobs, help citizens adapt to climate change, improve their property values and save money, while helping to meet the targets that NB Power has to reduce the load on our grid by 2026, reduce our GHGs, put more money in the pockets of taxpayers, and incentivize people to live within municipal boarders.
LIC legislation would also beautifully compliment and bolster new changes to the Small business Tax Credit program, which allows people to invest in Community Economic Development Corporations & Associations. Coupled together, these could be a game-changer in how New Brunswick does community economic development and how we manage our energy through economies of scale.
+Here is the Ontario request for a change in regulation and draft legislation
+Here’s Halifax’s report on their Solar City pilot. This program has won awards through the FCM and is becoming more popular and impactful over time.
+Gabriella Kalapos works with the Clean Air Partnership and can help you craft legislation or give you more information. Her job has often been helping make the government’s job easier to make these programs work, and without Local Improvement Charges her programs would not be possible. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has brought her in as their expert on the matter of LICs. She helped run the CHEERIO (Collaboration on Home Energy Retrofits in Ontario) program as well as the HELP (Home Energy Loan) program in Ontario
+Attached are the final changes to the Ontario legislation regarding LICs
I would be thrilled to help you with this, and look forward to updates on where the issue stands. I know for a fact that citizens in the communities I work in (Tantramar) would be thrilled to work with our municipalities to start programs like these if the law were to change.
Let me know if you need any further information to help flesh out your changes to the act, and I would love to help however I can!
Thanks for the work you do, and I look forward to hearing from you