By Jason Malloy
The Nova Scotia government could help cash-strapped municipalities by continuing a 2007 agreement, said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.
The province announced about a year ago it was going to stop taking on additional costs for public housing, corrections and education beginning in 2012-13.
"When we take that off the backs of the municipal governments and municipal taxpayers they will be able to deliver the services that I believe they should deliver, which are those at the property level," McNeil said during a recent stop in Kings County. "The government does not have a financial problem, it has a priority problem."
Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell said last year the 2007 agreement said the province could not be expected to take on extra cost during tough financial times.
McNeil said he would not force amalgamation, but would pay for studies if communities were interested in exploring the idea. He said he believes there will need to be more service exchanges in the future.
During his visit to Kings, McNeil met with municipal and business leaders.
He would not disclose some of the ideas he was presented, as they might be part of his platform for the next provincial election. He did reiterate similar messages about improving the rural economy with a focus on the traditional sectors of agriculture, fishing and forestry.
"We need to foster a relationship with the entrepreneurs of rural Nova Scotia," he said. "The men and women who have been here for a very long time, who when we invest in them, they invest in the community...
"I believe very much the answer to our economic woes in many rural communities is inside ourselves."