GUYSBOROUGH: A local municipality and the Chamber of Commerce are not happy with proposed changes to the province’s Municipal Government Act (MGA).

On March 8, the Province of Nova Scotia introduced Bill 85 to amend Chapter 18 of the Municipal Government Act respecting Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM).

The Municipality of the District of Guysborough feels the new act, if imposed, will negatively impact all the province’s municipalities.

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“Right now, it’s a level playing field,” said Guysborough Warden Vernon Pitts. “We know the rules and we do everything we can to stay within those rules, and we have. When the rules change halfway through the game, it’s not good for anyone, municipal units, as well as any proponents that are coming forward with projects.”

If the CBRM request is granted, Pitts said Guysborough will ask for the same consideration.

“If the province is going to grant that for one, it should be granted for all,” said Pitts. “I would far sooner see it not granted at all. That would be my first choice. Second choice is, if you’re going to do it, let’s be fair here and do it for everyone.”

The Atlantic Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil to express concern with the proposed amendments.

“Our understanding of the amendments is that CBRM will be conferred an exemption from long-standing regulations that prohibit municipalities from providing fiscal and real property incentives to private businesses,” stated Sheri Somerville, CEO for the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce “Many of our members agree that municipal governance needs to be modernized, but this specific circumstance is not helpful.”

When asked for comment, Strait Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Amanda Mombourquette said the proposed changes would allow for the CBRM to do tax exemptions and abatements for specific businesses in specific locations and allow the municipality to sell land for less than fair market value.

“We became very concerned very quickly because what that does is it creates an unlevel playing field in the Province of Nova Scotia,” Mombourquette said. “When you saw that bill hit the floor, you saw Guysborough with very little choice but to come out and say ‘We’re against this is in principle, however, if you give it to one you need to give it to us.’ Obviously what we’re seeing here is a case of government doing the opposite of creating winning conditions for business because they’re changing the rules mid-stream and, in this case, creating government-enabled competition.”

Bill 85 will be discussed during the spring session of the Nova Scotia Legislature.

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Antigonish native Matt Draper has been a photographer, reporter and columnist for The Reporter since 2003.