Nebbeling to introduce Community Charter in next 90 days 

Premier Gordon Campbell and his cabinet hit the ground running on June 5, after he promised to implement many of the Liberal Party’s campaign promises within the first 90 days of office.

One of those promises was to introduce new Community Charter legislation that will give local governments more power over their future than they had under the soon-to-be defunct Local Government Act.

That job will fall on the shoulders of Ted Nebbeling, the MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, a former mayor of Whistler and the first Minister of State for Community Charter.

"I started to work on this three years ago by basically writing a whole new Act, and now it’s going to be called a charter – the reason is that with a charter system, local governments not only get empowerment, they also have the ability to add new elements to the charter," said Nebbeling.

"They can add new elements that are very specific for their community in order to tap into opportunities, whether they are financial opportunities or business opportunities."

According to Nebbeling, the current Local Government Act, "a big fat document of 1,130 sections" is too restrictive, and compels municipalities to take on certain responsibilities "without any financial consequences or financial support. For local government that has been a thorn in their side."

Nebbeling’s experiences dealing with the provincial government as the mayor of Whistler motivated him to look at ways that the working relationship between local governments and the province could be improved. Local governments are closer to the people, and yet their power to make decisions on issues that are of importance to the community were hampered by the Local Government Act.

"Under the existing Local Government Act, anything of that nature had to be approved by Victoria," said Nebbeling. "Not only was it a very time consuming process, but often the government would not allow it, a proposal by a single community. The standard answer was that ‘if we allow you to do this, then other communities should have the right to do it, too’."

Whistler and the City of Vancouver are the only local governments in B.C. to have political powers above and beyond what is allowed under the Local Government Act.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler Act, which Nebbeling says is a kind of charter, allowed Whistler to establish the Whistler Resort Association. "We were the only community for a long time that had a marketing organization that had taxation powers over its members, and Whistler had the authority under the Municipal Act to set aside a certain area where that particular taxation would apply and that was the village," Nebbeling said.

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