While each project – like each municipality – is uniquely defined and distinct in its own right, there is a great deal in common. Like all levels of government, municipalities all face difficult decisions and competing interests. We all have to do more with less, stretch our dollars and find creative solutions to the challenges facing our communities. With a new year ahead comes a new beginning. While a lot is being done, there is still a lot to do. All of the pressures facing us must receive attention and be addressed. Narrowly-focused viewpoints have the potential to overlook the possibilities. So now, more than ever, we all must build on what we’ve started; be creative, collaborative and innovative as the success of one leads to the success of many. -30- As 2011 comes to a close, I would like to highlight some of the innovative projects and partnerships we’ve had the privilege of taking part in with our municipal partners. Projects that are making life better for Nova Scotians. This is an important time in the life cycle of municipalities. We are at a turning point that calls for us to make a decision – continue as we are or change direction for the better. I am aware of the challenges facing many Nova Scotia towns including aging infrastructure, population shifts and shrinking tax bases, and I am encouraged by new ideas and regional approaches between communities where it makes sense. One such example is the Towns Task Force, chaired by Kentville Mayor David Corkum, and made up of municipal elected officials, and staff from Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM), Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia and Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. The task force is working hard to come up with recommendations that will help us maintain our communities as great places to live, work and raise families. The province has committed $100,000 to assist with the work of the task force. It will bring recommendations forward to the UNSM and the province on measures to address the long term sustainability of communities. Another important collaborative project is the fiscal review, which is looking at all the provincial funding programs in collaboration with the UNSM, Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia, and municipalities. This review will include a steering committee of municipal and provincial representatives, which will be formed in the New Year.It has been 10 years since we engaged in a collaborative review of programs. It is important that, together, we review funding programs and services for municipalities to ensure they are meeting the needs of communities and consider the context of the province’s current fiscal reality. Both the Towns Task Force and fiscal review involve all municipalities, however many municipalities are entering into innovative collaborations at the regional level as well. In the Strait area, the province collaborated with nine municipalities to form a partnership to purchase new financial software. This initiative is saving these communities thousands of dollars that can be moved into other municipal priorities. The Kings County 2050 project is another example of collaboration among municipalities and the province. This comprehensive land use planning exercise is being conducted by Kings County Municipality with the co-operation of the towns of Kentville, Wolfville, and Berwick. Working together to solve cross jurisdictional issues, this is a true example of a regional municipal planning strategy. Other successful projects include: the province is assisting the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, Town of Bridgewater and the Town of Mahone Bay with a study that will explore opportunities for shared services and governance options the province is supporting Canso in its transition to become part of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough the province’s commitment of $300,000 to assist with the establishment of a Municipal Auditor General’s Office will bring more transparency and accountability to municipal operations with leadership from the province, residents and council in Bridgetown have come together to pass a budget, set a new tax rate, and are moving toward a more positive and sustainable future.