New Brunswick Tribune

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Municipal reforms in New Brunswick are off the mark, according to an MLA

Key takeaways:

  • Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister More than a year ago, Daniel Allain took on the task of reforming New Brunswick’s municipal landscape.
  • The changes were mostly made to prevent certain parts of local service districts from merging with municipalities.

The adjustments made by the department following further consultations aren’t what those advocating for change were expecting to see after the municipal reform bill was passed in the most recent sitting of the legislature before the holiday break.

Minister of Local Government and Local Governance Reform Daniel Allain took on the task of reforming New Brunswick’s municipal landscape more than a year ago. Previous governments had long debated the issue, but none had ever addressed the actual reforms.

The Finn Report, presented by the then-Liberal government in 2008, called for sweeping municipal reforms.

In 2021, the Higgs administration reduced the number of municipal entities from 340 to 90. According to Allain, it was a harsh change, but one that had been discussed for years.

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Despite the shifting boundaries, some communities resisted. Minto and Chipman expressed reservations about the two villages combining.

Kris Austin, the leader of the People’s Alliance, has been vocal in the legislature about wanting the ability to change boundaries. The changes announced on Tuesday, he said, were not what he had hoped for.

“However, based on the white paper proposal, they are not allowing any municipalities to separate, which is disappointing,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

The Town of Nackawic had also expressed reservations about combining with a community 26 kilometers away. Pointe-du-Chene requested village status and wrote to the minister expressing opposition to amalgamation.

Mayor Keith West of Chipman previously told Global News that he was adamantly opposed to merging two communities. He claimed that they were too far apart geographically and very different from one another.

Following the release of the white paper, both mayors met with the minister.

The changes were mostly made to prevent certain parts of local service districts from merging with municipalities.

The major reforms were not altered.

Municipal reforms in New Brunswick have fallen short, according to an MLA
Municipal reforms in New Brunswick have fallen short, according to an MLA. Image from CBC

“While I am disappointed that there were not more opportunities for boundary changes,” Austin said in a press release, “I believe we must now work to ensure the transition to the new model is as seamless as possible over the next year.”

Fair taxation, local identity, and municipal services are all top priorities, according to Austin.

On the other hand, Allain has been adamant about the reforms from the start.

“A large number of New Brunswick residents have been advocating for municipal change. On Dec. 17, he said, “There are some people who have questions, who are preoccupied, and some who don’t like change, but we need to move forward on this file.”

He stated that the changes align with the reforms’ guiding principles.

The department held 36 community engagement sessions on local governance reform. These were in addition to Allain’s one-on-one meetings with hundreds of New Brunswick residents, some virtually and others in person. A total of 1,700 people were involved in the process.

An online survey received over 1,200 responses.

“This is the most significant reform in 60 years, and we believe it is the right plan for New Brunswick at the right time,” says the Premier. But we also knew it wasn’t perfect, which is why, after consulting New Brunswickers, we made some changes,” he said in a press release.

Source: CTV News

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