Courier letters to the editor; General municipal elections should be held after white paper release

Editor’s note; Saint Andrews, now part of Entity 56 which includes Saint Andrews, Chamcook, and Bayside is listed in the white paper as one of a handful of communities which will see a by-election as a result of the population growing between what the document has deemed between 15 and 50 per cent.

Editor,

Municipal reform agenda is long overdue, however there needs to be a general municipal election in 2022 to add legitimacy to this process. There are many reasons that indicate that holding a general municipal election across New Brunswick would be the right thing to do.

The current municipal governments do not have a mandate from the electorate to make the significant changes that will be part of the amalgamation process. Municipalities will need to amend municipal plans, zoning, change bylaws, municipal committees, staff levels and salaries, change budgets, increase vehicle fleets, increase size or relocate town hall, implement differential taxation, increase taxes and many other issues. None of these issues were discussed or present in the 2021 municipal elections, and it can be argued that municipalities do not have a mandate to implement these changes without having an election.

There are strong views on municipal reform. Some are right, some are wrong, but they all deserve to be heard. The province has indicated there was an extensive consultation process, but was anyone listening? A general municipal election would provide a forum to voice these concerns while adding transparency and legitimacy to the process.

The public in amalgamated areas did not have the opportunity to run for mayor or councillors, or have a voice in electing the current municipal government. To add a token number of seats to a council representing a minority on council does not alleviate the fact amalgamated regions were not permitted to vote for the municipal government in the 2021 elections. A new municipal election would be address this issue and give all voters a say in their new municipal government.

In addition, a new general municipal election would be more simple for the public to understand, and would permit all New Brunswick voices to be counted.

Municipal reforms announced by the province are a reset of the way local governments operate in New Brunswick, and represent the most significant change in governance in a generation. The public should have an opportunity to elect the local government they feel is best suited to meet this challenge.

Current councils did not bargain for the increased workload, animosity, and complexity caused by local governance reform. The increased workload represents a commitment from councillors of thousands of hours. This is not the job councils signed-up for, and to expect them to stay on until 2026 with a vastly increased job description is unrealistic.

Locally, Saint Andrews is not slated for a general municipal election even though it is above the 50 per cent threshold. The facts are as follows: Population 2021 Municipal Report was 1786; Population post amalgamation is 2686, indicating an increase of 900, or 50.39 per cent. The facts seem to indicate that a general municipal election would be required in Saint Andrews.

Guy Groulx,

Saint Andrews, N.B.