New Brunswick reforms amalgamate dozens of local and rural governments

New Brunswick is reducing the number of local government entities by forcing the amalgamation of dozens of municipalities and neighboring rural areas, and by combining the remaining rural areas into new, larger districts with elected advisory councils and taxation powers.

Approximately 161,000 people, or 22% of the provincial population, who now live in unincorporated local service districts will be found in the larger municipalities once the transition is complete.

The remaining local service districts will be grouped into 12 rural districts with elected advisory councils that will advise the province on local tax rates.

The Higgs government describes it as a way to give these residents power over local issues.

“Your voice will be heard. The democratic deficit which currently affects 30 percent of the province’s population will be corrected,” Local Government Reform Minister Daniel Allain said in a white paper released Thursday.

In total, the number of local entities will increase from 340 to 90. There will be 78 communes and 12 rural communes.

The reform aims to address a series of chronic local government problems that have accumulated for years, including the sharing and funding of local services and infrastructure, and the growth of urban sprawl just outside fiscal reach. towns, cities and towns.

Regional service commissions created a decade ago to coordinate some of these issues will be strengthened, with new mandates and voting rules to reduce the procedural deadlock on some votes and impose limits on exclusion.

The commissions, which bring together all the municipalities and rural LSDs in their territory, will now have a role to play in economic development, tourism promotion, regional transportation and cost-sharing of recreational infrastructure such as arenas.

They will also have public safety committees to oversee the police and fire departments. And the three largest commissions, including Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton, will play a role in funding homelessness, mental health and poverty reduction services.

There are no major mergers involving the three largest cities in the province. The boundaries of Saint John remain unchanged and Moncton gains a small portion of a local service district, but not Dieppe or Riverview.

Fredericton will absorb several adjacent peripheral areas, but no neighboring municipalities.

But a number of smaller municipalities will be amalgamated, along with some neighboring local service districts, into larger entities. They understand:

  • Sackville and Dorchester
  • Alma, Hillsborough and Riverside-Albert
  • Blacks Harbor and Saint-Georges
  • Cambridge Narrows and Gagetown
  • Minto and Chipman
  • Bath, Florenceville-Bristol and Centerville
  • Grand-Sault and Drummond
  • Campbellton, Atholville and Tide Head

All new entities will be in place in January 2023.

In local service districts that are absorbed by municipalities, there will be “increases or decreases” in property tax rates, according to the white papers.

These changes will be determined during the transition period next year and will be implemented gradually.

He also says that future local government mergers will no longer need to be approved by residents in plebiscites, but will be approved by a new provincial commission.

The next municipal elections will be postponed from 2025 to 2026 as some of the new entities will need elections or by-elections scheduled for November 2022.

Major changes in the financing of local authorities will not occur before the establishment of the new municipal entities, but will take place before 2025.

Among the possible changes at that time will be to pass on the cost of rural roads to their new local entities, which the white paper said would lead to tax increases.