The People’s Alliance party sent out a tweet this am stating “Finn report means less power to the people and less democracy”.
Of all the things I have heard about that report, I this that statement is the strangest of all. The fact is that the bulk of municipalities have no local democracy at all – the LSDs are run by bureaucrats out of Fredericton.
And the majority of incorporated municipalities are too small to have any real intellectual horsepower to have any control over their destiny – they essentially rely on the provincial level of government.
Finn writes in an election analysis for CBC News that the number of local governing bodies must be cut to between 50 and 55 from more than 400 that exist now. There are 101 incorporated municipalities, three rural communities, 267 local service districts and 50 additional taxing authorities that total 421 types of government representing a dwindling population of fewer than 750,000 people.
To say that the Finn report means “less power to the people” is silly. Under Finn, a local government vote will matter way more than it ever did before because they will be voting for a governmental entity that has some power, some budget and some authority – more than all but the largest municipal governments have now.
I’ve seen this in my work around New Brunswick. When local governments have virtually no control over their destiny there is a very real potential for them to give up and spend their time haggling over the 0.2% control they have. We need to empower more local control over these communities’ destiny and Finn was all about that.
I don’t think his report was perfect. I think it was the basis for a serious, structural change and I think it needs to be put back on the front burner.
And for those who are adamant about keeping the status quo, it’s worked quite well hasn’t it? 75% of all communities are in decline. Since the changes to the current model, we have gone from fairly robust population growth around New Brunswick (northern NB grew faster than southern NB in the 1950s) to 75% of all communities in decline.
Think about that the next time you dump on Finn writ large.