Part 672 in my series Everyone Deserves a an Elected Mayor (whether they like it or not)
There seems to be some impetus to do something on local government reform in the coming months. I thought about writing something on this but after reading what Richard Wilbur wrote in New Brunswick: An Annual Review, 1960-2006, I decided it would be even more valuable just to quote him verbatim. This is from 1976:
“One report with far-reaching implications, however, was tabled April 6 by E.G. Allen, a deputy minister who since the previous spring had headed a task force to study the feasibility of establishing a new form of local government for the non-incorporated areas. Translated from the bureaucratese, the board had sought citizens’ opinions on the future of the old county councils, abolished in 1967 with the Program of Equal Opportunity. Since then the rural municipalities, representing 96 percent of the province’s entire territory and 250,000 people, had been in a state of limbo, virtually without any direct control, especially fiscal, over their day-to-day affairs.
The Allen report recommended the formation of eleven rural municipalities (compared to the fifteen county councils existing before 1967) with the same powers (emphasis added to original text) as existing municipalities like Moncton, Fredericton, or Saint John. They would be able to set local taxes and be eligible for unconditional provincial grants. Allen denied that the report was attempting to dismantle the Equal Opportunity Program, arguing instead that the 216 local services districts set up by the Robichaud government had proven unwieldy and undemocratic. He also noted that in the past decade more and more New Brunswickers had been moving to rural areas (emphasis added to original text), primarily to escape high taxes, but insisting on urban services. The only way they could get these services, Allen argued, was to pay for them; the report predicted higher taxes for the eleven new districts, if and when they were created.”
What’s that old saying, the more things change the more they stay the same?
What are the odds we will get meaningful, democratic government for the population now in LSDs (and, cringe, tax reform)?