Sackville seeks to maintain independence, rejects municipal amalgamation in letter to province

The Town of Sackville has formally rejected municipal amalgamation with nearby communities in the Tantramar region.

In a letter to Daniel Allain, the provincial minister responsible for municipal reform, Sackville recommends retaining its independent status as “a new kind of small town.”

The letter states bluntly: “Sackville does not feel amalgamation is a realistic solution and would object to any forced amalgamation.”

Instead, it suggests that surrounding communities be incorporated into a regional government overseen by a county council similar to ones in Nova Scotia.[efn_note] The nearby Municipality of Cumberland is an example. It combines the former towns of Springhill and Parrsboro with smaller villages and rural areas and is governed by a mayor and eight-member county council. The Town of Amherst, however, retains its status as an independent regional hub.[/efn_note]

“This model would allow incorporated municipalities such as Sackville to deal with an equivalent government on any form of shared services,” the letter adds.

It notes that the recent provincial Green Paper on municipal reform focuses on the lack of democratic representation in local service districts (LSDs), which do not elect a mayor and council, but are governed by provincial officials in Fredericton.

“The governance structure of unincorporated areas [LSDs] is presented as a major problem in the Green Paper,” Sackville’s letter points out.

“We strongly agree with this position and would suggest that some form of regional government be explored so that local representation can be established within these currently unincorporated areas.”

Although the letter does not name specific communities, there are nine local service districts in the Tantramar region that include places such as Midgic, Westcock, British Settlement and Wood Point.

In a comprehensive report on municipal reform in 2008, Commissioner Jean-Guy Finn suggested that Sackville join with the nine LSDs along with the villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester to form one municipality within a regional service district.

However, in its letter to the the minister, Sackville portrays itself as an independent regional centre with a hospital, university and a variety of cultural assets such as museums, galleries and creative artists.

The letter also mentions the town’s “innovative employers in the industrial sector.”

It adds: “We are a hub for the surrounding region and residents, who visit Sackville for groceries, banking, medical appointments and access to government services such as the Post Office, Service New Brunswick and the Southeast Regional Service Commission.”

At a special meeting last night, Sackville Town Council discussed a draft of the letter and authorized Mayor Mesheau to sign a final version that will include councillors’ suggestions for stronger language on the urgent need to take action on climate change and to respect the rights and status of First Nations peoples.

UPDATE: At the urging of Councillor Sabine Dietz, the final letter includes this reference to climate change under the heading Land Use Planning:

New Brunswick needs a provincial planning framework that addresses the most important issue facing our province, climate change. How we plan for climate change will impact other issues such as urban sprawl, coastal development, floodplains, health and built environment, infrastructure investments and transportation planning, resource developments and agriculture. All of these areas have a provincial interest.

The final letter also contains a sentence under the heading Other Observations that was suggested by Councillor Andrew Black:

We strongly recommend that the Province consider the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action as they move forward with Local Governance Reform.

To read the letter, posted on the town’s website, click here.

This is the first in a two-part series about Sackville’s latest position on municipal reform.

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