The comprehensive bill that would drastically restructure local government in New Brunswick could become law as early as next week.
The provincial legislature voted 26 to 18 today to limit the remaining time to consider Bill 82 making it all but certain that it will pass before the House adjourns for Christmas.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, the French-language arm of the CBC, Minister of Local Government Reform Daniel Allain suggested he is still open to suggestions for changing his municipal reform plan if they are received before December 17th.
That could be important news for Sackville which strongly opposes the government’s plan to amalgamate the town with the Village of Dorchester and the local service districts that surround them.
“It may well be that the minister has all the power and can force his will on us, but we don’t have to sit back, smiling passively and say thank you,” Councillor Bill Evans said during last Monday’s town council meeting.
He spoke after Council voted 7 to 1 to send a strongly worded letter to Allain opposing forced amalgamation.
To read the town’s letter, click here.
Councillor Matt Estabrooks was the lone dissenter arguing that amalgamation makes economic and geographical sense.
“I have watched our business community slowly fade over the years and the last two extremely hard years have become the end of the line for many of them,” Estabrooks said.
“It is not my vision to see Sackville left as a town with only one major employer and a few small local businesses that surround it. This reform is an opportunity to enact some positive change to ensure this does not happen,” he added.
However, his council colleagues said there were too many unanswered questions about what amalgamation would mean for municipal financing, taxes and services.
Councillor Sabine Dietz pointed out that Bill 82 would give the minister the power to decide everything from bylaws to budgets with no requirement for him to consult with local residents or their elected representatives.
“Sackville is culturally and economically healthy, a vibrant community with excellent finances and a small town identity,” she said.
“So why force us to take on areas that are less sustainable in this excessive manner?” she asked.
Council unanimously approved Dietz’s motion to establish a local municipal reform governance committee that will meet at least once a week to investigate the many implications of forced amalgamation and to make recommendations to council.
Committee membership will be open to all members of council.
To listen to Monday’s 32-minute council discussion on municipal amalgamation, click on the media player below.