Sackville councillors boycott minister’s closed-door meeting on municipal reform

Councillor Bill Evans

Sackville town councillors Sabine Dietz and Bill Evans boycotted a meeting today with Daniel Allain, New Brunswick’s minister of local government.

Dietz served notice during Monday’s council meeting that she would not be attending.

She said she was protesting against Allain’s refusal to meet with town council before final decisions were made on municipal reform including the forced amalgamation of Sackville with Dorchester and surrounding local service districts (LSDs).

Evans echoed her comments, but said Monday he planned to attend to give Allain a blunt message.

“I’ve decided I have an obligation to go and say to the minister, ‘It would have been really nice if you had met with us when we still had things to decide and it wasn’t a fait accompli,'” he declared.

But, in a public letter he e-mailed to Allain the next day, Evans said he saw no point in the meeting, but would express his complaints about municipal reform in writing instead.

“This process has been flawed at every step: from dishonest assurances about no forced amalgamation, through an undemocratic process to an undemocratic outcome, with a sham of a consultation process,” Evans wrote.

Minister’s response

Daniel Allain speaks with Councillor Bruce Phinney after today’s meeting

Today after his closed-door meeting at town hall with the mayors and councillors from Sackville and Dorchester as well as representatives from local LSDs, Allain repeated to reporters what he said in his e-mailed reply to Evans: the government had consulted widely about municipal reform.

“There’s some councillors that were in constant communications with me and constant communications with the department and [they] actually participated,” Allain said.

“If there’s some people on council that did not do their job, that’s up to the population to look at that,” he added.

“We’ve been clear, clear in all [of] the process. We have a website, you can check the kilometres on my car, we did over 65,000 clicks, so we did over 200 public sessions, meetings with municipal representatives [and] LSD representatives,” Allain said.

He rejected suggestions that all of the important decisions about municipal reform have been made in private and said today’s closed meeting was an opportunity for a free and frank exchange of views.

“Why couldn’t we [reporters] attend this meeting?” I asked.

“How would it have improved it?” Allain replied. “We had a great discussion.”

He suggested the municipal representatives who attended the meeting would take information from it back to their constituents.

“My job as minister of local government is to make sure we co-ordinate, make sure that we get this reform that we’ve been asking for, for 25 years,” Allain said.

“It’s not easy having these discussions. It’s actually emotional,” he added. “We’re making decisions for the next 50 years, so we’re going to take our time and there are some exercises that are in public, there are some exercises in private.”

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6 Responses to Sackville councillors boycott minister’s closed-door meeting on municipal reform

  1. Norm Cole says:

    This sure sounds like we are in a third world country now. Is this the way things are going to be in the (Future) it sucks. As far as 65,000 km on a vehicle the tax payers are picking up the bill for, for something they are not even part of. Guess this is future of Politics

  2. Jan says:

    It would have been nice if the citizens of these communities had been given the chance to voice their approval/disapproval of this amalgamation. We are the ones affected.

    • Percy Best says:

      Jan, I am afraid that you have gotten what Higgs is imposing on us, mixed up with what generally happens in a truly democratic society. Over the next few years we will see our municipal elected government of mayor and councillors, relegated to the very minor tasks, while the important decisions will be made in Fredericton and passed on down by their appointees. One had better grab on tight for what will probably be a very rough ride! Kudos to Councillors Evans and Dietz for acknowledging what is happening, as well as for their speaking up and taking a stand.

  3. Geoff Martin says:

    It’s very clear to me that from early on the Higgs’ government wanted to implement most of the Finn Report — the core being that there should be forced amalgamations and far fewer municipal units. They were also desperate to ensure that the resource areas, with forestry and mining, would remain under provincial control and not be subject to municipal “meddling.” Third, they would use this as an opportunity to cut their own subsidies of rural New Brunswick and force tax increases on the citizens of these new municipalities. They have succeeded in these, aided by he public’s preoccupation with the pandemic. The consultation was just window dressing. So property taxes will go up in the former LSDs (maybe on Sackville citizens as well), but when people complain they will be told to take their complaints to Entity 40 Town Hall.

  4. Jon says:

    “Why couldn’t we [reporters] attend this meeting?” I asked.
    “How would it have improved it?” Allain replied. “We had a great discussion.”

    The whole democracy and responsible government thing has passed Allain by completely, apparently. He wouldn’t want journalism or open government getting in the way of his public oversight-free patronage appointment and its bloated public-paid salary.

    As the Washington Post says, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.

  5. Kata List Productions says:

    I don’t fear change here… I fear the status quo of limiting development and growth which is all I have seen in the 10 plus years I have observed the culture of the Town Hall Councillors elected and the Management they have promoted [Jamie Burke]… when you focus on building ponds instead of growing your business sector [which includes architectural projects for housing] then you’re lost.

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