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.
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.”