Allain denies contentious Bill would erode local democracy as municipal leaders call for change

Local Government Minister Daniel Allain answers questions Friday in the provincial legislature

As New Brunswick moves further away from democratic decision-making in health and education, the minister of local government is defending proposed legislation that could override the powers of municipal councils.

“It’s important that people understand that we’re not eroding any people’s democracy,” Daniel Allain told a committee of the provincial legislature Friday.

“It’s the reverse. We’re actually investing in New Brunswickers by having a new, independent local governance commission.”

The minister was responding to widespread criticism from members of the opposition parties as well as the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB) and two associations that represent cities and francophone municipalities.

A news release issued by all three municipal organizations Tuesday expresses “serious concerns” about Bill 45 because it would, among other things, give the minister of local government the power to repeal or amend any municipal bylaw.

“If adopted, this would be a significant erosion of municipal autonomy that would give unprecedented power to the minister,” the release quotes Andrew Black, president of the UMNB, as saying.

Black, who is also mayor of Tantramar, added that municipalities are concerned that “this provision undermines the legitimate roles of councillors duly elected by their citizens.”

‘Disappointed’ & ‘disrespected’

During five hours of committee hearings on Friday, Allain said he was not only “disappointed,” but also felt “disrespected” by the criticisms. He suggested that municipal representatives were spreading disinformation about Bill 45.

“This piece of legislation does not deserve to go in the gutter like this,” he said.

The minister defended the bill by referring to the government’s original commitment to establish an independent commission as part of municipal reforms in which former local service districts were merged with surrounding cities, towns and villages.

In its 2021 White Paper on municipal reform, the government suggested the commission would handle such matters as municipal conflict of interest complaints and review local cost sharing arrangements as well as requests for boundary changes.

But when Bill 45 was introduced on May 9th, it became clear the commission would be given unspecified powers that included reviewing complaints from property owners opposed to bylaw changes and that the minister of local government would be given the power to repeal or amend any municipal bylaw.

During Friday’s committee hearings, Allain described the five member commission, that the government hopes will be in place by January 1st, as “a new tool for municipal governments [and] for property owners to have an appeal process.”

He said property owners would no longer need to launch expensive and time consuming appeals to the courts when seeking to overturn municipal bylaws that interfere with the reasonable or traditional use of their land.

Allain went on to refer, for example, to Maple Hills, Irishtown and what he called “wealthy subdivisions” built because of poor planning  in a former LSD in his own riding next to a working farm.

“If the new municipality [passes] a bylaw on hours of operation, noise and the spreading of manure, that individual, that farmer’s been doing that for 100 years and then that bylaw comes in and says ‘whoof,’ can’t spread any manure anymore…a bylaw like that can have a consequence.”

‘Sacrifice zones’

Mt. A. Politics Professor Geoff Martin

A Mount Allison University politics professor says he agrees with the municipal organizations that Bill 45 would undermine local democracy.

“We need to assume that the powers granted to the commission will be used,” Geoff Martin writes in an e-mail to Warktimes, “and in the NB context likely to be used to back economic development against the will of local people.”

Martin, who served on Sackville Town Council from 1998 to 2004, adds that local governments won’t have much choice but to give the province what it wants on such issues as new school locations and nearby development proposals.

“Developers with influence will be able to get their own way,” he writes.

Martin points to the 12 rural districts covering 70% of New Brunswick’s land mass where residents can only elect advisory councils while the province continues to provide local services.

He writes that the rural districts are like “sacrifice zones” where local residents have no municipal representatives to oppose resource extraction and industrial development.

“This new legislation [Bill 45] has the power to turn existing municipal territory selectively into sacrifice zones even if this is opposed by citizens and their local council,” he concludes.

To view the news release from the NB municipal organizations, click here.

To read CHMA coverage of this story and to listen to comments by Andrew Black, click here.

To read Bill 45, click here.

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5 Responses to Allain denies contentious Bill would erode local democracy as municipal leaders call for change

  1. Kelly says:

    Developers with the right party affiliations have always gotten their own way. This will only make it bit easier and less time and cost to do so.

  2. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    It is a long story where for more than thirty years New Brunswick has operated with one of the most centralized provincial governments in North America. There are many books on New Brunswick’s many failures. A good read with some positive suggestions is Paulin Blaise Ngweth’s book , NEW BRUNSWICK Is BRAIN DEAD, a Coma Around The Corner.
    This can’t be real! Seriously, “Allain denies contentious Bill would erode local democracy as municipal leaders call for change”.
    Look from time to time I’m a customer, stake holder, a client, a servant of the people just like Allain. But this is CITIZEN WAYNE speaking . My gut reaction was to tell Mr. Minster is get his hankie out and wipe those faux tears out of his eyes.
    It’s our duty as CITIZENS to be blunt and even rude when you sir have the gall to disrespect your citizens with a paternal attitude and WHAT; “municipal representatives were spreading disinformation about Bill 45.” My God ! This piece of legislation does indeed deserve to go to the gutter and those who created it with it.
    Misinformation say you? I’ve been a no-name politician for thirty years and those of us in municipal politics have always known that we are “creatures of the province” and have no with standing clause to fight this. Soon as the provincial government mandated “Codes of Conduct’ the purpose to suppress rather then give freedom which is the role of laws in a democracy. Now if municipal councillors were given “qualified protection” like yourself during duly constituted meetings I might have sympathy.
    Mayor Black, I hope that at the UMNB you expressed your chagrin of breaking common law by ignoring the custom that the Mayor has the same voting rights, but exercises them only when by the art of persuasion when the office of Mayor has to play “King Solomon”. This analogy is the same for Minster Alain with the principle of provincial paramountcy over municipalities, but there is the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity that protects the powers of one level of government from intrusion by the other. The truth is why? BRAIN DEAD????
    All the municipal government might do is under the ‘incidental effects The pith and substance of the validity of the bill might spill over into municipal powers.
    As I see it, any argument that Tantramar might put up has been forfeited at the Council meeting where this citizen suggested custom over statute, but with the Mayor declaring he was going to stay in Higgs’ Sand box the day may be lost. Black could resign, as he has before and make the National News. Even better the whole council will need to stand down.. That is for another day.
    The basic objective of parliamentary law is to assure that the will of the majority will prevail, but always with full protection of the right of the minority, by the art of persuasions to become the majority. NOT BY DECEIT. Then Democracy will be denied.
    I often ask myself: How did we win the war against corporatism and then lose the peace. GLEICHSCHALTUNG!!!

  3. Geoff Martin says:

    Thanks Bruce. The minister’s example of protecting farming is misleading. NB already has ‘right to farm’ legislation called the Agricultural Operations
    Practices Act, and the minister or his officials know this. If that is not strong enough then change that Act. Don’t use it as a cover story allowing GNB to veto all and any municipal action.

  4. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    What is a waqf? A concept that is useful in Political Islam – when property or physical assets such as a mosque, are bought, according to Sharia law, it is put into an irrevocable charitable trust.

  5. Anomous says:

    Funny how Mr black can be so hypocritical. The town forced bylaws on the fire dept without them having any say

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