Canada/Fredericton wants to give itself the power to remove or change by-laws

Published on 25/05/2023 | La rédaction


New Brunswick municipalities are concerned that their democratic power will be eroded if the Blaine Higgs government's Bill 45 on the creation of a Local Governance Commission is passed in its current form.

One of the provisions of the bill is to give the Minister of Local Government and Governance Reform the power to disallow or amend municipal bylaws.

What is worrisome about this part is that we have elected officials in every municipality who put in place bylaws for the good of their citizens, and now the minister would have the power to change or repeal them," said Yvon Godin, president of the Association of Municipalities of Quebec.Yvon Godin, president of the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick (AFMNB), said in an interview Wednesday on ICI Acadie's La matinale program.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers agrees.

"When you give a minister carte blanche to overrule decisions made by a municipality, it's an erosion of democracy.

- A quote from Kate Rogers, Mayor of Fredericton

It's kind of a step back, we think. It's not [what] was expected in the commission," said Dan Murphy, executive director of the Union of New Brunswick Municipalities.

Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain's white paper on municipal reform calls for the creation of a commission that would, for example, make decisions on how to deal with the issue of municipal government.The white paper on municipal reform from Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain calls for the creation of a commission to, for example, address conflict of interest issues, review potential cost-sharing arrangements between municipalities and review applications for municipal land use changes.

Campbellton Mayor and Cities of New Brunswick spokesperson Jean-Guy Levesque also believes the Minister needs to reconsider his bill. This is a slap in the face that we just received," he said. The Minister must understand that we were elected by the people, that we represent the people.

Thus, the three groups of New Brunswick municipalities are united. The municipalities want such a commission, according to Yvon Godin, but the section of the bill that gives this power to the minister is a bad surprise for them.

"The main objective of the reform was to give more powers to the municipalities, and here we are taking away a very important one.

- A quote from Yvon Godin, President of the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick

Fears of political or economic intervention

Yvon Godin is concerned that this will open the door to politically motivated changes to municipal by-laws.

I still believe that the government is serious and that it wants to do something good with this, but there is something that is not clear in the process. And when it has a political color, it's a little more worrisome," he says.

Yvon Godin is also concerned that the minister may be pressured by private companies to change municipal bylaws in their favour.

At that point, what could happen is a kind of war between the minister and the municipalities because one has changed the decisions of the other," he adds.

Minister Allain is reassuring

Minister Allain confirms that he is aware of the concerns of municipalities and indicates that his department will work with the associations representing them to ensure that these articles are well understood.

These changes are intended to provide a safety net for the unexpected, he says.

"You don't have to go very far to find municipal councils that have made or were planning to make decisions that could hurt job creation, the economy and people's way of life."

- A quote from Daniel Allain, Minister of Local Government and Governance Reform

Minister Allain says that the review of bylaws would be done through a robust process that will not be taken lightly and their repeal would only be done as a last resort.

Bill 45 was introduced by Minister Allain on May 9. It received second reading on May 17. Along with the Ministry, Minister Allain appears before the Legislative Assembly's Standing Committee on Economic Policy on May 26.


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