New Brunswick municipalities grapple with marijuana legalization after provincial election
The latest New Brunswick election was a popular topic at a weekend conference involving dozens of provincial municipalities.
The Union of New Brunswick Municipalities (UNBM), which represents about 60 communities across the province, held its annual meeting this weekend in Fredericton.
Although it’s still unclear who will form the next government after Monday’s razor-thin result, mayors and councillors say they have local issues to deal with.
“We’re the closest to the people so regardless of what happens within our communities, whether it’s a provincial or federal government, we get the calls,” said Bev Gaston, mayor of Doaktown, N.B., and president of the UNBM.
One of the looming issues is marijuana legalization.
Municipalities want 44 per cent of provincial pot revenues. But with legalization set to go into effect on Oct. 17, there’s still no deal in place.
UNBM members point to protective services like policing as one area that could be impacted by cannabis legalization.
“One police officer I talked to said the bad guys are not going to go away just because it’s regulated. There are going to be conditions in our municipalities that we are going to have to find a cost for and find a way to pay for them,” Gaston added.
The People’s Alliance Party and Green Party will play a much larger role in the new legislature, a reality that some mayors are still coming to grips with.
“I’m finding just kind of laying the groundwork here. It looks like we have to work with four levels of government, and we have to figure out a way to do that,” said Allan MacEachern, mayor of St. Stephen.
Another mayor feels it’s imperative for local governments to remain as non-partisan as possible.
“You try to gain support of the departments, and I think that when you do that and if you do that well that you’re going to probably see success regardless of who is sitting in the legislature,” said Mayor Marc Thorne of Sussex.
The political intrigue could very well continue into the coming week.
The Green Party has meetings scheduled with both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. It is looking for a signed document with one of them that would ensure Green support in the legislature in matters of confidence.
Premier Brian Gallant has said the legislature will be recalled no later than Oct. 23.
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