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Mixed feelings surround ongoing local governance reform process in New Brunswick

Click to play video: 'N.B. towns less than year away from sweeping amalgamations'
N.B. towns less than year away from sweeping amalgamations
Local governments across the province are hard at work preparing for the sweeping amalgamations that will become official next January. As Suzanne Lapointe reports, there are some mixed feelings about the process surrounding the timelines imposed by the province – Feb 17, 2022

In January 2023, the sweeping municipal reforms that will reduce the number of municipalities and local service districts in New Brunswick from 340 to 90 will be finalized.

Some villages, like Alma, located just outside Fundy National Park, have expressed concerns about the process.

Deputy Mayor Susan MacCallum said on Thursday she was concerned about Alma having less representation in local government in 2023.

The seaside village currently has one mayor and three councillors. After the merger, it will become part of the largest local entity in New Brunswick, geographically speaking. The new local entity will be divided into six wards.

Alma will be part of a ward shared with the current Local Service District of Harvey. According to the 2021 census, Harvey has a population of 402 compared to Alma’s 282.

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MacCallum also said she felt council was being asked to make important decisions on tight timelines.

The exact boundaries for wards are still being determined, but the deadline is March 4.

The name for the new local entity, which will also contain the village of Hillsborough and Lower Coverdale, will be decided in the coming months.

Some community groups, like Cap-Pelé and Beaubassin East’s shared chamber of commerce, are looking forward to amalgamation

“Right now we’re working with two entities – the first one has about 6,000, we’re talking about Beaubassin East; 2,000 for Cap-Pelé. So while we can join the forces it’s gonna be easier for investors to invest in our region,” chamber spokesperson Anthony Azard said in an interview on Thursday.

Though he acknowledged timelines presented a challenge for the merging communities, he said local businesses are all for the merger.

He said though the chamber is already shared between the communities, they are anticipating a change in structure once all the unknowns are sorted out.

“Right now we don’t have all the resources that let’s say an urban chamber of commerce has, so we need to rethink how we’re going to do things with the new municipality. First of all, is it going to be a town, is it going to be a city, is it going to be a regional municipality? We don’t know yet.”

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Global News reached out to the Department of Local Government and Local Government Reform for comment and did not receive a response by time of publication.

Click to play video: 'N.B. municipal reforms getting warm welcome in some communities'
N.B. municipal reforms getting warm welcome in some communities

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