The next milestone for local governance reform in New Brunswick comes in less than a month, with amalgamated communities required to pick their names by May 16.
Daniel Allain, minister of local government and local governance reform for the province, said the process seems to be going smoothly.
“It’s great to see the population so enthused,” he said.
The reform process has seen New Brunswick’s government restructure the municipal makeup from 340 entities to 89.
A process was set forth, according to Allain, to eliminate redundancies and strengthen the bond between the provincial and municipal governments.
He pointed out 208 entities in the original makeup with fewer than 1,000 residents.
Comparatively, Nova Scotia only had four jurisdictions with a population that small.
“We needed to innovate,” Allain said. “We needed to bring municipal governance into the 21st century.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
Word that new names would be required in amalgamated communities has sparked debate and met resistance, fueled mostly by misunderstanding.
The names of the entities, which need to be decided on by that May 16 deadline, will not necessarily reflect a name change of the towns within.
Clear communication of that fact has been part of a complex process within the entities.
“The name gets a lot of attention but there’s a lot of other things that are more important,” says Brittany Merrifield, mayor of Grand Bay-Westfield. Her entity has amalgamated with 55 per cent of its neighbour, Westfield West, to form Entity 51.
“You can communicate as much as you can and some people choose to read the full article or just the headline.”
Entity 51 has formed a Naming Committee to steer the community through the process, recently narrowing hundreds of suggestions down to a top five.
Members of the community have until noon on May 2 to vote for which of the five they like best.
The name Grand Bay-Westfield is one of the five, but even with the possibility that nothing changes in town, some residents have taken issue with the idea of change altogether.
“Change is hard,” Merrifield recognized. “Trying to navigate that change is a challenge.”
Allain recognizes that fact as well but says it’s important for residents to get involved in the process.
“You have to participate,” he said. “You have a voice.”
Once named, the entities will need to navigate the steps of municipal restructuring, including forming new councils or expanding existing ones.
Revamped municipal governments should be in place by January 2023.