Majority backs N.B. municipal reform: poll
Liberals, 4 mayors attack PC leader on municipal reform stance
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | 6:46 AM ET
PC Leader David Alward is coming under fire from Liberals and some city mayors for his talk of revisiting the local government reforms in Jean-Guy Finn's 2008 report. (CBC)Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is being criticized for opening the door to municipal reform but a CBC poll suggests most New Brunswickers would support a local government overhaul.
Alward said last week that the provincial government "can't afford to let the Finn report sit on the shelf somewhere."
A report by Jean-Guy Finn, the former commissioner on the future of local governance, surfaced as an election issue last week. In an essay Finn wrote for CBC News he said the next government must adopt his report, which called for merging the province's 421 governing bodies down to about 50.
Four suburban mayors near Saint John blasted Alward on Monday for endorsing the idea.
But those mayors appear to be offside with public opinion.
A Corporate Research Associates poll commissioned by the CBC and L'Acadie Nouvelle said 57 per cent of respondents believed the comprehensive municipal reform demanded by the Finn report should be acted on.
Meanwhile, 16 per cent said they opposed the idea and 20 per cent of those people polled said they were not familiar with the Finn report.
The survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates between Sept. 15 and 18 with 1,005 New Brunswick voters. The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.
Jean-Guy Finn, the former commissioner on the future of local governance, said in a CBC News election analysis last Thursday the next government must act on his 2008 report. (CBC)While Alward said he was open to following the Finn report, the Liberals have continued distancing themselves from the Finn report, which they commissioned.
Premier Shawn Graham shelved the Finn report hours after it was released in December 2008, citing the $88-million pricetag as being too hefty during a recession.
Graham said last week he still doesn't think moving forward with the Finn report is wise while the economy is struggling.
Liberal candidates are already trying to pile onto Alward for his musings on municipal reform.
Liberal candidate Jack Keir criticized Alward on Twitter over the potential ramifications of implementing the Finn report.
"So you agree with Alward that Rothesay and Quispamsis should be part of Saint John?" Keir said in a Twitter message.
Keir called for a debate to be held into the Finn report.
The Tories were sensitive to the political realities of municipal reform in their annual general meeting held before the election.
Alward's PC Party passed a policy against mergers last fall and Wayne Steeves, a long-time MLA, told convention delegates it was important to take a clear stand against amalgamations.
"We want people in New Brunswick to know there is a difference between Liberals and Conservatives," Steeves said in the annual meeting.