The Alward government will move forward with a two-year plan to tackle local governance reform, according to Wednesday's throne speech.

The Progressive Conservative government used its second throne speech to draw attention to the long-standing problem of local governance reform.

"Our society has changed significantly in the past 45 years, but the governance system which supports citizens at the local level remains mostly unchanged," the throne speech said.

The throne speech said citizens "value the heritage and tradition evident in our communities."

"But we also know they cannot be sustained into the future without a new approach to governance and service delivery," the throne speech said.

Premier David Alward agreed during last year’s election campaign that local governance reform was needed and then he underscored the same message in his state of the province speech in January.

Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch toured the province earlier this year to consult citizens, groups and local councils about how such reform could be implemented.

The Tories have ruled out forced amalgamations but the throne speech is preparing citizens for change.

Alward reiterated on Wednesday that he will not force municipalities to merge.

"People can rest assured that there will be municipal elections this coming year and they can be rest assured that there will be no forced amalgamations," Alward said.

The two-year action plan, outlined in the throne speech, will address several elements:

  • Bring transparency to property assessments and taxation
  • Create a new model for community-governed regional service delivery
  • Build a more equitable community funding mechanism
  • Modernize legislation to help support local and regional decision making

Reforming local governance provisions is a delicate file for provincial governments.

Former premier Shawn Graham appointed Jean-Guy Finn, a former top New Brunswick civil servant, to study the issue of local government.

The Finn report called for a reduction of local governing bodies to about 50 from 421.

The Graham government shelved the contentious plan before the election campaign, saying it would be too costly to implement.