New Brunswick

Fearing forced amalgamation, Pointe-du-Chêne considers becoming a village

Pointe-du-Chêne residents are being asked whether they want the local service district to become a village to avoid forced amalgamation with surrounding communities through the province's pending local governance reforms.

Minister says province to slash local governance entities from 340 to fewer than 100

The Pointe-du-Chêne local service district includes Parlee Beach and cottages and homes south and west of the beach. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Pointe-du-Chêne residents are being asked whether their local service district should become a village to avoid forced amalgamation with surrounding communities through the province's pending local governance reform.

The Pointe-du-Chêne local service district includes the area south and west of Parlee Beach. It is surrounded by the town of Shediac and the rural community of Beaubassin East.

Odette Babineau, chair of the Pointe-du-Chêne LSD advisory committee, said they want to be able to decide their own future instead of being a small part of a larger community. 

"The benefits of becoming a village is that we can kind of map out our future and budget for things that are essential to our community to protect us from erosion, storm surges and the reality of living in a coastal area, which right now are not being addressed," Babineau said in an interview Friday. 

The New Brunswick government appears poised to upend the local service district system, in place since the 1960s, which sees local decisions made by a provincial minister instead of a locally elected council.

Province to slash local governance entities

A white paper laying out the government's plan is expected to be released next Thursday followed by legislation to enact the changes in December.

"Restructuring will be coming," Daniel Allain, the province's minister of local governance reform, told reporters Friday.

Allain said the government will cut the number of local governance entities from 340 to fewer than 100. 

Those entities currently include 236 local service districts, eight cities, 26 towns, 61 villages, a regional municipality and eight rural communities. 

Daniel Allain, New Brunswick's minister of local governance reform, says the province will cut the number of local government entities from 340 to fewer than 100 as part of plan he'll unveil Nov. 18. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The reduction to fewer than 100 suggests some degree of amalgamation will take place.

Allain spoke to municipal leaders during an Oct. 28 meeting. The Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick tweeted comments attributed to Allain that said the number of entities following reforms would be between 50 and 100. The tweet was later deleted.

Babineau said they've requested the province hold a vote to gauge the community's interest in becoming a village, but that was denied. 

Fearing forced amalgamation, a public notice was recently distributed to Pointe-du-Chêne residents. It asks them to weigh in on becoming a village or rural community instead of joining Shediac or Beaubassin East.

Babineau said about 200 people have responded in some form over the last six days, with 98 per cent supporting becoming a village.

Babineau said the notice was paid for by a group of people opposed to amalgamation. However, feedback is being collected by the LSD committee. Babineau said she personally supports becoming a village. 

However, the LSD doesn't meet the province's threshold to incorporate. A Sept. 16 letter from Allain to the LSD says a tax base of $200 million or more or a population of 4,000 is needed, though there can be exceptions.

Pointe-du-Chêne has a regular population of about 800 and a tax base closer to $173 million, Babineau said. She hopes developments occurring in the area will push it over the $200 million tax base mark. 

"We feel that we have the financial capacity to administer an incorporated village," she said. 

The feedback gathered from residents is expected to be given to Allain on Monday, though Babineau fears decisions have already been made.

"We all have a sense that our destiny is already — the ink is already dry and there's not much we can do about whatever they're going to design," Babineau said.

Babineau said one concern with being forced to merge with Shediac, for example, would be that the town doesn't have a ward system. That means Pointe-du-Chêne wouldn't be guaranteed a council seat.

"We would not be assured a vote," she said. "And 800 votes among 7,000 would probably not become one person sitting at a council. We would become a forgotten entity."

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