New Brunswick

It was a tough labour, but mayor celebrates birth of city of Miramichi 25 years later

While its birth was controversial, the mayor says it was worth it.

Several communities were forced to amalgamate in 1995, despite intense opposition

Twenty-five years ago, several communities were forced to amalgamate to become the city of Miramichi. Not everyone was happy at the time.

The city of Miramichi is marking its 25th birthday this year, but there were a lot of people who weren't celebrating in 1995 when the municipality was created.

The Liberal government of the day forced the amalgamation of a number of communities, including the towns of Newcastle and Chatham, despite a backlash from residents.

Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon was in elementary school when amalgamation took place, and he believes the controversial move actually gave name to a unity always felt by the various communities, which also included Douglastown, Nelson, Loggieville and Chatham Head.

"You know, we were all always Miramichiers, we were always united," said Lordon.

"So to me, you know, it's a formalization of what was and what continues to be."

Reports and recommendations

Amalgamation came about as the result of a 1992 report recommending the amalgamation of more municipalities in New Brunswick.

A number of those municipalities would later become Miramichi.

Then-premier Frank McKenna, who also was the MLA for what was once the riding of Chatham, agreed the communities should amalgamate but said he'd follow the recommendations of a separate panel looking at the Miramichi amalgamation.

'The reality is, we became a city because Premier Frank McKenna is from here and he wanted the area to become a city before he leaves,' former Miramichi Leader editor Rick MacLean said at the time of amalgamation. (Chris Young/CP)

In April 1994, that panel recommended amalgamation.

In a 1995 interview with CBC Midday, then-editor of the Miramichi Leader Rick MacLean said McKenna's connection to the area had a lot to do with the amalgamation.

"The reality is we became a city because Premier Frank McKenna is from here, and he wanted the area to become a city before he leaves," said MacLean.

'We had no choice'

While the city may be one big happy family now, back in 1994, there were a lot of people who didn't appreciate the change.

"I think it's stupid … What's wrong with the way it is now," said a young man speaking to CBC News at the time.

By May 1994 a group called Friends of the Miramichi had collected 2,500 signatures asking the provincial government to hold a vote on amalgamation.

'I think it's stupid … What's wrong with the way it is now?' asked a young resident before the Miramichi came into being. (CBC)

But that never happened and the new city was born on New Year's Day 1995.

"We had no choice," one man told CBC News at the time.

"The status quo was not one of the options."

At the time, Marcelle Mersereau, a Liberal MLA, said the province actively consulted with the communities over three years.

Then-Progressive Conservative leader Dennis Cochrane said the province should have held a vote on amalgamation. (CBC)

"[We] had sent out 999 pamphlets, to every household involved, explaining the process, explaining what was going on, inviting them to the open houses," said Mersereau.

But Dennis Cochrane, the Progressive Conservative leader at the time, said the province should have held a vote on amalgamation.

"I think the government's a bit remiss in not accepting the recommendations of the 2,500 people," said Cochrane.

"It represents over 10 per cent of the population that would be involved. And certainly it's every bit as significant, if not more than significant, than the 500 people that went to the open houses."

Habits die hard

While the city has been around for a quarter of a century and is named for the river that runs through it, self-described "passionate Miramichier" Paddy Quinn said some of the old ways still stick.

"If you were to ask me where I'm from, I will say Chatham first," said Quinn. 

"Obviously, I'm a Miramicher, but I will say Chatham. I don't think we've lost that identity of the neighbourhoods."

'You know, we were all always Miramichiers, we were always united,' said Adam Lordon, now the mayor of Miramichi. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Lordon admitted to also reverting to the pre-amalgamation names but said this isn't unique to Miramichi.

"When you're living in Toronto … you tell people you're from Scarborough or Etobicoke or the Danforth or Queen East," said Lordon.

"It's really the same thing. You know, we haven't lost our identity as we celebrate the history of the communities that are now neighborhoods within the city."

Adam Lordon is the Mayor of Miramichi. Paddy Quinn is a self-described "passionate Miramichier". 13:03

Lordon said the amalgamation has helped the city power through some "lean times" in northern New Brunswick.

"You know that there's been some tough economic times, like there's been in other communities, rural and northern communities in the province," said Lordon. 

"Being a city allows us to pool those resources and work on solutions together."

With files from Information Morning Moncton, Terry Seguin, Tina Srebotnjak & Kas Roussy

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