Moncton council wants more time to decide positions on municipal reform
Councillors say letter with 18 bullet points on what the city supports is too vague
Councillors in the province's largest city want more time to decide Moncton's positions on local governance reform, including whether to merge communities.
The New Brunswick government is holding consultations on reforms, with some changes expected to be introduced later this year.
During Monday's council meeting, staff asked councillors to approve a letter the city will send to the province outlining its positions on reforms ahead of a June 24 submission deadline.
"Reading this, I didn't think there was enough meat on the bones here," Coun. Monique LeBlanc said of the three-page letter.
"There weren't any specific recommendations, anything that really applied to Moncton."
Coun. Daniel Bourgeois suggested holding off approving the letter until councillors can have a more detailed debate.
"If we don't do this properly, we risk suffering the consequences over the next 10 to 15 years," Bourgeois said.
Councillors unanimously supported a motion by Coun. Shawn Crossman to delay approval of the letter and discuss it at another meeting within 30 days.
Marc Landry, the city manager, told council he would see if the province will allow the city more time to submit its letter.
The letter has 18 bullet points on topics like community restructuring, regional collaboration, land use planning and taxation.
The first bullet point asks the province to "ensure less duplication of services by reducing the number of local government entities," without elaboration.
There are 340 such entities in the province, including cities, towns, villages and unincorporated local service districts.
Bourgeois and Coun. Susan Edgett said the letter leaves it unclear what Moncton would specifically support, with Bourgeois asking during the meeting if it means they'd be open to merging with other nearby communities like Dieppe or Riverview.
Amalgamation has been controversial and there has been little public discussion of the idea at Moncton council.
Mayor Dawn Arnold told CBC News after the meeting she wouldn't comment specifically on whether she supports merging with other surrounding communities, saying the position will be decided by council.
She said Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe already work together on services like policing, transit and water and sewer.
However, she said there are too many elected officials for the population of the three communities.
She compared Toronto's 2.9 million residents represented by 25 councillors and a mayor to Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview. The three communities, with about 116,000 residents in 2016, are represented by 25 councillors and three mayors.
"At a certain point, it's not sustainable," Arnold said of the number of elected officials. "What does that look like? I don't know. How do we keep the unique cultures of communities? I don't know. But we do have to find a way forward."
Among the other points the letter says Moncton supports are:
- Take steps to ensure all New Brunswickers have elected official/democratic representation;
- Allow optional mechanisms for cities to deal with enforcement challenges, such as by allowing more power for community safety officers;
- Ensure no services are "downloaded" to municipalities without consultation and funding;
- Greater ability for regional service delivery that considers cost-sharing and provides those with a greater interest have a proportional say in decision-making;
- Establish a provincial planning framework that can deal with various issues like urban sprawl, school site planning, climate change and coastal development;
- Address "exploitation of our system" that allows people to live just outside municipal boundaries and use municipal services without paying taxes for those services;
- Ensuring cities aren't responsible for "subsidizing the infrastructure deficit of the province."
City staff told councillors the points are similar to those in letters they expect Fredericton and Saint John to send to the province.