Municipal reform looms in 2011: Alward
Premier David Alward is raising the spectre of municipal amalgamation as a way to cut back on the duplication of local services.
Alward told the crowd at his annual State of the Province speech on Thursday that the province can no longer support the number of municipal bodies as it has currently.
"As I speak, there are well over 300 municipalities and local service districts in New Brunswick. That's way too many. It's unsustainable," Alward said.
"So we need to look at changing the culture and structure of local government. We need to look at ways we can consolidate, collaborate and reduce duplication. And that's why our government will begin working with New Brunswickers on improving the system this year."
This isn't the first time Alward has raised the possibility of municipal reform.
Alward said during the election campaign that if he were elected that it would be important to revisit elements of a report written by Jean-Guy Finn for the former Liberal government.
Specifically, Finn said the number of local governing bodies must be cut to between 50 and 55 from the 421 that exist now.
In his report, Finn argued the provincial government should have between 50 and 55 municipalities that would each have a minimum of 4,000 residents, or approximately $200 million in property tax assessment revenue.
Finn also recommended the New Brunswick government hand over additional property tax room so local governments could collect more money to pay for services.
Those larger municipalities would then collaborate on the delivery of certain services, such as policing, land-use planning and economic development.
The Liberals shelved the Finn report. At the time, the Liberals argued it would be too expensive to implement.
Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch, who is a former mayor of Riverview, has also floated the possibility of municipal reform after being named to cabinet.
But Fitch said he would not force municipal amalgamations.