New Brunswick

Yes or No: In York County, voters openly pick sides on new rural community

More than 6,000 people head to the polls Monday to vote Yes or No to the proposed York Rural Community, which takes in a wide swath of central New Brunswick.

Farmer says country way of life at stake in Monday plebiscite

Butch Nason says he will be voting no for the creation of the York Rural Community. (Shaun Waters/CBC)

More than 6,000 people will head to the polls Monday to vote Yes or No to the proposed York Rural Community.

The proposed community takes in a wide swath of central New Brunswick. It would include from the outskirts of Fredericton, starting at Islandview, Keswick and Douglas and extending north to Napadogan, Hainesville and Deersdale.

I don't want anybody to tell me what I can and can't do in my own yard.- Andrew Lovell, farmer

And you don't have to venture far to gauge the mood of the electorate. 

People wear their intentions openly. Yes and No signs dot the lawns or have been plastered to homes, garage doors, mailboxes and hydro poles along the roads.

The stretches of Yes signs, mingle with gatherings of No signs. 

Butch Nason operates a farm machinery and repair business  on Route 105 in Douglas.

You can't miss the No sign near his driveway. 

Costs too much money

As far as Nason sees it, a new rural community means nothing but more government in his life and he'll have nothing to do with it.

"I'm not for this vote at all," Mason said. "I think it's going to cost us too much money. They're trying to tell me it's going to be cheaper, but I don't see how they can get more government employees and be cheaper."

Right now, like others in the large region, Nason is governed by a local service district, where historically taxes are cheaper because services are bare minimum and big decisions are left to bureaucrats in the Department of Environment and Local Government. 

Nason likes it that way.

Sign for and against the creation of the York Rural Community are plastered on homes, businesses, lawns and hydro poles in the area. (Shaun Waters/CBC)

"My taxes are high enough now and I figure they're going to go higher because they're wanting to build a fire hall and town hall and all that stuff," Nason said.

"Yeah, that's what they want to do. Everything they get is going to cost more money. Most of the people that live up here come from town because the taxes were too high town and now, how short their memories are. They forgot all about that."

And, Nason said, once a new rural community council is in place, there will be no end to the headaches. 

"They get going to these meetings, they'll be wanting streetlights, sidewalks and everything else. It'll just get out of hand again."

Over on the Yes side

You couldn't find a more divergent opinion than inside the barn a few kilometres away at River View Orchards in Keswick Ridge. 

It's where farmer Andrew Lovell keeps his office.

Lovell is voting Yes and poses proudly for a photo beside the Yes sign in the yard outside his large barn.

River View Orchards is a going concern for the young business owner who was voted, along with his wife Jennifer, Outstanding Farmer of the Year in 2016 in the Atlantic region.

The couple grow apples for the commercial market, supplying large grocery chains such as Sobeys, operate a U-pick, wagon rides, educational tours and a corn maze for visiting families.

According to Lovell, who also sits on the area's local service district, a Yes vote for a new Rural Community of York will ensure the survival of the country way of life in this part of the province. 

It's where family traditions and self-reliance are the most important  things in life, he explained. 

Business owner Andrew Lovell says he supports the creation of the York Rural Community for his area. (Shaun Waters/CBC)

With a rural community government, decisions can be made close to home, Lovell said. And  people can control their  own futures, rather than be under the control of some far-away office. 

"I don't want anybody to tell me what I can and can't do in my own yard," said Lovell, "I don't want somebody to come in here and say, 'Well you can do this and you can do that. You can't run a tractor before seven o'clock in the morning or after 7 o'clock at night.'

"I don't want that. And I think as a rural community we have people here, my neighbours, they understand that and they support us."

Lovell said he can't imagine that kind of understanding of the country way of life will happen if control of the area is eventually allowed to slip away to the nearest municipality.

"If we're tied somehow to city hall in Fredericton, they don't understand," Lovell said.

"So they get a complaint, they'll just put a bylaw in place, that's it. It's game over and that's why there's strength in a rural community, and I think if we stick together with people from these rural areas running our communities we're going to be happier and safer.

"And we'll be able to protect our lifestyle."

Vote Monday

The polls for the vote open Monday at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. 

The eight polling stations are:

  • North Cardigan United Church.
  • Burtts Corner Lions Club.
  • Zealand United Penticostal Church.
  • Mactaquac Baptist Church.
  • Keswick Ridge Community Hall.
  • Douglas Baptist Church.
  • Aggie's Restaurant.

Results will be posted on the Elections NB website but officials are not sure how long it will take to tabulate the results from more than a dozen communities.

If people vote to form a new rural community with a vote of 50 per cent plus one, the first elected council meeting would take place in May 2018. 

A No vote maintains the status quo.