New Brunswick

Sussex Corner downplays merger talk

Sussex Corner Mayor Eric Cunningham is downplaying the possibility his village will be amalgamating with the neighbouring town of Sussex despite an upcoming meeting to discuss the issue.

Sussex Corner Mayor Eric Cunningham is downplaying the possibility his village will be amalgamating with the neighbouring town of Sussex despite an upcoming meeting to discuss the issue.

The village mayor said Sussex Corner is a very long way from amalgamating with Sussex, but the two municipal councils are still planning to hold a meeting to entertain the possibility of a future merger.

Cunningham said no one in his small southern New Brunswick village should read much into a meeting his council will hold with their counterparts in Sussex.

"It's not one of the top priorities with the village. Our residents never gave us such a mandate to do such a thing," he said.

The two small communities have populations of fewer than 5,000 residents. Sussex's population estimate is 4,241 and Sussex Corner has roughly 1,413 residents, according to Statistics Canada.

Premier David Alward and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch have both indicated that municipal government is an important issue that must be addressed by the Progressive Conservative government in 2011.

However, the premier and cabinet minister have both ruled out forced amalgamations in the province.

The former Liberal government asked Jean-Guy Finn, a former senior civil servant, to write a report on the future of local governance. The Finn report called for a massive reduction of municipalities  to between 50 and 55 from the 421 that exist now.

Fitch held a series of public meetings  earlier this year to discuss municipal governance.

Sussex prompted the latest discussion with Sussex Corner surrounding the municipalities' future.

Sussex pays for an arena and other recreation facilities enjoyed by people in both communities.

Cunningham, however, said a potential next step would be a study to find out what benefits would come to his community. But he cautions even that may not happen.

Cunningham said what can be considered is greater co-operation between the communities.

Rothesay and Quispamsis have also raised the possibility of greater co-operation  but have closed the door on merger.