New Brunswick

The answer is 'No': Voters quash creation of York Rural Community

Thousands of voters west and northwest of Fredericton have rejected a proposal to form a rural community outside the capital city.

Proposal would have brought 8,000 residents in central New Brunswick into one municipality

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

Thousands of voters west and northwest of Fredericton have rejected a proposal to form a rural community outside the capital city.

On Monday, residents voted 2,066 to 1,234 against the formation of the York Rural Community.

The proposed community would have taken in a wide area of central New Brunswick.

With a population of nearly 8,000, the community would have included Islandview, Keswick and Douglas, on the outskirts of Fredericton, and extended north to Napadogan, Hainesville and Deersdale.

But the plebiscite results mean the local service district model will continue in those areas.

David Coburn, chair of the York Rural Community project, said he was disappointed a new community was rejected.

"At the end of the day we live in a democracy, and the people have spoken and they prefer to go with the status quo," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

But Coburn said a lot of time and effort went into the project over the past two years to educate people on the proposed project.

David Coburn, chair of the York Rural Community Project, says he was disappointed by the results Monday. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

Coburn voted in favour of the York Rural Community Project because he wanted to know where his tax dollars were being spent with the help of audited financial statements. He said local service districts used to receive that service, which stopped about five years ago.

He also wanted to have a voice in discussions over the new Playhouse theatre that is expected to either expand or be built fresh in Fredericton.

"Now that gets left up to the minister and that's what the people have chosen to do," he said.

Over the years, he said, the York Rural Community Project has not been a popular topic for some people, who were concerned about tax increases and a budgeted per diem for a mayor and seven councillors if the municipality were  created.

Moving forward

Despite the loss, Coburn said he was still pleased by the 55 per cent voter turnout.

Coburn said it's the end of the project for now, but he's hopeful there will be another effort.

"We'll just have to wait and see what comes out of it in the future," he said.

Paul Reynolds was pleased by Monday's voter turnout, which he felt symbolized just how many people were against the the municipality. 

"We had a very definitive vote return on it, to the 'No,' side to make a nice clear message," Reynolds said. 

Reynolds, who lives on Scotch Lake Road near Mactaquac, voted against the proposal because he felt the communities it would have taken in were caught in a large geographical area. People in outlying areas also felt they weren't going to get anything of value out of their increased tax dollars. 

A study prior to the vote said the York Rural Community would've had a population of nearly 8,000 people and a property tax base of close to $510 million.

"We just didn't feel we needed a mayor and council in general," he said. 

But Reynolds is hopeful the communities involved in the vote can reconcile after the two-year debate. 

"I just hope even after this vote, all the areas that have been involved in it … can now put this behind us and reconcile as our each individual communities and neighbours," Reynolds said. "This has put quite a rift in some areas."

If the Yes side had won, Paul Harpelle, a spokesperson for Elections New Brunswick, said the first election would have been held in May 2018. 

There were just over 6,000 eligible voters for the York plebiscite, he said.

Meanwhile, the communities of McAdam, Nigadoo, Petit-Rocher and Rexton elected one councillor each.

  • Marcel Levesque has been elected mayor of St-André.
  • Jody David Robinson won a council seat in McAdam.
  • Lucien Doucet was elected to council in Nigadoo. 
  • Albert Corcoran is the new councillor in Rexton.
  • Annik Noël won a council seat in Petit-Rocher.
  • Daniel Lanteigne was acclaimed mayor of Grande-Anse.