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The New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton. Image: Brad Perry

New legislation would erode municipal authority: UMNB

By Brad Perry May 24, 2023 | 1:27 PM

Proposed new powers for New Brunswick’s local government minister are drawing concerns from municipalities.

The Higgs government introduced Bill 45, the Local Governance Commission Act, in the legislature last week.

Among other things, the proposed bill would allow the minister to amend or repeal any municipal bylaw passed by council.

Dan Murphy, executive director of the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB), said that is their biggest concern with the bill.

“That seems to be an erosion of municipal authority that we’ve heard from our members that they’re greatly concerned about,” Murphy said in an interview.

UMNB, the Cities of New Brunswick Association, and the Association Francophone des Municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick put out a joint news release Tuesday highlighting their concerns.

Murphy said there are concerns the provision undermines the roles of councillors duly elected by their citizens and would hurt the independence of local governments.

“All these bylaws that municipal governments pass have to go through council’s first, second and third reading, and there’s already a public process in place for it,” he said.

Adam Lordon, president of the Cities of New Brunswick Association, said it is critical that the government fix this section of the bill before it gets passed by the legislature.

“This section of the bill muddies the water and could cause some serious delays on important developments in our cities and in municipalities across the province,” Lordon, who is also the mayor of Miramichi, said in a news release.

The bill is scheduled to go before a legislative committee this week, and Murphy said he is hopeful the government will take their concerns into consideration.

While municipalities are concerned with this portion of the legislation, they are expressing support for other parts of it.

An independent commission would be created to manage the investigative and adjudicative aspects of local governance, such as investigations related to codes of conduct and conflicts of interest.

“Having an outside party to help adjudicate those concerns are certainly welcome news from our members,” said Murphy.

Minister responds to concerns

In a statement on Wednesday, Local Government Minister Daniel Allain said amending or repealing a bylaw would be a “last resort” for his department.

Allain said the move is meant to provide “a backstop to unintended consequences that would have impacts that are irreversible and provincially significant.”

“We don’t have to look far to see councils that made or were planning to make decisions that could hamper jobs, the economy and people’s way of life. There is a robust process to reviewing a bylaw, and that work should not be taken lightly,” Allain said in the statement.

The minister noted that backstops exist in other provinces, and his department worked with stakeholders to ensure a “New Brunswick-based solution”

“This is a balanced approach, and we will consider all feedback as this legislation is brought forward to committee,” said Allain.

Allain said his department will work with municipal associations to ensure the sections they have concerns about are well understood.


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