Conflicting chicken bylaws after amalgamation? N.B. officials say new councils can sort it out

·3 min read
Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason asked what happens when merging communities have conflicting bylaws.  (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)
Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason asked what happens when merging communities have conflicting bylaws. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)

With a few months before New Brunswick's sweeping local governance reforms take effect, MLAs questioned provincial officials Tuesday about how some of the changes will work.

The questions came as officials from the Department of Local Government and Local Governance Reform were appearing before the legislature's public accounts committee. One topic was how it works if two communities merge that have conflicting bylaws.

Andrea Anderson-Mason, PC MLA for Fundy The Isles Saint John West, said some areas that will become the community of Eastern Charlotte have a hotel tax, but others don't. Eastern Charlotte includes the Village of Blacks Harbour and Town of St. George.

"Another example might be something like the rules that we have around chickens," Anderson-Mason said.

"You know, the number of chickens that you're allowed in Blacks Harbour may not be the same as the number of chickens that you are allowed in St. George. When we are all the happy family of Eastern Charlotte, what are the implications?"

Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick

Ryan Donaghy, deputy minister of the department, said when the changes take effect Jan. 1, most existing rules will remain the same until changed by new councils.

"So they will have to prioritize whether they want a tourism levy first or the same number of chickens first," Donaghy said. "But that work, there's going to be a lot of that work done through 2023."

He said the provincially appointed facilitators are working with communities amalgamating to harmonize some of their bylaws, such as those for council procedures, that the minister will put in place.

The local governance reforms will see the number of entities like cities, towns, villages and local service districts slashed from 340 entities to 89 at the start of 2023.

In areas that will see significant changes, such as Eastern Charlotte, an election will be held Nov. 28 to fill council positions.

Donaghy said the new councils can opt to have different rules in different parts of the new municipalities.

"It doesn't mean that the rules need to be the same everywhere," he said.

Donaghy told the committee that there are areas that will have councils that previously didn't, so they will be holding training and orientation for newly elected officials "so it's not a year or two years of a learning curve."

Asked about the challenges of the reforms so far, he said the biggest has been communications. He said a lot of people have feared losing their community identity. He said postal addresses will remain the same and individual communities will retain their names.

"It's that governance structure and the name of the corporation that's changing," he said.

Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick

Megan Mitton, the Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, asked about land-use planning in the 12 new rural districts. They cover areas outside municipalities and will have elected advisory boards.

Mitton asked whether the minister will need to follow the advice from the elected representatives.

Donaghy said there will be a process in place to gather advice, but the ultimate decision remains with the minister.