Saturday, 12 August 2017


Lower Queensbury

"If you want to go far, go together."


Ages ago when I was a political science student at university, Local Government was the course to be avoided. We were much more interested in national and international affairs. How boring it seemed to study the mundane functions of municipalities and counties – policing, fire protection, water and sewer services, street lighting, recreation, dog catching – the humdrum services with which the public interacts daily. We were happy to let somebody else manage that routine stuff while we operated at the higher levels where the bigger, more significant issues were addressed.
It took years of life experience to recognize the value of local control over local services. The nearer the government is to the ground, the more likely the community is to be secure, cared for and motivated. 


In rural New Brunswick we have become quite passive about government control. While many of our cities and towns have active and vibrant municipal governments, rural communities have been content to be supervised by provincial bureaucracies. We now expect to be served by existing government departments and staff. But since he who has the gold pays the piper, as they say, the result is that while government provides the services, it also decides what these services will be, who will receive them, and what resources will be dedicated to them. We don’t think of it as authoritarian government because we can change the ruling party every so often, so we just tend to drift along under the paternal eye of the province until election time rolls around again. But we follow the directives from Fredericton and our tax money is spent on their priorities, not ours. It wasn’t always like this in rural areas.


Two or three generations ago, country folk organized their own schools, built small hospitals, cleared their own roads in the winter, offered charity to the poor. They were not dependent on a higher level of government for their wellbeing. But with the centralization of social services in Fredericton, it became unnecessary to act locally because resources were more equitably distributed from central offices. Community initiative withered. Our province is now seeing a renaissance of local government in rural areas through the establishment of Rural Communities which provide the infrastructure for local decision-making and action. Some of them, such as Upper Miramichi and Hanwell, are developing dynamic strategies which stimulate both the direct provision of basic services and economic growth.


These structures have given a voice to citizens who used to have no other option than to complain to their MLA, or to go hat-in-hand to Fredericton, begging for something they needed locally but which was not always on the provincial agenda. We are fed up with imploring; there must be a way to serve ourselves where we live while preserving governmental links.


Community resurgence is a double-edged sword, however. Citizens may wish to take matters into their own hands and develop community-based systems that are more responsive and cost-efficient, through a collaboration of local government and non-profit organizations. But local control means local responsibility, which demands dedicated involvement in civic affairs.
Engaged citizenship includes information gathering and reflection as well as effort. It’s easier to let somebody else think and act on our behalf, but then we have to take what we get. Local governance is challenging; it requires shared interests and concerns, and a willingness to cooperate. Keeping our government as close and accountable as possible protects our quality of life. As the proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Sue Rickard – Lower Queensbury

* This article appeared in the Telegraph Journal on August 11, 2017.  It is presented here with permission of the author.




Friday, 11 August 2017


Island View



"we are simply talking about sharing the cost of administration."


I don’t think anyone would disagree that Napadogan and Smithfield are different communities. They drive different roads, they have different neighbours, they visit different parks, and they frequent different businesses. The same could be said for Keswick Ridge and Douglas, or Island View and Upper Kingsclear. Regardless of location, this observation applies to all the communities, as each community within the YRC project is unique.

So why do we generalize each other with “North side” or “South side” labels? The river is a meaningless and arbitrary divide. Some residents drive across it every day, some do not. Lumping communities on each side of it into groups is unfair to those communities.

I can hear the cries now, “But that is exactly what the York Rural Community is doing!”. At the end of the day, if the YRC proposal is successful, the residents of each community of interest will still lead the same lives, drive the same roads, have the same neighbours, and receive the same services. The most important difference will be that we are united about the interests we do have in common: The rural way of life, shared services, a desire for cost effective representation, and a need to manage our own affairs in our own communities of interest.

When people think of a municipality they think of it as one community of interest, but that is almost never the case. Even Fredericton, as long as it has been established, has had a multitude of communities of interest and to try to eliminate these would be impossible. Sharing our future with other communities does seem daunting, but it is already happening. The services we pay for are already shared across the project area. Fire provides mutual aid no matter the side of the river, policing is based out of Keswick and covers the entire YRC area, dog catching is provided to the entire area by the Fredericton SPCA, garbage collection is provided to everyone in the area, and each area has its own recreation council.

As a province, New Brunswick is in bad shape. There are many statistics to show this but the most alarming is that we are Canada's only shrinking population, with projections indicating it will only get worse. We need to create communities where people have a say, with affordable administration costs for people and businesses, where we can attract youth and keep seniors in the area.

At the end of the day, we are simply talking about sharing the cost of administration. The communities in the area will be free to pursue their own goals, but with the added benefits that come with being an incorporated entity with representation. We must stop thinking of only ourselves and become stronger together.


Lee Everett – Island View


Sunday, 6 August 2017


"What an Opportunity!"

Dear Editor, 

I’m responding to a recent letter by Moses Fleming of Keswick Ridge advising affected residents to vote “no” on forming a “rural community” with a Mayor and Councillors because he’s concerned taxes will go up. I will pass on my experience as one of the active proponents of incorporation of New Maryland over 25 years ago and serving as the community’s first Mayor from 1991-1995. While I suspect there are some technical differences between being incorporated as a Village as New Maryland was and a “rural community” as is being considered in Mr Fleming’s area, the same argument (ie. taxes will go up because of incorporation) was used in New Maryland and they were wrong!

Taxes did not go up (adjusted for inflation). The DIFFERENCE was that more of the money stayed in the community rather than going to the Province to spend in Caraquet, St. Stephen, Grand Falls, Port Elgin etc. It meant much of the property tax dollars residents pay the Province each year was spent by community representatives for the good of their own citizens. The first year of New Maryland incorporation saw Council assign the SAME PROPERTY TAX RATE as was in affect the previous year as an unincorporated Local Service District. 

We still provided police and fire protection, garbage collection, hired private contractors to plow and maintain roads, made our recreation centre accessible to disabled individuals, fix up Victoria Hall (the oldest public building in the Village), offer recreation services, were able to apply for Infrastructure grants (something unincorporated areas were not eligible for) to upgrade roads, water and sewage facilities and construct sidewalks, hire students for recreation and ground maintenance and give New Maryland a much stronger voice in regional issues with no significatn real interest in property taxes.  

The four years I was Mayor of New Maryland, that community had one of the lowest municipal tax rates in the Province. I suspect that is still the case as succeeding Councils have spent wisely. As long as that happens (and if you’re concerned, run for the first Council), having an organized local government will be a good thing. Those areas that reject that option are just giving their tax dollar to another community. Surely, that is not going to benefit people in Keswick Ridge and surrounding communities. 

I hope people vote “yes”. What an opportunity!


David Wiezel
New Maryland


*  This letter was sent to the Editor of the Daily Gleaner.  It was was edited and then published on August 4, 2017.  It has been used here by permission of the author.  

Mr. Wiezel lived in Kingsclear for 11 years and represented the Kingsclear area on the District 26 School Board for two terms in the 1980s.  He also ran a summer recreation project in the Keswick Ridge area for two summers in the 1970s.  



Friday, 4 August 2017





Advantages and Disadvantages of Adopting a Rural Community Model


There are recognized advantages of adopting a rural community model for local services delivery including:

-Ability to elect council members from the local community 
-Stronger voice 
-Strengthening of community identity 
-Gradual assumption of the responsibility for the provision of local services 
-By-law and resolution making authority
-Local office and staff 
-Local decisions about budgets and expenditures 
-Greater negotiating/lobbying power 
-Dedicated access to gas tax funding 
-Greater potential for economic development 
-Local land use planning 
-Decision making power of a Council

Similarly, there are recognized disadvantages of adopting a rural community model for local services delivery including:

-Increase in taxes 
-Concern about restrictions placed on land use 
-Concern about the holders of power and control 
-Us versus them (potential competition between communities within the rural community)
-Perceived loss of community identity 

-Fear of change


Thursday, 3 August 2017




"...I am still not convinced that the rural community model is the best model. "


Hello,

I listened to the interview on the CBC radio earlier this week where it was suggested that anyone opposed to the York Rural Community concept had not read the feasibility study.  In other words, Mr. Coburn suggested that if you do not agree with the rural community concept being put forth by the committee, you are ill informed.  Rubbish!

One resident (Eddie MacKinnon) responded to the CBC interview and the comments made by Mr. Coburn.  In his “Tweet” to CBC Radio, Mr. MacKinnon indicated that he had read the document in question and he added “did not like what I have read!” and concluded with hashtags:  #onesideonly #FakeNews and #steering.  Like Mr. MacKinnon I take exception to the comment made by Mr. Coburn as he indicated that only people that were “not informed” and/or had not read the Feasibility Study disagree with the rural community concept being proposed by the steering committee.  Like Mr. MacKinnon, I have read the feasibility study (in my case three times), I have also attended three of the public meetings and I am still not convinced that the rural community model is the best model.  I am also of the opinion that the feasibility study was one sided and did not explore all options in a way that would allow residents to consider more than one model being put forward by the steering committee.

By reading the feasibility study one can quickly see that the steering committee is truly making an attempt at steering the ship to one conclusion and one conclusion only, however having a dissenting opinion does not mean that we are ill informed or unread.   

Frank LeBlanc
Tay Creek



Tuesday, 1 August 2017


"...we can serve our own best interests..."

Interesting bubbles are appearing on the surface of our social policy soup, like those in a pot of water at the boiling point. The heat is being turned up on governments to do a better job of meeting the needs of people and communities; anger and frustration are erupting more frequently. Simultaneously, however, there is creeping doubt that governments can actually perform to our expectations. We can pressure our officials for more comprehensive and efficient services, but there are limits to their ability to deliver.
We want action, not more political promises which evaporate after each election. So we are becoming restless and more willing to take matters into our own hands, out of irritation with slow, distant and bureaucratic government responses. Nobody really wants that pot to boil over into confrontation; there must be a more rational and timely way to provide public services at the grassroots where they are needed.

Years ago, communities took care of themselves because government was not a significant presence in their lives. But such an imbalance developed in the quality of life between the richer and the poorer that government stepped in to address injustices in social services such as education and health. The Equal Opportunity program of the 1970’s levelled the playing field, but it also undermined the autonomy of communities by removing vital responsibilities from resident citizens. The provision of services gravitated to provincial and federal governments; local government was constrained and local initiative withered. Today we rely on these governments to an extent which is beyond their capacity to achieve with current structures and resources.

There are many harbingers of change emerging in the simmering stew, but two are especially close to the boil in New Brunswick today. One is home care; the other is the development of Rural Communities. Though they seem unrelated, they are bubbles in the same pot; both issues are components of a community-based resurgence that could change the face of the province.

Our population is aging; most seniors want to remain in their own homes as long as possible. This is not only the healthiest option, it is also the most cost effective for taxpayers, as well as being the source of hundreds of useful local jobs. The next best thing to family care is community care. The government is currently designing a certification program for senior care workers; there are hundreds of jobs in home care going begging now which could be consolidated into a community-based system to provide services for seniors and work for professional caregivers where they live. This challenge demands immediate action.

Another major bubble is the creation of Rural Communities. The provincial government is offering support for the development of a municipal type of local government infrastructure in rural areas where requested by residents. In the regions where a Rural Community has been established, local autonomy is flourishing along with increasing citizen involvement in the economic and social well being of the community. People are getting to know their neighbours and relearning how to manage their own affairs and make decisions which affect them directly. This model, like community-based senior care, is both efficient and cost-effective because it engages people where they live, connecting them directly to the service providers on whom they depend.

Our seniors are desperate. Our rural lifestyle is threatened. We need to ensure that what we value most is protected under our own control. By stepping up and re-taking our responsibilities as communities, we can serve our own best interests while reducing the temperature of frustration and the risks of increasing turbulence.

Sue Rickards - Lower Queensbury