Did you receive a Notice of Public Meeting for Local Service District elections? If not, you may be in the same situation as the residents of Chamcook, New Brunswick.
Unincorporated areas of the Province are referred to as Local Service Districts (LSDs). Each of these LSDs once had the opportunity to form a Local Service District Advisory Committee, but that opportunity is not currently available, at least for the community of Chamcook, in New Brunswick’s southwest.
Although not meant for him, one Chamcook resident, Dr. Brian Glebe, received the Notice of Meeting regarding the upcoming elections of LSD advisory committees, and in speaking with neighbours, three of them decided to put their names forward for the committee.
As described on the Province’s website, the LSD Advisory committees are meant to “assist the department in providing local services and to ensure the input of residents. These committees work closely with the Department’s regional Local Services Managers by advising and consulting on local concerns.”
However, the three engaged community members, ready to answer the call of civic duty, understood from the response of the local provincial government representative, that the Chamcook LSD Advisory committee was ‘defunct,’ therefore there is no present opportunity to volunteer. Dr. Glebe expressed, “LSD activity is issue driven. In our region alone, Region 10, six of the 21 LSDs have become inactive, not from a lack of interest but a lack of issues. With the recent release of the Green Paper on Municipal Reform and its potential impact on residents of LSDs, there is now an issue that concerns us all.”
Further, the three understood that to re-establish an LSD advisory committee there needed to be a door-to-door ‘petition’ to gain the signatures of 25 LSD residents in support of the committee, and that this activity was not allowed during COVID. Dr. Glebe also learned, “The recent mailing of a Notice of Public Meeting to elect Advisory Committees in our region was only sent to postal codes for residents of active LSDs. The residents of the six inactive LSDs did not receive a notice of any kind, nor were we informed as to how to regain active status.”
Dr. Glebe described, “I, and others who tried to submit our names to offer as candidates, did not know that our LSD was inactive and consequently our names were rejected. To engage all LSD residents, the Notice of Public Meeting should have been mailed to all LSD postal codes with a list of both active and inactive LSDs and the mechanism for reinstatement of active status in time for the Advisory Committee election.”
Since his communications with the province’s representatives, Dr. Glebe has investigated the Act and has discovered that, in lieu of the 25 name LSD petition (which cannot be accomplished due to COVID restrictions) the Local Governance Act gives the Minister the right to call a meeting for the election of an Advisory Meeting irrespective of activity status. It would seem now, more than ever, as the Province pushes forward with local governance reform, voices of LSD residents should be welcome and encouraged.
Not even 2 weeks ago, the Provincial government released a green paper on the topic of local governance reform, and in Minister Allain’s opening comments, referring to those in LSDs, he highlighted, “Residents in those areas have very little say in the decisions made for their communities.” Some may argue that the announcement of the green paper would have been an excellent time engage communities with inactive advisory committees and encourage participation in local governance reform, complementary to Minister Allain’s call for engagement.
Disappointed, Dr. Glebe points out, “like me, thirty percent of New Brunswickers live in rural areas. We love the lifestyle (except the often poor internet service) and are proud to call NB home. As a group, our only connection to government is through our elected Local Service District (LSD) committee.” In this time of reform, the Province should consider that communications and the province’s willingness to engage, may play a large part in local governance outcomes. Dr. Glebe’s final comment on the matter was, “if this issue is province wide, then many rural New Brunswickers are being disenfranchised.”
Kim Reeder is a senior policy advisor with the RAVEN project at the University of New Brunswick who is involved in many rural community initiatives.