The metropolitan problem in Greater Saint John
University of New Brunswick
The post-WWII advent of mass automobile ownership, and the suburbanization that came with it, has spurred the dispersion of the population of many city-regions. Demographic shifts such as this led to metropolitan regions effectively encompassing multiple municipalities. This created challenges to the coordination of public administration across the city-region; an example of sociological change bringing pressure on political institutions. In Greater Saint John, fragmentation of the metropolitan region has been a longstanding issue. Upon the recommendations of the 1963 Goldenberg Report, which cited the “metropolitan problem” concerning a fragmented Greater Saint John, the City of Saint John was amalgamated with the City of Lancaster and a portion of the Parish of Simonds. However, continued suburbanization in the Kennebecasis Valley in subsequent decades has again brought the problems of fragmentation to the fore, with the “metropolitan problem” once again a key issue. This study engages with the Saint John “metropolitan problem” by drawing upon interviews with Saint John policy leaders, widespread document analysis (specifically reports on local government reform from the 1960s to the 2000s), and relevant legislation. By bringing together these different sources, an assessment of the state of local government in Greater Saint John is generated. Particular emphasis is placed upon the administrative issues facing a suburbanizing region: namely, the challenges of fragmentation. The study considers in particular detail “regionalist” approaches to suburbanisation – of especial importance for New Brunswick because of the legacy of the “Equal Opportunity reforms” that took place during the 1960s, as well as the 1967 regional amalgamation of Greater Saint John. ‘Old regionalism’ promotes direct action by provincial/state governments to consolidate metropolitan regions. ‘New regionalism’, by contrast, seeks a more consensual model, bringing together local stakeholders, usually stopping short of full metropolitan consolidation. New Brunswick, during the 1960s, saw direct intervention by the provincial government to radically overhaul local government as part of the Equal Opportunity reforms and in amalgamating Greater Saint John. In the 2000s, however, the provincial government has taken a markedly less interventionist role, instead relying more on local initiative. This raises concerns about the slow (for some, the stalled) pace of reform, especially where local consensus cannot be reached. This study argues that regionalist thought can provide perspective on this change in the approach to local government reform in New Brunswick, as well as offering consideration for possible future avenues of action.