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An Election is in the Air

As the fall approaches, it is time for another round of provincial elections. The province is in a tough but still hopeful situation, people throwing around money and making promises that will make them look popular and ruthlessly attacking their opponents.

I’m going to make a list of items that I consider a priority for the next government.

1) Remove the ban from walking down the street with open liquor. There is no real public safety impact here, and littering would be of little impact as the empties will quickly be retrieved.

2) Rename the Saint John River the “Saint John / Wolastoq River”, it would only cost 50ish signs and would make everyone happy. Also, please the indigenous peoples in the area.

3) Within 5 years, eliminate 10 schools. Even if you have to build new modern 20th century buildings.

4) Change legislation to ensure there are no more than 6 levels of management between the minister and the front line staff in every department and agency.

5) Change the way we do municipalities. Naming streets, municipal planning, recreation, transportation, by-laws etc are what makes a community and councils should be limited to those things. Protective services should not be at the municipal level. There should be large regional elected service boards that run protective/regional services.

6) Reduce 10 municipalities. There are too many for the size of the Province.

7) Modernization of the delivery of government services. It is completely ridiculous that you still have to play phone tag with the receptionist to get appointments at the hospital and be called by 3 different departments for the same procedure. Also that your medical information is in silos that don’t allow your doctor to know the whole story, and allow electronic filing of prescriptions so you are not given conflicting drugs, and reduce the addictions.

8) Be ambitious and strive to have Bilingualism as a requirement of Graduation for all students of New Brunswick. “switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.” (Irish Times, 27 March 2018)

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Please Don’t End Me

Today, I was Googling myself to see what others were writing about me and one of the first things I read was the following tweet.

When I first read it I was a little afraid that my country had enough of me and were all out to get me. Then I read a little more on the issue. It was really shocking to me to learn that my initials are also the acronym for Child, Early and Forced Marriage. According to the Government of Canada the following stats are true:

  • Every year, it is estimated that 15 million girls—some as young as five years old—are forced into marriage.
  • Over 700 million women alive today were married as children.
  • One in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. One in nine marries before the age of 15.
  • Complications in childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the developing world.

I really agree with the 10,000 tweets on the issue that this is something that everyone should know about and work towards putting an immediate end to. If you want to read more on the issue there are good links on the bottom of the government’s webpage on the issue

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PPP Water

I went to a public town hall tonight that was very interesting. It very well compared the argument for not going down a public private partnership. Though it was very lacking in facts of how a 3P could be beneficial to the community to make an informed discussion.

My point of the argument is this. Why is Saint John water in the upper quartile range of Canadian Households. Added to the argument the property taxes are in the upper range as well though that can be explained in some fashion by the lower than average property values. The cost of water cannot.

Saint John needs solutions. To dismiss an idea without a solution is long past the point of helpful.

Here are some useful facts:
1. The pipes are too big and designed for the city Saint John hoped to be.
2. Our water quality though not terrible is not the standard it should be.
3. The city is stuck with agreements that do not really expire and are almost impossible to renegotiate.
4. Most of the expenditures of this city are fixed and beyond even councils control.

The only solution I have would be to have the province dissolve the 228 year old Corporation of the City of Saint John and nullify any contract and start over with a new municipality.

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Preventing Service Cuts, not a priority!

This seems to be a big promise by a lot of candidates this election. Let’s face the facts in the past 10 years this city’s spending has ballooned from about 90 million to 135 million.

It is time to reconsider what services that city should offer. To have a reasonable tax rate this city needs to reduce its spending very drastically. In most accounts, the number that results in a reasonable tax rate is about $105 million dollars.

Our fire service is one of the most costly in the country. Our transit services have increased in municipal funding from $250,000 to over $5 million dollars in the past 10 years. In addition, the biggest sources of revenue (the parking commission) and the biggest expenses (major facilities, pension fund, solid waste) are not under the city’s complete control and are hidden behind provincial legislation.

These bodies are also not required to be either open or accountable to the public. Several years ago the spring garbage collection was removed for costing half a million dollars in one week, but was it really required?

A truly responsible new council should take the necessary measures to remove Saint John from the ranks of the highest property taxes and water taxes in the country and instead promote measures to increase the tax base but offering a more advantageous tax rate to attack further development.

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Saint John Road Conditions

We have all heard or experience the pot hole haven stories about this city. But, do the numbers support the claims that Saint John is too big for its population to support its roads properly. In fact Saint John has 4x the population per km of road than Bathurst. It would however be interesting to see how well Bathurst does at their own road maintenance.

Below is a table sourced from Statistics Canada 2011 census for population and NB Department of Transportation Road Mileage charts (2012) for the kilometres of road.

These numbers also include provincial designated highways that the cities get a grant to maintain.

City Population KM of Roads Population per KM of roads
Bathurst 4979 184 27.1
Miramichi 17811 325 54.8
Grand Bay-Westfield 5117 87 58.8
Rothesay 11947 149 80.2
Edmunston 16032 199 80.6
Ouispamsis 17886 203 88.1
Saint John 70063 718 97.6
Campbellton 7385 73 101.2
Moncton 69074 541 127.7
Fredericton 56224 429 131.1
Dieppe 23310 153 152.4
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It’s the most wonderful season of the year…

Election Season! In under 2 months, every municipal, education, and health council in this province will be new. But this is my favourite part is waiting for everyone to announce and I need to pick the people who I will vote for. I need to vote for and choose a Mayor of Saint John, 2 Councillors at Large, 2 Ward 4 councillors, an education councillor for Anglophone District South-5, and Francophone district Sud-9, and Health region B-4.

This Saturday the nominations open up and I will announce more of my thought.

And for theses that are wondering. I will not be running again this year.

My best advise is don’t run for the fame and glory either run to do a committed job, or run to say something. It is much worse to have an idea not considered. Leave it to the people to determine its value. It could be the idea that might inspire those that can do.

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Council’s Last Chance at Transit

It is now 7pm in the council chambers and the councillors are now arriving. As council begins there is 44 people here.

The meeting has now begun the councillor are doing their opening thanks to different community groups.

Joe Mott is absent tonight. Most of the routine business is quite boring and routine. The first item is 12.1 on the demolition of a dilapidated building on city road no one will miss. Next is a review of the Taxi by-law review and a full presentation with slides.

Council has after an hour approved starting the process of drafting the new Taxi By-Law something that has been talked about for close to 15 years now. Now they are discussing changes to the procurement policies.

Now it is time for transit (11.2). Councillor Higgins has moved to reassess the decision to cuts. Now the motion is a refer to budget deliberations. Councillor Farren sounds hesitant as long as it does not increase taxes. Deputy Mayor Chase does not seem to really support this. He is even denying that Higgins did know that the facts that she is denying and is stern on holding the budget. Councillor Norton is proposing a public review on route changes, but is being cautious. Councillor Snook is supporting transit but is supportive of the public consultation of optimizing routes. The City Manager is trying to educate council that this is not a cut but a limit to the increase to 1% even though Transit has been increasing the city’s subsidy by about 8%. Court was not favourable to the motion. Councillor Sullivan is not wavering on the fact that Transit is not a council priority. They are trying to wash their hands of transit and placing responsibility on the commission and the province for the taxes on the garage.

Some appear on delaying a decision. Councillor Titus, the council representative on the Transit Commission, is placing the blame back on council. He is insisting that the transit commission placed much thought on the routes. The cuts were based on cost effectiveness of service. The pension issue is of great importance and that money has been already been spent on printing of new schedule.

Titus insists that there is not really $5-million dollars extra. Insists that we have really good services, that citizens should be proud of.

Higgins makes a good closing point that perhaps if more than one transit passenger was on the commission it could be more efficient. It could be better promoted, and that the larger percentage of users are renters and renters pay 2x the tax rate of regular residential.

Considering that East Saint John is getting hit the hardest. It is despicable that Councilor Court is taking such a hard line against the prosperity of transit. Councillor Court does not stand up for is own ward and should likely be cut come election time. Voting time it is a referral motion 8-2 in-favour. Titus and Sullivan against.

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A Memorable Mass Transit Story

Remember that one time on the bus, when…? Share your mass transit stories.

One of my best memories on the bus was on an East bus headed to the mall on March 25th, 2004. I happened to run into my friend Tony, we were both heading to the mall. At this point I had my first batch of 25 names on the nomination papers. This was where Tony signed as the witness.

As soon as I got to the mall I instantly went to head back to the north end to file the papers. The first time 8 of my names were rejected as the people who signed were not actually registered to vote. Then the second time 45 minutes later I was 2 names short. Then 25 minutes later, I was officially on the ballot.

When it finally got approved, the first thing I did was to run to every media outlet that I could find and dropped off my Press Release.

Running for Mayor was one of the most interesting times of my life, and all the people and aspects of the community that you get exposed to is unreal.

Then six and a half weeks, and 448 votes later that part of my life was over. Thus leading the way for 2 days later when I left the province on my first vacation and train ride later.

And the travels continue…