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N.B. to help Saint John-area mayors establish regional ice strategy

Click to play video: 'N.B. government steps in to help create regional ice strategy'
N.B. government steps in to help create regional ice strategy
The decision could mean a quick end to a new user fee approved by Saint John Council a week ago that would have young hockey players charged extra money to play in the city's rinks. Tim Roszell reports – Jun 25, 2019

The New Brunswick government is stepping in to help Saint John and surrounding communities come to an agreement on a regional ice strategy.

On Monday, Saint John Mayor Don Darling made a motion at the most recent meeting of the Fundy Regional Service Commission, a motion which was tabled to be discussed at the Regional Collaboration Committee.

The committee has not yet been struck.

“(The province) took it upon themselves to reach out to myself and the other mayors on the weekend to say that we should move forward and work together, and that they were going to be a part of this,” said Quispamsis Mayor Gary Clark.

READ MORE: Quispamsis mayor ‘extremely disappointed’ in Saint John’s hockey player user fee

The commission is made up of Saint John-area mayors who, to date, had butted heads over a regional ice strategy.

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Last week, Saint John Common Council approved a $200 fee for hockey players from outside the city who use Saint John rinks, as a way to offset some of the costs of operating the facilities.

It’s not clear what the Regional Collaboration Committee will look like. Clark said it will meet soon, and he’ll sit on the committee if asked.

“We definitely need to focus on this and get it back on track,” Clark said. “We were halfway through and we were moving forward in a positive direction with consultation.”

WATCH: New user fees for Saint ice rinks set to go into effect this fall

Click to play video: 'New user fees for Saint ice rinks set to go into effect this fall'
New user fees for Saint ice rinks set to go into effect this fall

Hockey New Brunswick’s Chris Green believes about 30 per cent of the roughly 1,100 youth players his organization represents in the Saint John region would be impacted by user fees.

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He said he’s pleased to see talks get back on track.

“I think everybody recognizes that there is a problem, and possibly we need some help,” Green said, in a telephone interview from Saint John. “And kudos to those who did call out and ask for help. We’re all in this together. We all live in this region and our youth need to benefit from that.”

“We are more than happy – the province is – to be involved with that (committee),” said Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr, in a telephone interview from Fredericton. “It would all depend, I guess, on if the regional committee wants us there, if it’s at the RSC (regional service commission) level or if it’s going to be at the municipal level.”

READ MORE: Losses would outweigh gains from user fee: Hockey New Brunswick

Should the new committee be successful in developing a regional ice strategy with help from the province, it’s believed it would have to report back to the regional services commission. The mayors around that table would then have to take the agreement back to their respective town and city councils for approval.

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