The Higgs government has rejected three of the suggestions made by the city of Saint John to help get its fiscal house in order, just days after Common Council endorsed a fiscal sustainability plan with the province.
The most polarizing of those was the idea of a road toll for morning inbound commuters from the outlying communities.
Local Government Minister Jeff Carr said there was no clear consensus at council.
“We haven’t seen any economic impact or any real solid numbers or report around what the actual benefits are,” said Carr.
Coun. David Hickey spoke out publicly in favour of the toll.
He says he’s been told tolls could bring in as much as $10 million per year, adding everything must be looked at with a potential $12 million deficit on the horizon
“Simply put, we have 18,000 cars a day that come in and out of the city that don’t pay their taxes in the city,” said Hickey.
“That’s a huge chunk of our regional population that’s not contributing their fair share.”
Coun. Blake Armstrong was just as vocal in dissent.
“I understand why the outlying communities are perturbed,” said Armstrong. “We never brought any of this up. I mean, you have to discuss things. These are major, major changes”
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The province has also said no to transferring over property tax from heavy industry and revenue from motor vehicle traffic violations.
Carr says the provincial government has the responsibility to be fair to all municipalities.
“My mother always told me that if I didn’t have enough treats for everybody, don’t give it to just one person,” said Carr.
Armstrong feels the city has to solve its own problems, but legislative change is necessary especially when it comes to tax reform.
“The rest of the province has been built on the back of Saint John, New Brunswick,” he said.
A legislative committee will hold hearings in September looking into tax exemptions or benefits to heavy industry.
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