Starting in 2021, the New Brunswick government will force towns surrounding Saint John to chip in a little more to cover the cost of regional facilities.
Communities in the immediate area, such as Rothesay, Grand Bay-Westfield and Quispamsis, are already contributing 33 per cent of the operational costs for places like TD Station, the Imperial Theatre and the Canada Games Aquatic Centre.
They will now also have to help with renovation and maintenance expenses.
Other communities, like Hampton, St. Martins and several local service districts, will begin contributing for the first time under the new legislation.
It’s something the City of Saint John has been outspoken about. Many of the people using the facilities within city limits don’t live and pay taxes in Saint John.
“Our facilities are all getting older,” says Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary. “The city, over the years, has spent as much as it can.”
With the move, the province’s Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr hopes to make things more equitable.
“It’s getting to the point where it needs to be a broader point of municipalities in the region that could take the ownership,” says Carr.
Libby O’Hara, deputy mayor for Quispamsis, is curious to see how the numbers will work out, but says the move is fair.
“Some people will say we’re bailing out Saint John. It’s not a bailout to Saint John,” said O’Hara. “That model does not sell with me nor does it sit right.
“What we are doing is contributing to facilities that are used by the greater region.”
Carr said other communities in New Brunswick are calling for a similar framework.
Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said in a tweet on Wednesday that the move seemed “fair.”
“In Bathurst, we have the only aquatic center in the region. Only 27% of its users are citizens from our city, but our city pays 100% of the operational costs,” Fongemie wrote.
“If that can work in Saint John, why can’t it work in other parts of the province that really are looking for more shared services as well?” Carr asks.
The province is expected to provide more information on the amendment, as well as the entire Saint John action plan, on Monday.