With New Brunswick’s snap election just on the horizon, Saint John has created a crash course for candidates on issues facing the Port City, including shining a spotlight on the need for municipal tax reform.
“Our tax structure in New Brunswick is outdated and it needs to be changed. It needs to be reviewed, it needs to be studied,” says Saint John deputy mayor Shirley McAlary.
The call for tax reform is part of the city’s position paper, a document that was sent out to all the parties running in the province's upcoming election.
The position paper is intended to give candidates an idea of what’s historically held the city back, and what they want for the future.
“We need to make sure that our provincial government comes in, whether majority or minority, and makes sure that these are the top priorities for Saint John,” says Saint John councillor David Hickey. “Especially when we’re talking about that structural tax reform.”
Saint John is one of many N.B. municipalities pushing for a modernized tax system, allowing cities and towns to keep more of the tax dollars generated in their communities.
This year, Saint John has had to wrestle down a $10-million deficit for 2021, including cutting $6-million in salaries.
“If our tax amount doesn’t go up, then we need taxation reform put in place so each year the city can gain a bit more on their taxes that they already collect,” says McAlary.
“The realities that we’re faced with are certainly rooted in tax reform, ensuring that provincial property tax reform better supports the city of Saint John, and that’s the critical aspect,” says Hickey.
Tax reform is not he only issue identified in the document, which also calls for changes in binding arbitration and the need for regional cost sharing.
This isn’t the first time Saint John has released a position paper in the run-up to a provincial election. During New Brunswick’s last election in 2018, they went through the same process.