Tuesday’s 2019-2020 Provincial Budget should treat municipalities as partners in getting New Brunswick on track and give municipalities the tools to help the province grow, says the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick.
“Our province is strapped for cash. That means this budget needs to focus on priorities that will strengthen the economy, grow our population, and help get our province on track. And that’s exactly why this budget should invest in strong municipalities,” says UMNB President Wayne Sturgeon.
“With the right tools, municipalities can drive our economy, attract and welcome new immigrants, and create opportunities for our kids and grandkids to stay. As Premier Higgs himself said: “Growing our economy is the goal, and our municipalities can lead the way. We just need to give them the tools they need to do it.” We agree, and that’s what we’re looking for in this budget.”
Share cannabis revenues with municipalities
This budget is the first since cannabis was legalized. UMNB has called for 1/3 of total cannabis excise tax revenues to be shared with municipalities. “As a level of government, municipalities have a share of the responsibilities and costs for keeping citizens safe and well-served, so they should share in the revenues. That’s common sense,” said Sturgeon. “We applaud Premier Higgs for making that commitment, and we’ll be looking for the first signs in this budget.”
Address critical infrastructure needs
UMNB has also called on the province to rethink an RDC infrastructure spending freeze that would keep communities from meeting critical infrastructure needs, including for drinking water, sewage treatment, and climate change preparedness.
The Canada-New Brunswick Integrated Bilateral Agreement provides federal/provincial cost-sharing for municipal projects, in some cases over 93% for communities under 5000 residents. For cash-strapped communities, support would make critical infrastructure affordable, but December’s Capital Budget cut off funding for new projects. That freezes out projects that could help New Brunswick’s communities grow.
“Premier Higgs has talked about investing in needs, not wants,” said Sturgeon. “I know he’d agree that clean water, growing the population, and protecting our residents from the impacts of extreme weather are needs, not wants. That’s what “municipal infrastructure” really means, and that’s why UMNB asked Premier Higgs to help communities turn on the taps.”
Sustainable municipal finances
UMNB has asked the province for a full review of the sustainability of municipal finances, including property tax reform. In the short term, UMNB told Premier Higgs the province could realize savings by eliminating the hidden subsidies to LSDs that have the unintended consequence of discouraging regional collaboration.
UMNB will be watching for key commitments from the PC’s election campaign, including gradually eliminating the double tax on non-owner occupied dwellings, improving ambulance wait times, and making primary health care more accessible in communities by funding more Nurse Practitioners. “These are important issues for municipalities in New Brunswick and we are eager to hear that they will be addressed,” said Sturgeon.
The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick is a bilingual association of 60 member municipalities, representing over one third of New Brunswick’s population. UMNB works to promote strong, sustainable municipalities throughout the province and ensure local priorities are heard.
For more information, please contact:
Margot Cragg, UMNB Executive Director, (506) 476-5641, email@example.com