Three mayors showed some frustration Wednesday with the province's pace addressing the housing crisis, municipal reform and problems in health-care services.
The mayors of Moncton, Sackville and Miramichi took part in a panel discussion on the big issues facing their communities and how they'd like to see them addressed by the next government.
Dawn Arnold, the mayor of Moncton, John Higham, mayor of Sackville and Adam Lordon, mayor of Miramichi touched on a variety of issues, beginning with affordable housing.
Homelessness and affordable housing
Arnold said the issue of homelessness and lack of affordable house is a crisis in Moncton.
Arnold said they have no idea why federal funds are being held up despite being told by the federal government that the mmoney is available.
"We're doing everything we can at the municipal level right now. We've put everything in place that we possibly can but it is a provincial responsibility so we need some action."
Meanwhile in Miramichi, where the vacancy rate is below one per cent, Lordon said there is a waiting list of more than 300 people waiting for subsidized housing in the city, and no new houses or units have been built.
"We need the provincial government to come to the table with funding support but also with the human resources to help get those housing starts built."
In Sackville, Higham said they are looking for an inclusive housing co-operative to be built like the one the town participated in 25 years ago.
"With the university, we have a whole bunch of units crammed with students, which is really high rental rate and people with lower income and people with single-parent families are really having a difficult time being close to downtown."
Highman said that after the Sackville Hospital's emergency room was included the list for planned overnight closures, his town joined a rural network of smaller communities that faced the same closure to canvass their local candidates and party leaders for a commitment to keep the ERs open.
They are also seeking a commitment to developing better ways of delivering health-care services.
"Learn from what the COVID lessons have been, and figure out how we can do health services better, more equitable and hopefully at less cost."
In Moncton, with the issue of homelessness, Arnold said more wrap-around services are needed to help deal with mental health issues.
"The mental health, addictions, they're big issues in our community right now because someone going through a crisis can't wait for six months to see somebody."
Arnold said more human resources need to put in place or it needs to be a more efficient system.
"I don't really know that's why we're doing a social impact audit right now."
The audit will assess costs and investments in social issues, collecting data that will help determine if funding can be spent better or elsewhere.
Lordon said the growing issues of crystal meth addiction in the city has many seeking mental health and addiction services, something a community health advisory board is working to address.
"This is not a problem to address as a criminal issue alone, it's a social issue," he said. "It's one that needs a provincial commitment to spend money in the areas where it's needed so more people can be helped.
Tax and municipal reform
Arnold said mayors want to see everyone paying their fair share for services they use. Of the $360 million collected in property taxes each year, only $66 million is returned to municipalities in unconditional grants. Local service districts receive $100 million and the remaining $190 million goes into general revenue.
"This isn't sustainable. We need tax fairness at the municipal level."
Arnold said cities need greater autonomy and should be seen as partners with the province.
"Strong cities mean a strong province."
Lordon, who is also the president of the Cities of New Brunswick Association, said municipal reforms would help cities better control their own futures by creating vibrant communities, which in turn would create a vibrant province.
"Really, the systemic change we require is going to make everybody stronger from our cities to our smaller towns and villages to everyone living in rural New Brunswick."
Lordon said he feels there is some momentum because party leaders and candidates are talking about it.
Higham said he knows it will be politically difficult for those elected to make those hard decisions for municipal reform.
"This is the opportunity to get that done and on the table and have some of those informed discussions over what some of those options might look like."