Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers is calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to release the findings of a working committee established to propose measures to help the city of Saint John find ways to deal with its ongoing financial challenges.
The committee was established as part of a deal with the province in 2018 to help the city find long-term solutions to what has been referred to as a structural deficit for the municipality. The committee consisted of officials from the province and the city, and its findings were due to be delivered to the province in late 2018 or early 2019.
“The premier is either sitting on this report and keeping its findings from the public, or he stopped the important work this committee was doing. Neither of those things is acceptable if the premier is serious about helping Saint John,” Vickers said.
The Saint John deal came under scrutiny in the most recent report from the province’s auditor general. Vickers said he would welcome further scrutiny of the deal by a committee of the legislature.
“If mistakes were made in how the deal was put together then yes, people need to take responsibility for that,” Vickers said. “However, I think the intent was a good one, to help Saint John deal with its challenges on its own in the long term.
“That’s why it’s crucial the premier comes clean about what the recommendations are to help Saint John in the long run. The real goal here it to put Saint John on more secure financial footing, so the findings of this working group of city and provincial officials have to be part of the discussion before the legislative committee.”
Vickers also noted the premier has not altered or cancelled the Saint John deal. “The premier is not averse to making cuts, but he’s continuing with this deal, so there must be some support for this approach, accepting the issues identified by the Auditor General,” Vickers added.
“However, I believe the most critical element of all this is that the city find some long-term solutions to its issues. Given that, it’s unacceptable for the premier to continue to hide the work of this committee that was charged with finding these long-term solutions.”