New Brunswick’s Official Opposition is criticizing the Higgs Government’s management of the $41.1 million designated for municipalities under the Federal Safe Restart Program and is calling for more transparency.
“The Minister of Local Government Daniel Allain is making this process way more difficult than it needs to be. This has been mismanaged from the beginning” says Keith Chiasson, the liberal critic for Local Government. “The Federal government sent $41.1 million to help municipalities with the financial strain of the pandemic but the provincial government keeps getting in the way.”
Since the province first became aware it would be receiving funds destined for municipalities in the summer of 2020, Mr. Chiasson says the Higgs Government has shown a reluctance to part with the money.
“Even though he knew about the funds over the summer, they only announced the financial aid coming from Ottawa in November. Alberta, on the other hand, told their municipalities in September that money was coming from the Federal government and would be distributed per capita” says Mr. Chiasson. “After drawing criticism for not taking advantage of federal money to support public transit, the Premier decided to use $1.5 million from the municipalities to put towards transit. Minister Allain then announced that municipalities needed to submit a document detailing all their losses by the end of December, which put an enormous pressure on their administrations.”
It was also announced by Minister Allain that any funds left over from the 41.1 million, after compensating municipalities for their losses and allocating the funds for transit, would be distributing per capita.
“Minister Allain told municipalities they would be compensated for their losses in a matter of days after the deadline, and that the rest of the funds would be distributed per capita by the end of January. Well, here we are in February and nothing!” says Chiasson. “It’s time for transparency. How much will be needed to cover the losses of municipalities and how much will be leftover to support municipalities with the continued financial strain of the pandemic? Why has the process stalled?”