Municipal election 2021 – Meet the mayoral candidates for St. Stephen

ST. STEPHEN – two candidates.

Vernon Card

Why are you running for mayor?

I have dabbled in politics and had an interest in the mayor’s position. A few weeks ago, I was approached by several people to run for mayor. They had been on boards with me, worked with and knew me, and saw how I ran meetings, interacted with others, and worked collaboratively to obtain agreement, and then moved forward to implement solutions. They felt that with my experience, background, and professional competencies I would be able to move this town forward with positive change. That I could work with the council and move this town to a place where the residents will be happy to here and new individuals and businesses would find it a great to set-up and live. I said I would run as a full-time mayor.

What is the first issue you’d like to tackle if elected?

There are many important issues but one that if resolved will support moving forward with many other issues. We need a world class hotel. The reason given is due to double taxation it cannot move forward. Today there was an announcement of a quality hotel for Florenceville. They are encountering double taxation so what is the real reason? The hotel would support the next issue I would address that is bring businesses to town that are here for the long-term paying $20+ per hour, 40 hours per week plus benefits.

There has been discussion that housing is the most important. It is important but if you are not making the wages I have identified you could not afford an apartment or a house. So, the jobs come first. A dependent issue to new businesses is what I call capacity building, and that means we need quality trade and technical people to fill these new jobs. We need to work with NBCC to have a trained workforce to attract industry. If we do not, outsiders will come, take the jobs and our younger residents will not benefit.

What new policy/program would you like to put in place?

The town has a drug and crime problem. To ensure that the town’s citizens are protected and to have input to policing services, we need a municipal police force. Since most other municipalities in Charlotte County are experiencing dissatisfaction with current policing, a regional police force may be a county solution.

I have mentioned that we need a seniors directorate where the town can assist seniors and if necessary, advocate on their behalf. Another essential service we need is the town to put programs in place on mental wellness including support around addictions be it drugs or alcohol and suicide prevention. We can not leave these services solely to the health care but partner with them for the benefits of our citizens.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing your municipality?

The biggest challenge is the provincial government plans to move all essential government service from the rural areas such as St. Stephen to urban centres. I could see how pleased the people in Fredericton would be if they had to drive to Saint John for services. I believe that the growth of New Brunswick is best served by decentralizing services from urban centres to where a majority of New Brunswicker’s live in rural N.B.

What has the provincial government taken? First on the list is our health care service previously offered out of our Charlotte County Hospital. We must get them back and even more services like a CT scan. They took our local school district, our courts, and most recently NB Power’s decommissioning of the Milltown Generating Station and tearing down the dam. They take and seldom give back.

St. Stephen is a small rural community. I am proud of it and what it can become. As mayor, I will fight to regain what has been taken from us and to grow based on our vision. In 1866 and 1928, the St. Croix Valley was the most prosperous location in North America, and we will get it back. I want St. Stephen to be on the list of the top five best towns to live in in Canada.

Allan MacEachern (incumbent)

Why are you running for mayor?

I have genuine passion for St. Stephen’s success. The mayoral role is a full-time commitment, and a responsibility I have had the honour of fulfilling for the last five years. St. Stephen’s recent renewal is the result of a considerable amount of collaboration with the residents and stakeholders who care about our town, a lot of outside-the-box thinking, and most importantly focused action; I am privileged to have been a part of this rejuvenation, but there is so much more I want to accomplish to ensure St. Stephen becomes an even more vibrant community and that we ensure affordable and quality living. During my nine years serving on your council, I have gained invaluable knowledge, which I have passed on to our community. Nine years ago I committed to being a driving force in moving St. Stephen forward in confidence, a commitment I have kept. I am focused on growth. Last year alone, and during a global pandemic, we increased St. Stephen’s tax base by $7 million, and this is only the beginning. I have a strong focus on growth versus increasing taxes, and have worked hard to hold the tax rate the same for my entire mandate; almost a decade. Is it possible to lower residential tax rates? Absolutely. If we continue to grow, this is a goal we can reach together. I will continue to act as a champion for St. Stephen, to create an environment that encourages new and revitalized business; to revitalize our town infrastructure, to further develop the vibrancy of downtown, to continue to foster relationships with our neighbouring communities, to be connected on all levels of government, to remain available and accessible to hear your concerns, to identify opportunities for new business, to find solutions for the housing shortage, to continue wise stewardship of town resources, to implement a tourism strategy, and to promote St. Stephen as a great place to live and work.

What is the first issue you’d tackle if elected?

Housing. St. Stephen, like many other communities across the country, is in desperate need of accessible, affordable, quality housing – from those starting out to those who are in retirement years and everyone in between. I have focused on eliminating additional challenges developers have by implementing the necessary study allowing developers to tap into important financing opportunities, I have ensured responsible re-zoning in many areas within town to eliminate building obstacles, most importantly time. I am closely connected and have an excellent working relationship with many developers, and we are laser focused on ensuring everyone has access to affordable, quality housing. The wheels are in motion with the recent opening of a 50 unit apartment complex and an approval this month for an additional 24 units, which developers are ready to break ground on, with other developers actively working on building units soon.

I am committed to ensuring this momentum continues.

What new policy/program would you like to put in place?

In April 2021 the renewed municipal plan was approved This was created to promote strategic growth for St. Stephen’s changing needs. I am excited to have been a part of creating the many economic development incentive policies, and am currently actively working on the housing incentive policy. These policies are critical for St. Stephen’s continued success, and I ask for your support in helping me move forward with them.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing your community?

Losing the momentum we have all worked so hard together to achieve. When your community comes together to rise ourselves up, to create such a vibrancy. This is not the time to change course, or to stop the momentum. This is the time to keep building and to keep growing. I am an active mayor, and certainly not a one-topic mayor; I have and will remain helpful and accessible, willing to tackle the tough matters head-on as I have demonstrated during the last five years. St. Stephen’s success is my passion. I am so excited to see how far we will go together over the next four years. I am a leader, not a manager.