Saint John emergency crew unions fighting back against proposed budget cuts
Police officers and firefighters are warning that public safety will be compromised if Saint John goes ahead with proposed budget cuts.
The fire department is looking at a budget cut of $1.25 million. Saint John police are looking at a similar reduction in the coming year.
The Saint John Police Association says that will mean less community policing and less emphasis on proactive policing.
“With the elimination of our Street Crime Unit, I don't want to come out and say it's open for business, but if we don't have anybody watching these certain drug dealers, then what business are you inviting to this city?" asks Const Duane Squires of the association.
The union is sending out flyers to every home, calling on the provincial government to bring in a tax reform package that will benefit municipalities.
"If Mr. Gallant and his government continues to say, ‘We're going to grab $35 million and give you back $20 (million), well the taxpayers of Saint John should know that," says Bob Davidson of the police union.
Councillor Gary Sullivan says a shrinking population and tax base have caught up with the city.
"We are in unprecedented territory with regards to the city budget,” says Sullivan. "We have 2,500 fewer people than our last census, so we're serving fewer, which means we have less money to service them with. We have the highest tax rate in the province. If we want Saint John to grow, we have to get control of our expenses."
Firefighter Peter Alexander says cuts from previous years have already reduced response times. He worries about the impact of taking more equipment out of service or closing a fire hall.
"It's incumbent upon our mayor and council to provide a safe city, and they're not doing so," says Alexander. "Potentially this would be another fire truck or a fire station. That's significant to us. This is so much more than just jobs. This is about public safety, our community safety"
City council will consider the operating budget for 2018 and the proposed cuts at next week's meeting.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.