Ron Aiken says he’s hoping to be elected as Sackville’s next mayor on May 10th so he can continue in the job he’s been performing since October when John Higham left office.
“Obviously it would be a seamless transition,” Aiken said during a telephone interview.
“Given what we’re up against with health reform, municipal reform and all the other stuff, that’s quite useful. I wouldn’t have to sit down and re-learn a bunch of things.”
Aiken also points out that he has served on council for more than a dozen years, the last three as deputy mayor.
“I’ve seen a lot of things that can be done in the town and gained an appreciation of actually what we have to overcome to get things done.”
Aiken points, for example, to the recent “vision statement” he submitted to the provincial health minister.
“Our main focus is keeping the hospital in its present state or even improving it,” he says, while the province seemed to be proposing last year to change Sackville Memorial into “some sort of glorified first aid centre.”
Aiken acknowledges that his suggestion to install an MRI machine in Sackville may have been a bad example because of how much it would cost.
“What I wanted to do is illustrate that Sackville could be almost a diagnostic centre or a triage centre for the bigger hospitals in Moncton.”
He adds, for example, that his statement also mentioned a CT-Scan — a cheaper machine than an MRI — that could be a useful diagnostic tool here.
“I wanted to get away from the notion that patients had to go to Moncton for everything.”
Aiken says he gets the impression that the province isn’t sure yet where it wants to go in reforming local government.
Plans call for local consultations with a provincial discussion paper by the end of March, then further consultations and a more formal government white paper by the end of the year.
Aiken says that as mayor, he would not favour a centralized, regional approach such as the one proposed in the 2008 report by Jean-Guy Finn. That would have combined the town of Sackville with the villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester along with the nine rural service districts to form a single municipality in the Tantramar region.
“The province always seems to want to go to centralize things,” Aiken says. “To me, as soon as the control gets away from the local, then it starts to get less responsive to what the local concerns are,” he adds.
“There’s nothing cast in stone as far as I can see, the new minister Daniel Allain is a former councillor from Dieppe, so he has a real appreciation of what municipal affairs are all about,” Aiken says, adding that the minister has assured municipalities there will be no forced amalgamations of local governments.
Aiken says he would like to see further development in the TransCanada Exit 506 area now that the town has improved and widened the Cattail Ridge roadway and has installed storm sewers and sidewalks in the area.
He’s also hoping the province will approve the town’s application for completion of the Lorne Street flood control project including the addition of a second water retention pond behind the Charles Street community garden and a third one in the old Pickard quarry near Mount Allison University.
He says the province has intimated it will install a new aboiteau in the dike near the town’s main sewage lagoons, but even without it, the retention ponds and the old aboiteau should be able to handle floodwaters from major storms.
Aiken says his previous leadership positions would be assets if he becomes Sackville’s next mayor.
He served for six years as head of the biology department at Mount Allison and for one year as President of the Canadian Council of Biology Chairs, which involved lobbying in Ottawa.
“Professionally one of my big things was research,” he says, “so one of my bents is to go and look at problems and analyze them in detail.”
He points to his analysis of how the province calculates municipal equalization payments — calculations which, Aiken argues, have denied Sackville its fair share of provincial transfers.
“That took a lot of looking at the legislation, working out the problems with the formulas they use, and I’ve asked them several times [and] they don’t have answers for me on why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it,” he says.
“I intend to bring that up again with the minister when we meet with him next week,” he adds.
“So, that’s the kind of thing I bring to the table.”
Aiken council highlights
January 2021: Aiken writes “vision statement” on health reform
November 2020: Aiken reacts to provincial statements about municipal reform
August 2020: Aiken expresses misgivings about new town sculpture
July 2020: Aiken opposes $80,000 dog park
January 2018: Aiken votes for property tax hike to close budget gap
October 2017: Aiken calls for more restrictions on glyphosate spraying