UPDATED: Taxes a big issue in Tantramar Ward 2, candidates say

Note: This report ends with updated information based on the all-candidates forum held on Saturday, November 12th at the Church by the Lake in Middle Sackville.

Candidates in the new Town of Tantramar’s Ward 2 agree that anticipated property tax increases are a big issue in the area that includes communities such as Frosty Hollow, Westcock, Wood Point and Rockport.

“Everyone that I have spoken with, it’s the first thing out of their mouths,” says candidate Wendy Epworth.

“It’s an issue for everybody — it was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about amalgamation.”

“A lot of people live outside of the limits of a town because of the relief that they get from taxes,” Epworth says, adding that increased taxes would only add to an already rising cost of living.

“I think we’d be naive to think that our taxes are not going to go up,” says candidate Kevin Scott, who notes that for him and many others who live in Ward 2, this year’s property assessments have already increased.

“My understanding is that there won’t be much of a change in the property tax rate in 2023,” he says, adding that the increase would probably come the year after.

“People are having a hard time surviving the way it is right now with the high inflation and I don’t see any benefit to start overtaxing people to the point where we can’t live our lives,” Scott says.

Candidate Natalie Donaher says she’s also hearing from residents concerned about likely tax increases coupled with what she calls the “double whammy” of rising assessments.

“People are saying, ‘Don’t have our taxes go up, we’ve chosen a rural area that is affordable for a reason, we have family ties here, we want our children to be able to come back or stay in the area if they are moving out of the house,'” she says, adding that affordable housing is also an issue for older people who want to stay in their homes and people on social assistance.

All three candidates pledge they would speak up vigorously on behalf of residents when Tantramar Town Council sets tax rates to ensure that property taxes reflect the levels of municipal services that people in Ward 2 are actually receiving.

Barry Hicks, who is also a candidate in Ward 2, declined to speak with Warktimes saying he would make his public comments at Saturday’s all-candidates forum in Middle Sackville.

The three candidates, who did agree to be interviewed, talked about other main issues and why they are running.

Natalie Donaher

Ward 2 candidate Natalie Donaher on the Mt. A. campus where she works as a technician/lab instructor in the department of chemistry & biochemistry

Natalie Donaher says she decided to run for Tantramar Town Council after serving on the local service district advisory council that reported to provincial bureaucrats in Fredericton.

Donaher and the four other members of the council resigned in January 2021 over the lack of provincial response to a number of issues including damages to wells and houses caused by quarry blasting in Westcock and British Settlement.

To read a report on their resignations, click here.

“We didn’t have very much decision-making power, we didn’t have any funding or any budget that we had any control over,” she says, adding that she decided to run for a council seat as someone who has “a record of service to the community.”

Donaher says that as a councillor, she would gather data about the damages caused by quarry blasting to use in her advocacy on behalf of the community and to ensure there is enforcement of provincial regulations governing any expansion of the quarries.

Donaher is also concerned about stopped CN trains blocking emergency access via Rte. 935 to the communities in West Sackville and south on the loop down to Rockport.

“We haven’t had too, too many instances of  that,” she says, but adds that as an elected councillor, she would take steps to safeguard public safety.

“My main efforts would be put into formalizing a community communications structure so that when there are issues arising, there is a clear set of people who can be contacted to get the ball rolling to understand why this is occurring and how to mitigate it.”

Aside from trains blocking the road, she says that people in the area worry that the province isn’t maintaining the new aboiteaux at Carters Brook adequately to prevent flooding of Rte. 935.

Donaher, who grew up in Moncton, has lived for 18 years in the Sackville area. She and her husband, who is a carpenter by trade, are restoring “a beautiful old home on the Bay of Fundy” in the Wood Point area.

To view her campaign website, click here.

Wendy Epworth

Wendy Epworth at the Sackville Public Library

Wendy Epworth says that owning a small business in downtown Sackville made her aware of what was happening in local politics and even though Mel’s Tearoom has since closed, she continues to be interested in municipal affairs, especially since people in Ward 2 will now have a voice and a vote.

“I just thought it was a good opportunity for me to champion a few ideas around climate change mitigation or economic development and to ensure that people out in my area get some additional services for the additional taxes we know are coming with amalgamation,” she says.

Epworth, who has lived in Frosty Hollow for about 20 years and who grew up in Middle Sackville, explains that the biggest climate change issue in Ward 2 is the threat of flooding at Highway 106 and Rte. 935 that could cut off emergency services to the people in West Sackville.

While she acknowledges that the province has installed new aboiteaux in the Carters Brook area, she feels the new flood control structures won’t be effective in light of the increasing frequency of extreme weather.

She says her career as a biologist working on preserving endangered Atlantic salmon in the Bay of Fundy for the Fort Folly First Nation has taught her how easily silting can plug up flood control structures.

“The waters in the Upper Bay of Fundy are incredibly laden with silt, 30,000 milligrams per litre of silt, and so, when that water comes in on high tide and hits a barrier, all of that sediment just falls right out of suspension and the silt just builds up on the tidal side of the gates,” she says.

“If you want them to work properly, you either need to continually be removing that silt or ideally, you put in a bridge.”

Epworth says that as councillor, she would push the province to conduct regular maintenance of the aboiteaux.

“I would also want to look at some alternate routes to get people access to emergency services,” she adds.

“The Old Frosty Hollow road comes out by St. Ann’s Church and it is a driveable road,” she explains.

“In terms of upgrading that road or phased re-commissioning of that road so that emergency vehicles can get into West Sackville, I seriously think that’s something  that should be looked at.”

To view Wendy Epworth’s campaign website, click here.

Kevin Scott

Kevin Scott after a radio interview at CHMA

“I’m not afraid to speak up when I believe something is right or wrong,” says Kevin Scott, who adds that he grew up in a local service district in the Baie Verte area and saw the challenges his parents faced in getting things like the street lights that “made a big difference.”

Scott says now that people in the West Sackville LSD finally have a voice, he wants to be the councillor who speaks up for them.

“Now we will have a voice that people can hear on a monthly or bi-weekly basis depending on when the meetings are,” he says.

“We will have a voice on council and they will know what’s going on in our ward and what our issues are.”

Scott says, for one thing, the new aboiteaux at Carters Brook “haven’t been tested yet” and he’s afraid flooding will still block the roads.

“Being a voice for Ward 2, we want to make sure that if anything happens like that, that we can still get in and out, that we can get fire and ambulance service or police service still get to us if we need help.”

He adds that residents he’s spoken to have said the Old Frosty Hollow road should be rebuilt and made accessible year-round as an alternate route.

As for the damages caused by quarry blasting, he says while the old quarries have been grandfathered in, he promises to oppose any new ones.

“I will fight hard if elected, to make sure there are no more rock quarries going into our area.”

Scott’s record of speaking up includes his efforts to expose the bullying, harassment and favouritism at Sackville Fire & Rescue that had led about 17 volunteer firefighters to resign over a five-year period.

Those efforts forced the town to hire a consulting firm to conduct a workplace assessment and recommend changes.

Scott, who now volunteers at the Point de Bute fire department, says that Sackville firefighters he’s talked to say some of those recommendations have been or are being implemented.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that will continue to happen,” he says.

“If elected, I will certainly do my best to ensure that continues to move forward.”

To read Kevin Scott’s campaign brochure, click here.

All-candidates forum

Three of the four candidates running for the single council seat in Ward 2 participated in the all-candidates forum held on Saturday, November 12th in Middle Sackville.

Kevin Scott was unable to attend.

The other candidates gave two-minute opening statements

To read a transcript of Natalie Donaher’s, click here.

To read what Wendy Epworth had to say, click here.

To read Barry Hicks’s opening statement, click here.

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2 Responses to UPDATED: Taxes a big issue in Tantramar Ward 2, candidates say

  1. Bonnie says:

    Trust me we don’t want Sackville’s property taxes hitting the rural areas. They are way too high. Sackville has a spending problem.

  2. Percy Best says:

    Four very amazing candidates for Ward 2. I just wish they all could represent that ward as a team.

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