Sabine Dietz says she decided to run as a Tantramar council candidate in Ward 4 after Andrew Black announced he would be running to become mayor of the new town.
“I decided that yes, I can imagine working with Andrew to make this work for all of the community,” she said during an interview last week.
“It’s absolutely crucial who gets elected mayor,” she adds, noting that whoever is elected mayor will have a seat on the board of a newly strengthened regional service commission.
“There are going to be all sorts of committees and the mayor will essentially determine who sits on those committees to make sure our Tantramar interests are represented and defended,” she said.
“That’s why it’s absolutely crucial who gets elected — someone who understands the role of the regional service commission, who can ask the questions that are needed and who can make a stand,” Dietz says.
Dietz, who is currently serving as a Sackville councillor, is running against her council colleague Matt Estabrooks for the Ward 4 seat.
Estabrooks declined an interview request from Warktimes saying in an e-mail, “I have chosen to use my own social media and good old fashioned face to face conversations to communicate my positioning in Ward 4 issues.”
For her part, Dietz says she has knocked on almost all of the doors in Ward 4 which includes Pond Shore Road, Upper Sackville and the Midgic area.
“I know there’s about 660 voters in the area and I estimate about 300 houses, or units I should say, because some of them are apartments,” she says.
“In some cases, just a flyer in the mailbox, if there was nobody home, but I’ve visited all but a handful.”
Ward 4 issues
Dietz says residents are concerned about tax increases especially since property assessments have risen so steeply and they’re also worried about the services they’ll receive from the new town.
“There are these questions about, what does it mean for me?” she says, adding that snow clearing and road maintenance are big concerns even though the province will continue to provide those services in the outlying areas for the next year or two.
She notes that people on Pond Shore, who were within Sackville’s town limits, continue to worry about speeding as well as ATVs on the road.
“There was also something very curious that I noticed,” she says.
“Part of it was a quiet excitement that folks in outlying areas can now vote, but on the other hand, there was the total opposite, ‘This is stupid, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.'”
Dietz says it will be important to try to reconcile the interests of the residents along Pond Shore, Mount View, Church Street and Station Road, who were part of Sackville, with those in the rural areas.
She also noticed that younger people have been moving in, attracted to the area because of lower housing costs, but also affected by the steep rise in property assessments.
“It’s interesting, it’s different, Ward 4 feels almost more like a provincial riding where you get the same kind of broad range of interests and differences in what people think.”
Dietz says that if elected, she will continue to work on climate change issues even though next year’s budget is still uncertain and no one knows, for example, whether the province has made any provision for the climate-change co-ordinator position that Sackville requested.
New layer of government
Dietz points out that the provincial government has downloaded some of its responsibilities to the newly strengthened regional service commissions that will oversee regional economic, social and community development as well as tourism and recreation.
“I feel we’re on the brink of losing some of our own capability of addressing issues locally and moving them to an unelected body which is not what we want,” she says.
She notes that the province will pay the added costs next year, but in 2024, “believe me, we will be paying.”
Dietz fears that decision-making power will shift to the regional service commission.
“It’s in the opposite direction to where we need to go,” she says.
“We need to make our communities stronger, take ownership over all of those files that are important to us like housing, health care, social development, economic development, tourism, climate change — all of those really need to be embedded in the community and what is happening is some of those things that make us stronger and more resilient are being taken away from us.”
Dietz says that since Tantramar’s mayor will sit on the board of the regional service commission, it’s crucial to elect someone who understands the issues and can defend the town’s interests.
“We’ve got communities such as Dieppe and Moncton in there, they have a way stronger voice, but only in theory. If you’ve got a good mayor, the mayor will be able to stand up in this forum,” she adds.