Come this May, the citizens of Fredericton will be asked to choose a mayor, and Matthew Hayes is hoping they’ll make a choice for a change. Hayes will be running against incumbent Brad Woodside, who has been mayor of Fredericton for a total of 21 years.
Hayes has a vision for the city of Fredericton.
Imagine a city where every neighborhood has a green grocer’s, a community garden, a daycare, a park, a cafe, a restaurant, and convenient public buses that connect you to the rest of the city. Imagine that you can get to work, shop and take your kids to school without having to always use a car. In place of the large dead space of asphalt parking lots that sit empty most of the time, imagine a string of small shops, cafes, parks, a community garden, and a public promenade with residences interspersed throughout. Now imagine that you get to help decide what the city does for your community and neighborhood.
Welcome to Complete Communities, one of the “Great Ideas” linked to Matthew Hayes’ mayoral campaign. An urban design that makes vibrant, walkable neighborhoods and communities its central feature, complete communities makes it possible to meet your daily needs right in your own neighborhood. It flies in the face of the conventional separation of residences and businesses that require every errand to be taken by car; encourages the growth of small, local businesses; and lets residents have a greater say in how they want their own communities to be built and designed. It improves neighborhood safety and security by bringing more people out into the open, turning empty streets into active and lively public spaces, and reducing street traffic because of increased foot traffic. It is also possible to retrofit exclusively residential suburbs into complete communities, offering local walkable options to suburban residents, rather than a lengthy commute just to pick up a carton of milk.
The future of Fredericton lies in complete communities. Fiscally, it saves money for the city and its residents. As Hayes explains, “This is a competitiveness issue for our city. Sprawl development is going to cost us increasingly more money, both collectively through taxes, and individually through our reliance on automobiles to meet our daily needs.” The current direction of Fredericton’s urban development is unsustainable.
Things are changing, within the city and without. Outside the city, oil is peaking and with it the price of a litre of gas is skyrocketing. Fredericton needs to prepare itself for a future where formidable oil costs mean residents can look for various alternatives for getting around. And, in a world where high transportation costs will also mean higher costs for imported goods, a sound local economy will be our best bet to ensuring economic security.
In the city, the population is growing and changing. People from rural communities are migrating to the city, as are people from farther afield. Frederictonians are also aging. Our demographics are changing, and with them, our needs as residents. The city must foster communities that service these changing needs.
Also in the city, increasingly extreme weather, such as heavy rainfall and warmer than normal winters followed by flooding, means Fredericton needs to guarantee all safeguards against the fallout of these changing weather patterns. This means protecting the city’s existing wetlands and natural watersheds, and minimizing non-porous asphalt covers. In practice, this means that our communities should be limiting the paving of green, undeveloped lands both within and without the city.
But, in light of all these issues, the city of Fredericton is continuing on its path of unsustainable development, pretending that it can proceed with business as usual. Faced with this inertia, Hayes believes that Fredericton needs a mayor that will act on these either ignored or marginalized issues.
Fredericton has enormous potential to become a model for what a truly smart and sustainable city looks like. One that prioritizes the needs of its residents over the needs of commercial interests outside the city; one that values local quality of life over big box design; one that is prepared to meet a changing future.