Moncton – The backroom deal voted on by Moncton city council Monday afternoon demonstrates that even the Alward government itself believes that it is wrong to arbitrarily impose school locations on municipalities, as has been the case with the relocation of Moncton High School. Those decisions leave municipalities having to cover short and long term expenses that leave the province off the hook for the true costs of its decisions.
According to details provided at the council meeting, the province has promised the city that it will amend what it believes is an exemption from having to follow municipal zoning laws and follow the city’s municipal plan. The question of the legality of this behavior is core to the lawsuit that has been filed against the province over the relocation of Moncton High School.
“The province is essentially saying: We know it’s wrong – let us do it one more time, and then we’ll stop,” says Alison Ménard, the lawyer representing the Moncton-area citizens participating in the case. “But it is not up to the province or city council to determine whether this is legal. It is up to the courts. Our case will show that, because the proposed location lacks proper zoning and it is contrary to the municipal plan, the province is acting in violation of the Community Planning Act.”
The majority of the councillors at Monday’s vote again expressed dissatisfaction with the school location, with three voting against the deal. Most who explained their votes in favour of the province’s offer said they were concerned that the province would go ahead and build anyway, leaving the city to cover all infrastructure costs.
“Some councillors are evidently more concerned about covering the short term infrastructure costs than building a strong community for the future,” says Mark LeBlanc, one of the citizens participating in the lawsuit. “Chasing after money to help pay for infrastructure the city would not need without the school relocation is the definition of false economy. And it certainly does not change any of the negative impacts that relocating the school will have.”
Ménard expects to have a court date set by the Court of Queen’s Bench soon, and notes that if the court finds in her clients’ favour then the province will be forced to halt all work on the proposed school relocation.
“The Alward government claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility, yet we are now in a situation where they are trying to bribe us with our own money,” says LeBlanc of the offer to the city of Moncton. “But the real costs are going to be felt by generations of area families and taxpayers, if we are forced to deal with this terrible decision. It is the families and young people of the Moncton area, today and in the future, who are ultimately going to suffer if this relocation goes through.”
This article was originally published in the Moncton Free Press.