Moncton’s business community is losing patience
Moncton’s business community came together at a conference hosted by four representative organizations on Friday. He called for action against crime and the insecurity he feels downtown.
About 200 people gathered to hear complaints from speakers for the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce, 3+ Economic Development Corporation, Moncton Centre-Ville and Destination Moncton–Dieppe on Friday.
Representatives from all four agencies say they are seeing an increase in crime and an increase in the number of homeless people in downtown Moncton. They expressed concerns about the area’s reputation and economic viability.
An informal survey from Moncton Centre-Ville, for example, indicates that the top 21 landlords in the area spent 20% more on private security in 2021-2022 than in the previous fiscal year, or an additional $2.4 million in total. Other companies left the city center to establish themselves in an area considered safer.
“Tour operators across North America that have consistently chosen Moncton as a destination are no longer doing so,” added Destination Moncton–Dieppe CEO Jillian Somers. We want to ensure that we continue to be the destination of choice.”
Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce CEO John Wishart acknowledged that addressing the issues of homelessness, addiction and crime is complex.
“However, we need immediate action. We cannot make progress without shared responsibility between the City of Moncton, the Province of New Brunswick, the federal government and the RCMP,” he declared.
The four organizations proposed five actions: tackling theft and street drug use, funding more shelters, building mental health and addictions courts, investing in mental health and addictions recovery and building outreach -affordable housing.
“This conference is all negative, it’s not going to produce anything,” said Food Depot Alimentaire president Dale Hicks, who stood in front of the crowd. Our community is better than the face it shows today.”
The one who also heads the organization Marée Montante, which aims to provide affordable housing, pleaded in favor of funding a clinic for people suffering from mental health problems and addictions on the ground floor of social housing.
Mr. Hicks challenged the members of the government present on this occasion, accusing them of blessing society’s problems. He made sure to raise funds for his clinic project with or without help.
“The missing player is the province, the mayor of Dieppe, Yvon Lapierre, pointed out in a press scrum. We need $6-8 million from him to get things done next year. We are tired of seeing the file stall this for three to four years. It’s time to act.”
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold continued by postponing.
“The provincial government is acting for the first time,” he said. I meet with the Minister of Social Development, Dorothy Shephard, regularly and she is very involved. He assured me that steps would come. He had a stellar team that met with stakeholders across the community. I believe that our voices will finally be heard.”
“When you work in government, you work on a lot of files,” said Progressive Conservative MP for Moncton East, Daniel Allain. We heard a cry from the heart. This is important. It is easier for us now to know the goals that must be accomplished. I hope our government will act immediately.”
Minister Shephard intervened in the evening. He brags about his “thunder team” (tiger group, in English), composed of employees from the Departments of Social Development, Justice and Public Safety, Finance and Treasury Board. This group met with 25 organizations in Moncton over five days.
“We have associations that do good work. But most of them work separately. So we will find a way to bring them together so that we can move more easily towards the goals we want to achieve,” she said.
The minister said he wants a directorate to coordinate homelessness, mental health and addiction services in Moncton. He added, it’s up to the government.
Ms. also remembered Shephard said his department will invest $8 million over three years to support emergency shelters in the province. He said further analysis of needs is needed before announcing new spending.
“Next year, we will not repeat this discussion on December 2, in any case the minister promised. There will be a system that will adapt.”
Moncton’s census metropolitan area (CMA) had the third highest police-reported crime severity index in Canada in 2021, according to Statistics Canada. This index is based on all Criminal Code violations, including traffic offenses.
The region also had the tenth highest police-reported violent crime severity index in Canada in 2021.
The City of Moncton also estimated there were 556 homeless people without a place in a shelter in its community at the end of November. Planned emergency shelters can accommodate about 190.