On 2 December 2021, Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers delivered her first State of the City Address. Her speech is reproduced below and is also available for viewing here.
State of the City Address
Mayor Kate Rogers | City of Fredericton
Crowne Plaza Fredericton – Lord Beaverbrook
December 2, 2021
Growing a City with Care
Good evening, everyone!
Kulasihkulpon (Kul-los-see-kul-pon) | Bienvenue | Welcome
I am pleased to be here this evening to present my first State of the City Address.
Thank you so much for coming out tonight! Your presence demonstrates how much you care about our city and its future.
It has been a whirlwind of activity since the municipal election in May. Lots going on… and a theme is definitely emerging. We are, undoubtedly, a growing city with amazing attributes but, also one experiencing the challenges that come with growth.
How we address this new reality is our topic for this evening. Growing our city with care is an aspiration I hope we can all pursue together.
Before I proceed further, I have many “thank yous” to extend. First, thank you to the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event. It is particularly precarious to organize an event of this magnitude during COVID and I am most appreciative.
I also want to take a few minutes to recognize many people in attendance here this evening.
- David Coon, MLA
- Sakom Polchies and (Ablosimis) – thank you
- Former Mayors Bud Bird and Walter Brown (acknowledge Elbridge Wilkins who passed away on June 24, 2021)
- FCC President Jeff Saunders and CEO Krista Ross
- DFI President Mike Babineau and General Manager Bruce McCormack
- BFN General Manager, Trina McDonald
- Council colleagues and partners
- City Staff – Directors, Asst Directors, and other staff who help keep the City running. And a very special shout-out to my office mates in the CAO/Mayor’s Office – CAO Steve Hartt, DCAO Sara DeGrace and our Office Administrator extraordinaire, Angela Duplessis. The office has had a complete turn-over in the past 6-8 months and it is very exciting to be finding our way together. All of us have lots of municipal experience, what we bring is new perspectives and a new way of approaching the work.
- My family (Iris – we miss you, know that your heart is here),
- Friends and guests, thank you all for being here tonight.
Of course, everyone asks me how I like being the mayor. I love being Mayor! (I’m not that into the “Your Worship” handle but I’m trying to get used to it…).
Most of all, I am honoured to be your mayor and I am thrilled to be working with this Council made of people with a variety of perspectives, skills, experiences and backgrounds to take on the governance of our city.
While each councillor represents the interests of their particular ward, we all come together to make decisions for the betterment of our city as a whole.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Council got to work. One of the first things we did was develop our Guiding Principles. We committed to:
- being more people-focused,
- prioritizing regional leadership,
- building community,
- maintaining our strong fiscal stewardship, and
- continuing to be environmentally responsible.
It is in the spirit of these principles that we conduct our work at City Hall and in the community with Frederictonians and with our partners in governance.
Before further exploring tonight’s theme of “Growing a City with Care,” I want to repeat the message I shared at the Chamber of Commerce AGM in June.
- The City and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, along with the other business agencies, have a long and strong relationship. We have worked together on many files in the past and we will continue that practice.
- I also want to re-iterate that I know and appreciate that COVID has been hard for local businesses for the past almost two years. I am glad that we worked together to create #SupportFredLocal. The City will continue to support the effort.
- Like you, I hope for brighter times ahead and a return to life that’s “normal.” It will take hard work from all of us, but the City is here to support you in any way that the we can. Fredericton businesses are resilient and I know, once this pandemic is over, business will come back stronger than ever.
- As always, I encourage our community to #SupportFredLocal, especially as we head into the holiday season.
In a sense, that message expressed at your AGM is consistent with much of what I want to talk about tonight.
Growing a City with Care can mean many things, but I’ve decided to capture the essence of “care” in three ways: careful thoughtful planning and development, care and compassion for those most in need and, finally, care for and pride in our city’s prosperity.
Careful, Thoughtful Planning and Development
We often hear that Fredericton is a growing city, but what does that mean? As a starting point, our planning staff work with Statistics Canada to understand Census data.
When I first joined Council in 2012, the population of Fredericton was 57, 000. Statistics Canada estimates that our population, as of July 1, 2020, was at 64,180.
International immigration is one of the leading factors for the city’s success in attracting an increased share of the region’s population growth.
Ignite Fredericton figures indicate that, in 2020, we welcomed 530 newcomers to our city, exceeding the target of 400. As recent news stories would suggest, there are newcomers waiting to move to Fredericton, but COVID has slowed travel.
There are other contributors to our growth, such as people moving to Fredericton from other parts of the province, and other parts of the country, specifically Ontario and Alberta.
We welcome all new residents to our city as they bring new ideas enriching all aspects of our civic life.
With the recent announcements related to Local Government Reform, Fredericton is set to grow by 5,500 more people. While changes won’t come into effect until 2023 we are excited to welcome new residents from Killarney, Pepper Creek, the Carlisle Road, and Islandview.
Once they join us, Fredericton’s population will be more than 70,000 people. That’s a 22% growth in population over the last decade. From a leadership perspective, really from any vantage point, this is significant! And it isn’t accidental. We’ve all been working together to make this happen.
With this information as a backdrop, you’ll be pleased to know that we have an in-depth plan in place to guide this growth.
We recently adopted a new Municipal Plan, which directs the physical development of the City, as well as a Growth Strategy that provides a clear course on where and how residential and employment growth should occur.
The Municipal Plan includes goals like:
- Welcoming and Supportive,
- Strong and Diverse Economy,
- Vibrant Downtown and Riverfront,
- Green and Healthy, as well as
- Sustainable and Efficient.
Based on the community’s preferred growth scenario, the Growth Strategy envisions a compact, efficient and sustainable city. This will be achieved by creating a more vibrant urban core, walkable neighbourhoods with local amenities, and enhanced mobility options.
The strategy is meant to capitalize on existing infrastructure by favouring infill and supporting areas of the city that are growing. But infill and increased density will change the way that our city and its neighbourhoods look and feel.
And, change is hard.
Part of caring about our city’s growth requires this thoughtful planning. Best practice indicates that infill is the most efficient and environmentally sustainable roadmap for growth.
It means people will live closer to amenities, we can deliver City services more effectively, commutes will be shorter, therefore, we can minimize our carbon footprint.
I ask you all to work with us as these changes unfold, appreciating that a growing city needs to be proactive in its approach. As municipal leaders, we all love Fredericton. We value its distinct character and we will do everything we can to balance growth while maintaining Fredericton’s uniqueness.
As we grow, our development numbers are climbing. The total value of construction in 2020 was $158.5 million.
During the first half of 2021, the City issued building permits valued at $114.3 million, compared to just over $52 million for the first half of 2020.
While development flourished across all sectors, the residential sector … and multi-unit construction in particular … has led the way so far this year with a total of $76.6 million in construction.
Our challenge with residential development, however, is to ensure, encourage and incentivize the right types of developments, those that respond to Frederictonian’s housing needs.
Care & Compassion
As many of you know, I’m a proud Frederictonian. I was born here, built my career here, my husband, Michael and I chose to make Fredericton our home and raise our family here. I’ve had a pretty great life in Fredericton.
Sadly, not everyone has had the same experience and opportunities. And that is unfair.
As a parent, I often say I am only as a happy as my least happy child. If one of my girls is troubled, then I am troubled.
As Mayor, I extend this same philosophy to our city. I believe Fredericton is only as fortunate as its least fortunate resident.
As municipal leaders, we’re elected to oversee the City and all its residents. We’re elected to take care of everyone – not just the most fortunate or those with influence but also those who can’t afford next month’s rent, can’t afford a car, or can’t afford services that contribute to their health and well-being.
For me, taking care of our residents is good governance.
It’s our job to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be well and our success should be measured by our ability to deliver upon that opportunity.
It is my mission that everyone in Fredericton feels a sense of well-being and belonging. That we design a city filled with compassion — where we take care of the most vulnerable.
Of course, the municipal government can’t do this alone, we need effective partnerships with other levels of government, institutions, Indigenous leaders, local businesses, the not-for-profit sector, as well as residents and community groups.
So let’s consider what is happening in Fredericton.
First, there is a housing crisis in this city. And it’s the most critical issue our City is facing to date
According to the city’s recent housing needs assessment, Fredericton requires about 2,500 reasonably priced housing units and 1,500 subsidized units, as well as at least 50 emergency shelter spaces.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported earlier this year that rents paid in New Brunswick had risen by 4.8 per cent between March 2020 and March 2021 – that’s the largest increase across the country, and it will continue to rise as the ramifications of increased property tax assessments are felt by landlords and tenants.
I serve as Chair of the Fredericton Affordable Housing Committee, which is made up of representatives from all levels of government, the residential development community, the real-estate industry and the non-profit housing sector.
We recognize that “affordable” means different things for different people. For that reason, our committee considers the housing spectrum as a whole and its effects on all our citizens, including our residents living rough.
According to Fredericton’s By-Name List, at least 159 people are experiencing homelessness in the city right now. Of those, 107 are chronically homeless, meaning they have been living on the streets for more than six months over the past year.
The City is doing what it can to support housing initiatives. We recently conducted a housing needs assessment and we’re currently embarking on a housing strategy to guide our activity in this area.
To date, we’ve funded Housing First units, waived development fees for non-profit housing, created a zoning bylaw for single room occupancy developments and rezoned an area for a tiny home projects. We supported the John Howard Society’s City Motel project to the tune of $900,000. This project which will house approximately 50 people of varying needs.
This past summer, Fredericton Police permitted tent micro-sites across the city. Clearly, this is not a long-term solution. But, the pilot-project connected individuals to reliable resources over the course of the summer.
In preparation for winter, the City convened a community working group that explored using the Small Craft Aquatic Centre as a proposed location for an Out of the Cold Shelter.
Intermingled with homelessness is desperation for services for mental health and substance abuse disorder.
Data collected by the Human Development Council in April indicated that of the fifty-four homeless individuals surveyed, 76 per cent reported having challenges with substance use, while 70 per cent reported difficulties with mental health. It is vital the Province develops a coordinated, well-funded approach to find housing for people and deliver trauma supports.
The housing crisis is coupled with inflation, causing further cracks in the system and creating further vulnerability for residents. We already know from Environics and Census data that 30% of households make less than $40, 000 per year. For a family of 4, that’s below the poverty line. This will only worsen as inflation continues.
As a way to advance work on housing, mental health, and other issues related to inclusion in our community, the City recently created an Office of Community Inclusion consisting of a manager and planner tasked with making connections and ensuring people are linked to municipal resources. The office addresses housing, homelessness, equity, diversity and inclusion.
I know, that as good corporate citizens, you also feel the weight of social issues. I know this because many of you tell me. I understand the impacts these challenges are having on your business. I know the dilemma you’re feeling because you care. I see the work you do in our community and the contributions you make to help those in need.
My offering to you is this … let’s work on this together, in tandem.
Work with the City to advocate for long-term solutions, support City initiatives that attempt to deal with systemic and structural barriers that keep people from leading their best lives.
As business owners, you have an opportunity to approach these societal concerns and effect change collectively through the BIAs and other associations.
Think of the power of that…. A group of business leaders, putting their heads together, demanding more on behalf of the most vulnerable in our city.
If you want to be part of addressing the housing crisis and chronic homelessness, a strategic response is to use your collective voice to lobby the provincial and federal governments who are the policy developers in this area and who play a huge role in funding and supporting affordable housing initiatives.
And don’t underestimate the strength of your collective voice. This past summer, Downtown Fredericton and participating businesses wrote a letter to Premier Higgs calling on the Province to support a new performing arts centre to generate economic viability and vitality of our downtown.
Now, let me tell you…. the City has reached out on numerous occasions to that office seeking a definitive response, but to no avail.
It was through the collective action and a unified business voice that we received a clear answer. It wasn’t exactly the response we were looking for but it was still good, because we knew where we stood. It provided an opportunity for us to re-group, and carve out a new path that we’re all quite excited about. That was because of you, because of that considered, tactical action.
The Saint John business community has also relied on the power of its collective voice. Together, business leaders there formed the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending generational poverty in the port city.
Leaders and stakeholders have said the level of engagement of the Saint John business community in the anti-poverty space is unique, valued, and strengthens the credibility and impact of local initiatives. BCAPI has considerable influence and access to key decision makers thanks to its greatest asset – those sitting at the table.
To be clear, business leaders in Fredericton are every bit as empathetic as business owners in other cities…if not more. It’s just a matter of directing energies in ways that exert influence. We can do that, too, right here.
We have the right people and the right attitude to be a catalyst for change. United, strategic efforts can create a city where everyone is cared for and where, as leaders, we can say we’ve come together to develop opportunities for those who are most vulnerable, positioning them to lead better lives.
Care for our City’s Prosperity and Civic Pride
In general, Frederictonians are a humble lot.
We don’t necessarily brag about our accomplishments, but we are a confident city. We have the confidence to set out and achieve great things. We definitely have a can-do spirit that sets us apart and we punch above our weight over and over again.
Case in point, the effort two weeks ago by members of the Capital Winter Club to break a Guinness World Record for the longest marathon curling game.
A noble effort on its own but, in addition to this goal, organizers decided to raise funds in support of youth mental health in the Greater Fredericton area.
In the end, they curled for 120 hours, eight minutes and three seconds, breaking the record by about 15 hours. They also raised more than $200,000 in support of youth mental health services.
Scenarios and successes like this play out time and time again in our community. World class research takes place every day at our local universities. Fredericton companies attract people from all over the globe to come and participate in exciting, innovative work that’s occurring here in the capital.
The Local Immigration Partnership, led by Ignite, integrates newcomers into our community, enticing them to STAY and make Fredericton home.
Amazing things are happening here, we need to celebrate that and be proud. Let’s care enough about our city to remind ourselves of all of our accomplishments.
For instance, I’m proud of our municipality’s fiscal position. We’ve been responsible and set long-term financial plans. We’ve limited our borrowing and made plans to spend the right money at the right time to replace and add new infrastructure that our city needs and the community wants.
Through this practice, we are able to come to the table with regional, provincial and federal government partners to build these projects.
Our focus right now is building a new Performing Arts Centre. I’m excited about the progress we are making on this project.
We are also very pleased to be part of a regional initiative to design and build a new regional aquatic facility. Initiated by the community, the region is approaching this project together, led by the regional service commission.
Gone are the days of either/or project. As a capital city, it’s appropriate that we have both facilities to offer to our residents and to the area. It’s okay to care enough about our city to want and demand the very best. We have positioned ourselves to make these investments and, for this, we should be proud.
Thoughtful planning and development, compassion and pride – that’s how the City of Fredericton and every one of its citizens will have the opportunity to prosper.
As I look around the room and see all the different skill sets and talents here tonight, I know we have the right people to help make Fredericton the best version of itself.
We covered a lot of ground tonight and addressed some important topics. Here’s the Coles Notes version …in case you missed something…
Fredericton is a booming city, it’s increasing in population and size. As Frederictonians, we care about what our city grows into. We care enough to make certain that we manage our growth through thoughtful planning and development.
We care enough to acknowledge that, as Fredericton prospers, many of our residents are not benefitting from this prosperity and that we must all work together, as a community, to ensure our least fortunate residents have opportunities to be well.
We care enough for our city to have pride in our accomplishments, to be confident in our abilities and to recognize that, as a provincial capital, we are positioned to take advantage of our city’s growth for the benefit of all.
We are a vibrant, smart, kind city devoted to all our residents. That’s Fredericton’s brand. And, together, we can, and we will grow our City with care.
State of the City Address – Growing a City with Care