Saint John 2013 Ward 3 By-Election – Candidate’s Email Answers

Social Media ElectionAs was done during the 2012 Saint John Municipal Election, Sarah Ingalls (@s_ingalls) and Sally Blount (@SaintJohnSally), are reaching out to the various Ward 3 by-election candidates to ask a set of questions, and I will be posting the responses for everyone to see.

The questions and answers generated a lot of traffic last time, and we hope to do the same again – allowing voters in Ward 3 an opportunity to hear more from each candidate to allow them to make an informed decision!

Below are the questions being asked to each candidate via email:

1. What are your top two priorities?

2. What is your professional background and training?

3. What is your volunteer experience?

4. What are your thoughts on the current city transit situation?

5. Are you familiar with the bus system and have you used it on a regular basis?

6. What do you see as Ward 3’s biggest issues?

7. Are you willing to address issues with city staff and do any restructuring that may need to be done?

8. Do you support the creation of a Multiplex in Saint John?

9. What improvements do you feel can be made to Saint John’s current garbage/compost collection?

10. Do you support the return of food trucks to Saint John?

11. There has been recent discussion on the state of the Jellybean Houses (purchased by the city in case they were needed when constructing the Peel Plaza complex and parking garage) and how the city should proceed with these houses. Opinions vary between the buildings being unsalvageable and should be torn down, to restoring the properties. How do you feel the city should proceed?

12. Recent news articles have highlighted issues with upcoming union contract negotiations, specifically the guaranteed staffing levels for Outside Workers Local 18, and the no layoff clause for the Saint John Police Association (with the understanding they report to the Police Commission). Given these provisions are not carried over in other union contracts, or to other departments within the city, what challenges/opportunities do you feel this presents for the city of Saint John?

Below are the answers received (so far):

Read more…

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Historica Developments – Flip Saint John | Video Blog #1

Published on 2013-04-06 by in 21inc, Saint John, Videos

Keith Brideau, of Historica Developments, is doing some amazing things here in Saint John.

Now is he starting a video blog – Flip Saint John – to keep us updated.

Be sure to check it out, the first video is now live:

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2013 NB Property Tax Assessments – Why The Levy’s Don’t Make Sense!

TaxBillMany people from across New Brunswick have been using recently to compare their property tax assessments.

A common question that keeps coming up is around the levy (which is the amount that the property will pay in tax for 2013).

The answer is fairly complicated, so I will try to walk through a few reasons why it will vary on listings.

The 3% Cap is over

First, you have to understand that the last two years saw a cap of 3% on assessment increases (2011 and 2012).  That program is now over.

To avoid your assessment immediately increasing to account for the difference (over the cap) in 2013, the government decided you will never pay tax on that difference (so long as the property remains your primary residence and you do not sell it).  They call this the Assessment Gap (described by SNB below):

Assessment Gap (Permanent Assessment Exemption)

This new “Assessment Gap” serves as a permanent exemption from taxation and represents the difference between the 2012 market value and the 2012 capped value.

If you benefited from the 3% cap in 2011 and 2012 you will be able to keep this savings until your home is sold or ceases to be your principle residence.

Real Property Assessment

This is supposed to be the actual value of your property (what you would expect to list it for if selling) as of January 1st, 2013.

In an simple system, we would simply multiply this by your tax rate (add a few fees) and that would be your levy.

That isn’t the case, to avoid large increases (as the real property assessment for many people have jump by a huge margin), the government decided to create “spike protection” so that the assessed amount that you pay tax on can only increase 10% each year  (described by SNB below):

Assessment Spike Protection

This new mechanism protects homeowners from unexpected assessment spikes.

Any increase greater than 10% will be phased in over time, making assessment growth much more stable and predictable.

New construction and/or major improvements are excluded from this protection.

The challenge that many people are seeing, including my parents, is that the “spike protection” seems to have a lot of wiggle room.  Expect to hear more on this over the next few weeks.

So Why Does Levy Not Make Sense?

When comparing properties, you simply can’t tell what may be going on with their levy unless you see the actual tax bill:

  • Did they benefit from the 3% caps to earn a large Assessment Gap deduction?
  • Did they qualify for the Assessment Spike Protection?
  • Is the property not their primary residence?  They would pay an additional 1.8x tax in this case.
  • Is their municipal tax rate different?
  • What are they actually assessed at for tax purposes (Net Amount for Taxation) on the bill?

Basically, what I am trying to get at is comparing levys doesn’t make any sense as there are too many variables that influence it.

You best best is to determine nearby comparables, look at recent sales, and try to determine if your “Real Property Assessment” is inline with those. If not, you may have a case to appeal.

Where can you do this comparison easily?  Try!


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LNG property assessment was referenced in a recent story on CBC NB about the LNG Tax Deal:

Saint John’s Canaport LNG facility once again ranks as the province’s priciest real estate, but a controversial eight-year-old property tax deal it cut with the city has kept its bill low.

You can view the video below:

You can see the assessments here:

A story later appeared online to go with the above video that included my Dad’s story:

Saint John’s Canaport LNG facility — New Brunswick’s most expensive piece of property — continues to grow in value, but its taxes are holding steady because of an eight-year-old property tax deal it cut with the city.

The liquid natural gas terminal is New Brunswick’s most valuable piece of assessed property at just under $300 million.

The facility’s value grew $4.3 million this year, on top of a $4.4-million increase last year.

A 25-year property tax deal struck by former Saint John mayor Norm McFarlane for the LNG development froze its bill at $500,000 a year.

The property tax deal caused protests in the city for weeks.

Eight years later the gap between LNG and other facilities continues to grow.

By comparison, the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station now pays $5.8 million in property tax — 12 times more than the LNG terminal — even though its assessment is $66 million lower.

“I’m assuming they’re sending someone down each and every year to determine what the value is and it seems to be going up a few million dollars each and every year,” says Shawn Peterson, who runs the, a website that provides searchable tax assessment information.

Peterson said provincial assessors do keep track of the LNG plant, although, in the end, it’s salt in the wound for a city forbidden from cashing in on its growing property value.

Last month, former Liberal premier Frank McKenna said the LNG plant may yet trigger an economic rebirth for Saint John, well beyond the modest annual contribution it makes to the city’s tax haul.

Homeowners facing hikes

Meanwhile, New Brunswick has lifted a three-per-cent property tax freeze that’s been in place for the last two years.

That has been causing some tax bill jumps, including in Saint John where some residents and other property owners are facing huge increases.

Isaac Miller is a frequent user of the city’s four-year-old skateboard park.

“It’s really great to have a public park that has no costs,” said Miller.

Provincial assessors slapped the park with a $1,051 tax bill — 150 times more than the $7 it was charged the last two years.

Last year, Walter Peterson did energy efficiency renovations on his 30-year-old eastside bungalow, including new windows and vinyl siding.

Peterson was expecting a bump in his tax bill.

The province added $148,000 to his assessment.

“I almost fell off the chair because it went up 122 per cent,” said Peterson

His house, valued at $121,000 each of the last two years, is now assessed at just under $270,000 with a $4,300 property tax bill to match.

The renovations were encouraged by the province and partially paid for by Efficiency NB.

“Well if I get $269,000, it’s sold. Anyone who wants to come with a cheque, it’s gone,” he said.

Peterson has already filed an appeal, one of thousands the province deals with annually.

Related information:

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Eroded land among property taxed in 2013 assessment was referenced in a new article about the 2013 NB Property Tax Assessments:

The New Brunswick government begins mailing out over 500,000 property tax bills next week and although most go to homes and businesses, it doesn’t stop there.

New Brunswick’s 2013 Property Tax Assessments includes playgrounds, cell phone towers, public clocks, eroding shorelines and even open stretches of water.

The hills over Saint John’s Bay Shore Beach have been eroding into the Bay of Fundy for decades with several properties worn down to nubs. Saint John’s Duck Cove Community Association owns three pieces of property that mostly eroded into the Bay of Fundy years ago.

Still, the province assessed what’s left to be worth $100 and taxed each for $3.21.

“These building were over there and there was land on the other side of the buildings again, but it has eroded. It eroded away to the point that that land is pretty much gone, but I guess they can tax you for space in the sky,” Danny Dineen, the former president of the association.

In 2012 a new public clock the Irving family donated on Saint John’s King Street made news by getting its own $30 tax bill.

Even a floating dock in the Saint John harbour was billed. This year it was for $68.

Shawn Peterson runs the property tax assessment website and said there isn’t a tree standing in the province that hasn’t been assessed for the upcoming tax mail out.

“I mean you name it. If you’ve ever driven by it on the road it’s got an assessment.”

Peterson said every property in New Brunswick has been valued at some amount.

The province and its municipalities evaluate and tax hundreds of thousands of properties every year worth over $40 billion.

Click here for details on the Duck Cove Lane assessments referenced in the above article!

Related information:

No Comments  comments – Updated with 2013 Property Tax Assessments

Last night, Service New Brunswick released the 2013 NB Property Tax Assessments!

In less then 24 hours, I was able to process the data – making it available on

Users will be happy to know that most properties in New Brunswick now have data available for 2011, 2012, and 2013 – making it even easier to compare your tax assessment.

Another enhancement was made prior to Christmas, which was the redesign of the website using Bootstrap, making both mobile and tablet friendly:

If you haven’t checked out yet, what are you waiting for?

Don’t forget to share this site with your friends and family.

Send me your feedback!

As always – changes are driven by user feedback, suggestions, and even your angry rants – so be sure to tell me what you think!

Leave a comment below, or send me an email.

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T4G Big Data Congress 2013 Video

Published on 2013-02-20 by in Event, Saint John, T4G, Technology

Check out the following video that does a great job as showing what took place at the T4G  Big Data Congress here in Saint John last month:

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City Discusses Making Internal Data Public

Open Data

There was a great article in yesterday’s Telegraph-Journal around the Open Data and Saint John:

SAINT JOHN – As IT experts converge on the city for the Big Data Congress on Thursday, a discussion has resurfaced over whether the City of Saint John should implement an Open Data policy to make internal collections of information public.

“I believe the concept is really all around making sure that information that isn’t private is being released. Maybe its’s mapping information for the city, maybe it’s locations of bus stops, maybe it’s fire hydrants,” said Shawn Peterson, an ICT professional who will be attending the conference.

“I think it’s a different mind-set. Municipalities and governments aren’t necessarily used to sharing raw data with people,” he said.

Open data policies have been adopted across the country – most notably by Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Toronto – as well as by the federal government. They release a variety of data sets, including lists of public amenities, statistics on city services, or budget reports.

City councillor Greg Norton said there can be many advantages in making that information public. “If we do share the data that we have in a municipality, there’s going to be huge potential for our city to overcome challenges,” he said. “Open data reveals all of those essential elements that would allow the outside, the private sector in particular, to establish themselves not as outsiders but as equals in creating solutions for provinces.”

He said Saint John is in an especially strong position in that respect because of its thriving ICT sector, “which to me is a gold mine, something that we need to embrace,” he said. “We need to give protective license to allowing them access to information that can allow us within the city’s framework solve some of the hurdles that we struggle with, provide efficiency that we may not have realized if we didn’t share data.”

Norton said it’s a matter of finding a strong leader to bring the idea forward to council, and be willing to invest the time to make the project work. “The quicker we buy in to open data, the quicker we’re going to create efficiencies, the quicker we’re going to see growth in economic sector. At the end of the day it’s working in collaboration,” he said.

At Thursday’s conference, a hackathon will allow people to see the direct results of making data available to the public, said Michael Whelton, a school principal. Several of his students from St. Malachy’s High School will be joining in with their teachers, playing with data provided by the City of Saint John.

Peterson said the data includes Saint John transit numbers, as well as data sets relating to flooding and snow clearing.

Brian Woods, the city’s manager of information technology, said

“What the hackathon is looking for is people who are passionate about questions and passionate about data,” he said. “If you find passionate people, then you’ll get really engaged activity, and the information that comes out and the knowledge that comes out – they’re going to go that extra mile.”

He said before making it public, city staff have to go through the data sets and remove private information, and spend time formatting it. That can take time, and staff.

“If release a data set that has been cleaned, and is opened, and from that we depose some questions and people come up with some answers, maybe the next step in my mind is we can take that and apply it to our data proper,” he said. “That’s the power of open data.”

He said the four Canadian cities leading open data are much larger than Saint John, and can devote more time and resources to the project. He said some of the city’s data – mainly the GIS mapping software they use – is sold to private industry, making it part of the city’s revenue. As well, much of the data is already available on the city’s website through council minutes. It’s just not as easily accessible.

“This open data is not a new thing but with the way it’s starting to get used and the answers coming out of it, it’s really exciting,” he said.

via (written by Carolyn Thompson)

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Big Data Event Points to Huge Potential

There was a great article in yesterday’s Telegraph-Journal around the Big Data Congress event happening in Saint John, NB this January.

The article features Geoff Flood, President of T4G Limited, and Larry Sampson, CEO of the New Brunswick Information Technology Council, talking about the potential for Big Data and the idea of a Data Science Centre of Excellence.

Geoff Flood

From Facebook posts to Tweets to mobile news updates, we live in a world of constantly flowing data and information.

Much of that data is useless, of course. But much of it is extremely valuable.

Yet drawing out the important bits is akin to drinking from an ever-growing fire hose: the flow of data is overwhelming.

“It’s coming from all directions, all the time. We’re talking about an exponential increase in volume,” says Saint John technology entrepreneur Geoff Flood.

“It’s like nothing we’ve seen before,” he adds. “The sheer volume of data requires a different approach to managing it and analyzing it and interpreting it.”

The sector focused on harnessing and filtering that wave of information is called “Big Data”. And it’s a sector Flood believes Atlantic Canada is well positioned to gain from.

That’s why his technology firm, T4G, is the lead sponsor of the upcoming Big Data Congress. To be held Jan. 24 in Saint John, the conference will bring together national delegates from the business sector, government and academia. It will also feature leading authorities on the future of Big Data. Among the speakers will be Andrew McAfee, a best-selling author and principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business.

“The primary objective of the conference is to help people see the potential,” says Larry Sampson, CEO of the New Brunswick Information Technology Council, a co-organizer of the event.

“Big Data is a means of capturing and parsing and dealing with vast amounts of data… so that we can leverage that information to improve the quality of our lives and the performance of businesses.”

As Sampson notes, Big Data is an emerging field within the computer science world – one with the potential to alter many aspects of society, from business to health care.

It’s also a field that New Brunswick is familiar with. Radian6, the province’s best-known technology company, rose to fame – and later fortune – by helping Fortune 500 companies see what’s being said about them online.

More recently, the province’s main tech startup accelerator – Launch36 – helped develop LeadSift. The startup, which recently raised $1.1 million from investors, sifts through reams of Twitter data to generate sales leads for companies.

And the potential for further Big Data job creation is immense.

According to Gartner, a technology research firm, 4.4 million jobs will be created worldwide by 2015 as companies work to harness and filter the Big Data deluge.

Atlantic Canada, argues Geoff Flood, must work cooperatively to ensure many of those jobs are created locally.

That will require universities to provide proper training for mathematicians and analysts. Governments must also embrace the opportunities presented by Big Data.

As well, Flood is hoping the Big Data Congress will lead to the creation of a Data Science Centre of Excellence – to unite the public, private and academic sectors.

“This is something we can pursue. It just requires a commitment and an alignment across government, academia and industry,” he said.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do this here. We have as much opportunity as anybody.”

via (written by Quentin Casey)

Learn more about the event at!

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True Growth 2.0 Approved!

Published on 2012-12-14 by in Saint John

It’s been an exciting week for Greater Saint John!

True Growth 2.0, our revised Economic Development Strategy, has been approved by all Regional Councils: Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis, Rothesay, St. Martins, and Saint John.

In addition to the strategy being passed, it appears that funding from all communities is going to be in place to allow Enterprise Saint John to begin implementing the strategy.

I also received the final True Growth 2.0 document that you can download below:

True Growth 2.0


Stay posted for opportunities to get involved in the new year!

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