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Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon delivered her annual State of the City address on April 12, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Saint John’s mayor delivers State of the City address

By Brad Perry Apr 13, 2023 | 6:39 AM

Growth and optimism were the key themes in the 2023 State of the City address in Saint John.

But the mayor also acknowledged the most pressing issue facing council and staff: homelessness.

Donna Reardon delivered her annual address Wednesday to a room full of local business leaders at an uptown hotel.

In her 40-minute address, titled ‘The Best is Yet to Come,’ Reardon said council is very optimistic about the future of the city.

“We’re committed to working across governments and sectors to unlock and utilize the city and the region’s potential growth,” she said.

“This work will help us to secure a bright future that enhances Saint John as a destination for people to live, work and play.”

Reardon touched on a number initiatives, including development along the waterfront, upgrades at the port, increased regional collaboration, and the compressed four-day work week for municipal staff.

She also noted the city is exceeding its growth targets, pointing to the population growth seen between 2021 and 2022.

Saint John’s population increased by 1,759 residents, or 2.4 per cent, as of July 2022 to 73,611. The city’s 10-year strategic plan aims to grow the population by two per cent annually.

Overall, the Greater Saint John region welcomed 2,861 people to the area, bringing the total regional population to 135,622.

“I’m here to ask, as a call to action, for everyone in their roles to step up and to help Saint John to move forward and grow,” said Reardon.

“The need is there and the want is there, so I’m asking everyone to please look at what you can do to contribute to this.”

As Saint John’s population grows, so has the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

There were just over 200 people without a permanent place to live as of January, according to the Human Development Centre.

Described by Reardon as the city’s most pressing issue, she said they are doing what they can at a municipal level while advocating other levels of government.

“I feel like it’s an iceberg and we’re just trying to fix the top of it right now, but we need to do that deep dive and figure out what’s going on and how can we impact the lives of those citizens,” she said.

Reardon said homelessness has never been a municipal issue, but the city has found itself “in the trenches” trying to come up with solutions.

The city partnered with the province and the Salvation Army to open a temporary out-of-the-cold shelter in the former Hilton Belyea Arena.

But that shelter is expected to close at the end of April, leaving many worried about what that will mean for those staying there.

People are being gradually transitioned out of the shelter throughout the month to “limit any harm to this vulnerable population,” said Reardon.

At the same time, city staff and the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure are working to clean up vacant encampments.

Reardon said six encampments are scheduled to be cleaned up over the next couple of weeks, provided they are no longer being used.

Staff are also supplying garbage bags at active encampments to give people an opportunity to get rid of items they no longer need.

The mayor said they look forward to collaborating with the province as it prepares to release its housing strategy this summer.


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