Dieppe’s massive debt is becoming a key campaign issue in the mayoral race in the final days of the municipal election.
Dieppe is New Brunswick’s fastest growing city, but it is also carrying a $93.3-million debt, as of 2010, the most recent figure available.
That means each of the city’s 23,310 residents owns a $4,007 share of the debt.
The city has submitted a five-year plan to the Department of Environment and Local Government to outline how it will wrestle down the debt.
That mountain of debt is starting to tower over the city’s race for mayor.
With Jean LeBlanc’s decision not to re-offer as mayor, the three-way race consists of Yvon Lapierre, a former Dieppe mayor, Dave Maltais, a councillor, and Hélène Boudreau.
Lapierre, who was mayor from 1997 to 2005, has been the focus of an anonymous letter signed by "A Group of Concerned Citizens," that accuses him of many things, including burdening the city with a large debt.
Lapierre said most of the eight accusations made against him in the letter are wrong and others are misleading.
|Dieppe's rising debt|
"[The letter is] really a misinterpretation of half truths and half facts. The only real fact is the $66 million or close to. That is true, that money was spent. But what is not being said is what we got in return," he said.
The anonymous letter states that Lapierre accumulated a large debt while he was the city’s mayor. Lapierre said the letter doesn't talk about how and why that money was spent.
"Yes, we spent money, but look what we have today. Many communities in New Brunswick or the region would love to have the so-called problem that Dieppe has," Lapierre said.
"We can pay our bills, we are paying our bills. We put in place a 10-year plan to manage that growth."
Lapierre said that growth went into building city hall, the Farmers’ Market and expanding major roadways.
Lapierre said he has decided not to investigate who wrote the letter. And he said he will leave it up to the voters to decide who to believe.
The other two mayoral candidates have denounced the accusatory style of the letter against their rival.
But Maltais said the debt is a topic Dieppe residents should be concerned about.
"Our debt is at $90 million. We have an internal document that says if we follow the plan we have, the path we have in 2017, each property will be paying $800 more of taxes," he said. "I know the citizens they don't want that."
Boudreau said the debt is an issue, but focusing on how the city got there is not her style of campaigning.
"I do not even address those concerns whatsoever," she said.
"I mentioned in the debate, some want to talk about the past, some want to talk about the present in a very aggressive way and demise what's been happening in the city of Dieppe," Boudreau said.