'I love this job': Fredericton mayor not concerned about recent controversies

Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien’s past year in office has been plagued with controversy. But he told reporters after his annual state of the city address, held Thursday afternoon, he isn’t worried about his future prospects in politics.

O'Brien details possible future of Fredericton at state of city address

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien said he wasn't concerned about controversies that have come up over the past year of his administration. (CBC)

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien's past year in office has been plagued with controversy.

But he told reporters after his annual state of the city address, held Thursday afternoon, he isn't worried about his future prospects in politics.

The city has faced stiff opposition from residents about several issues: the future of Odell and Killarney Lake parks, the Sir Max Aitken Pool, construction delays, the fight over the exhibition grounds and the revitalization of Officers' Square.

"I love this job," said O'Brien.

"I never have a bad day."

He said some of the problems the city faces were foisted upon them but admitted others were due to a lack of communication between city hall and residents.

"Sometimes we think the public knows everything," said O'Brien.

"I wanted to tell the people some of the more details of this vision for the next 25 years. Some of it will happen sooner than later."

New pool?

The Sir Max Aitken Pool received a last-minute reprieve after intervention from the provincial government. (Submitted by the Fredericton Diving Club)

In his speech, O'Brien dropped a hint that news about a new pool may be forthcoming.

O'Brien said there was always a plan to build a new pool.

"It was always in our recreation master plan for a new aquatic centre, recreational aquatic centre,"

O'Brien named Hanwell Road and the Grant Harvey Centre as potential locations for the new pool.

Officers' Square

The city has faced criticism over their plan to revitalise Officers' Square, which includes removing 19 trees. (CBC )

O'Brien dedicated a portion of his speech to the controversy surrounding the Officers' Square revitalization plan.

The plan, in its current form, would see the removal of 19 trees from the downtown green space. This has led to protests and the plan being put on hold.

A special meeting is set for June 26 to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on possible new plans.

"Officers' Square has been well researched, thought out. It was endorsed by the downtown business network, it was endorsed by city council, it's been reported heavily in the media," he said.

"The issue that came up is some people may be not happy with the overall concept of the plan. That's understandable."

Generational approach

Part of O'Brien's "generation" plan for the city includes the continuing developement of four "new" neighbourhoods in the city. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

The focus of the speech was largely generational, outlining plans for the future of Fredericton still far off in the distance.

A major pillar of the mayor's plan is the continued development of four new Fredericton neighbourhoods — in the Brookside Drive, Devon, Bishop Drive and the former UNB woodlot areas.

The plan includes further development in what the city calls the urban core, basically the areas between Dundonald and Main streets, which the mayor said could house an additional 8,000 people.

This includes development of the exhibition grounds, which O'Brien said could house 1,000 people.

This continues a debate, that already has led to legal action, over the future of the exhibition grounds.

"We've been fairly consistent over the last few decades about the need for that piece of land," said O'Brien.

"Right now there's some pushback and that's understandable. Change is difficult for everybody."

O'Brien's future

Channelling other political leaders, O'Brien said a walk in the snow may be in his future.

When it comes to public perception, O'Brien is under no delusions. He doesn't expect the next round of opinion polling to be particularly kind.

"They're fun polls and they're fun when they're up high," said O'Brien.

"If you wanted me to predict, I bet it's going to be lower."

When asked if he planned to run in 2020's municipal election, O'Brien was non-committal but channeled a leader who decided not to run again.

"I'll do my walk in the snow in 2019," said O'Brien.

About the Author

Jordan Gill

Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at jordan.gill@cbc.ca.