A Saint John Progressive Conservative MLA is defending the silence of the city’s MLAs in the ongoing controversy over Saint John’s pension reforms.
Some Saint John city councillors have criticized the Progressive Conservative MLAs, who represent Saint John, for not saying whether the provincial government will approve the pension reforms that are being pushed by the city.
Council has asked the provincial legislature to approve several changes to the city's pension plan, such as cuts to cost-of-living increases, to help deal with the plan's $190-million deficit. The reforms are being opposed by many local union officials.
City councillors have said they may not have had to lay off workers and cut programs had the provincial government spoken up about what it plans to do with the city's pension changes.
But Saint John East MLA Glen Tait said the proposed changes must have a full hearing in the legislature, which will consider, among other things, the rights of the city's hundreds of retirees.
"I am frustrated because somehow it's as if the city's problems or financial woes is an issue to be solved by the provincial government," Tait said.
Tait, a former fire chief and member of the pension board, is one of two former Saint John city councillors in the Tory caucus. Saint John Harbour MLA Carl Killen is also a former councillor.
Saint John was forced to carve $9 million from programs in its 2012 budget this week, which will mean 50 positions will be eliminated and across-the-board cuts are being made to city programs.
But Tait’s explanations aren’t sitting well with some municipal politicians.
Coun. Gary Sullivan said he wants people in Saint John to start calling their MLAs.
"This is their city also and there hasn't been a whole lot of voice from those folks to assist us," Sullivan said.
The changes could have been introduced in the legislature last fall but the city missed the deadline to have the information published in the Royal Gazette.
City politicians then urged the provincial government to recall the legislature to hold a special session to approve the changes, but that request was denied.
The legislature doesn't sit again until March.