Earlier this week, Fredericton elected a new mayor and four new councillors along with eight councillors returning to the table to guide the city through the next four years. Congratulations to Mayor-­elect Mike O’Brien and the entire council, the chamber is looking forward to continuing to work with you to keep our community moving forward.

The chamber wishes to thank Mayor Woodside for his years of dedicated service to our community. He has navigated our community through a period of growth locally while facing tough tough economic situations provincially and at times, nationally.  His legacy as mayor is firmly intact and we are undoubtedly in a better place now than when he began his run. We also appreciate the service of the outgoing councillors  -­ Scott McConaghy, Marilyn Kerton, and Randy Dickinson ­ and wish them all the best in the future and are certain all will continue to have a big impact on our small community. We also commend all those who stepped forward as candidates in this election, it takes a great deal of courage to run for public office. The time and dedication required to learn about the issues and communicate your positions to better the community that one lives in is commendable ­ - adding to the public discourse has an impact, regardless of the election results. Thanks to all of you who participated!

We find ourselves at a pivotal point and these four years will present many opportunities and challenges for our elected officials to navigate ­ - but they don’t have to go it alone! In addition to a dedicated City staff, Mayor­-elect O’Brien and the 2016­-2020 council can rely on the expertise and passion of many interested individuals and groups - ­ including the local chamber of commerce. We can be a resource for council and a window into the business community.

The city is in a good place. Its debt is manageable. Vision 2020 is an economic development plan that the community is behind. Ignite Fredericton is doing great work to execute the plan. We are a smart city with tremendous information technology infrastructure. We have a number of post­secondary institutions producing new innovations and the next generation of energetic, engaged citizens. KPMG’s competitive alternatives report recently named Fredericton the most cost­-competitive city for business in Canada, and third globally among the 111 featured cities. We are an innovation hub with a growing reputation. We have a lot going for us.

Of course, the new council will also face its share of challenges. While property tax rates have been stable, assessments continue to rise, taking tax bills along with them. Urban sprawl puts some strain on city assets. The airport expansion and new performing arts centre are near­term projects that need to get done. The City faces a looming deficit due to rising wages by 2019. Tough decision will have to be made with public transit. We need to attract and retain more post­secondary students and newcomers. We are not immune from the provincial economy.

There is much work to do, but I have every confidence that our new mayor and council are up to the task. Leveraging the expertise of groups like the chamber will help.
In response to one of our “Questions That Count” for the 2016 Municipal Election, Mayor­-elect O’Brien said:

“I will work full time with Council to harness the talents and energy of our community, especially to drive economic development. Why economic development? Because development leads to job creation which leads to new businesses and new residents. This in turn leads to an increased tax base, which will assist in keeping the tax rate stable but also allowing for strategic investments such as those listed in my platform.”

We couldn’t agree more - ­ that is why the chamber’s vision is “community prosperity through business.” A growing economy and successful business community contributes to a healthy community and allows city government to continue to provide the infrastructure, recreational amenities, and other services that make Fredericton and place that people want to live, work and play. The chamber of commerce and city council have been partners for this reason throughout our 142­-year history ­ - there is a direct relationship between business prosperity and community prosperity and we look forward to working with this council to keep Fredericton moving forward.

Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. With more than 950 members, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest chambers of commerce. A dynamic business organization, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is actively engaged in policy development that affects the competitiveness of our members and of the Canadian business environment.