Needs versus Wants: ‘International’ Airports in New Brunswick

What do we want from airports in New Brunswick? The three airports of New Brunswick’s three largest urban centres have direct flights to Toronto and Montreal, but (naturally) most of us want more of ’em. We want direct flights to Boston and/or New York, and we want flights to our favourite destinations to be frequent and cheap. Airport operators know this and requests for infrastructure dollars (from tax revenue) are often implicitly connected to the idea that more infrastructure (terminal buildings, runways, etc) will result in more passenger growth, more price competition, and thereby increase opportunities for more frequent and cheaper flights. 

Unfortunately, we live in a region where economic growth has been anemic and incomes have been stagnant. Consequently, tax revenue is at a premium and there are many competing demands for that revenue. A dollar from tax revenue spent on a terminal expansion is a dollar that can’t be spent on a school or hospital. Requests from airport operators for contributions from Federal, Provincial, and Municipal sources have to be seen in that light. In this post, I am going to look at passenger and flight data for the three main airports in southern New Brunswick and consider some options for the future.

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How Much Does It Cost To Run A Local Service District (LSD)?

[Note: I suggest reading these two previous posts, found here and here, on this subject for additional background material.]

Do residents of Local Service Districts (LSDs) in New Brunswick pay too much or too little for the services they receive from governments?

That is a question that has been raised before in this Province and we will see it raised again across New Brunswick, especially now that the Province has moved forward with some of the recommendations of the Finn Report, namely the creation of the Regional Service Commissions (RSCs). The latter are charged with delivering ‘local’ and ‘provincial’ services on a regional basis. For LSDs, that means that services that have been provided to residents of LSDs by the Province (e.g. road maintenance, snowplowing, policing) are gradually being transferred to the RSCs, which have been given the task of providing those services on a cost-recovery basis.

For several decades, the Province has levied a tax rate (referred to as the ‘Special Provincial Levy’) of $0.65 per $100 of assessed value on LSD residential properties to pay for those services. Over the next few years, that $0.65 will gradually be shifted from the ‘provincial’ to the ‘local’ portion of property taxes and the RSCs will be given the task of recovering enough in tax revenue to pay for those services. Will the existing LSD tax rates provide RSCs with enough revenue to cover service costs? As the cost of a number of those services has increased significantly, LSDs that have experienced a slow rise (or decline) in the assessed value of properties may see substantial hikes in property taxes to make up any deficiency in revenue.

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Political Party Funding Update 2009-2013

In a previous post, I outlined the donations received by registered political parties in New Brunswick for the years 2009 – 2012.  Now that the 2013 data are available from Elections NB, I have included the recent numbers in a re-analysis for the years 2009 – 2013. This time around, I have prepared a separate chart for each party and you can get an estimate of the ebbs and flows of funding from each source.

In the charts below, each funding source has its own colour:

BLUE:  Political Process Financing Act – Election Financing Manual (funds received from government budget allocations in a given calendar year via the PPFA formula);

ORANGE:  IND – Individual donors (sum of donations of those contributing $100 or less plus those named donors contributing more than $100);

GREY:  CORP – Corporate donors;

YELLOW:  UNION – Union donors.

The vertical axis shows the donation amount from each source (as well as the total). Axis values must be multiplied by 1000 to give the actual amount. Note that the scale of the vertical axis is different for each party.

The funding pattern shows an upswing in donations during the year prior to the election and in the election year itself. Following the election, there seems to be a drop-off in donations until the next election campaign starts to roll in earnest.

During the last election year (2010), the Progressive Conservatives raised just over $2 million. You can see that about half of that came from corporate donors (the actual donors are listed in the Annual Financial Return which you can obtain from Elections NB).  Throughout the 2009-2013 period, the Progressive Conservatives were less reliant on PPFA funding than the rival Liberals, or any other party. The lack of an uptick in funding in 2013 must be of some concern.


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The CBC takes it on the chin, again

I was saddened to hear a few days ago that another round of staff and program cuts are being inflicted on the CBC. Although I am sure the current federal Conservative government would be happy to see the CBC disappear, it’s worth pointing out that the Liberals were not much friendlier when in power; hacking away at the CBC budget seems to be a popular past-time. A national new organization has a lot of clout (or, at least, is viewed by some as having a lot of clout), and those in power in Ottawa prefer to have their own message reproduced without question. They want the CBC to be a lapdog, rather than an independent voice. Seems to me we are all better off in the long run with a national public news organization that is as independent as possible from political interference.

I’m a long-time fan of CBC Radio – I recall listening to CBC broadcasts delivered to Fredericton via CFNB back in the early 60s, before the area got its own CBC station. I remember (as a teenager!) tuning in to CBC radio most evenings to hear As It Happens, way back when William Ronald was the host. Today, I am still a fan, but a disappointed one (sort-of what it must be like to be a long-suffering Leafs fan).  Given the recent cuts, I think it is more important than ever to examine how CBC Radio functions in this part of the country and whether some re-jigging can compensate for some of those budget and staff reductions.

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