POLITICS

First Nation says New Brunswick hasn't heeded requests for road-repair money

11/18/2014 03:43 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - A New Brunswick First Nation says its requests for money from the province to repair its crumbling roads have gone unheeded.

Chief David Peter-Paul of the Pabineau First Nation says he spoke many times with former Premier David Alward and other provincial officials and even drove them around his community to show them the poor condition of the roads.

But Peter-Paul says the province has so far not offered any repair money to the Pabineau First Nation.

"Anyone who has travelled through the Pabineau First Nation community can attest to the fact that the conditions of the roadways are horrific, to say the least," he said in a statement.

"We have worked very hard to effectively communicate to the government of New Brunswick our need for provincial support to undertake major road repairs in Pabineau. However, to date, these attempts seem to have fallen on deaf ears."

The community had asked for $500,000. But Peter-Paul says the province told him that any work on First Nations roads is the federal government's responsibility.

"For the record, Pabineau has not received any funding from the province of New Brunswick for road repairs," he said.

A briefing note to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says his department would provide $1 million for a road project on the Pabineau First Nation.

Peter-Paul says that federal money is being used to repair parts of the roadways that were dug up to upgrade the community's water-treatment system — not for badly needed general road work.

"We are in the middle of a major water-treatment upgrade project, which includes the construction of a storm sewer on the Pabineau Falls Road," Peter-Paul said.

"We could certainly use these funds to complete the re-surfacing and paving of this publicly used thoroughfare which flows directly through the centre of our community."

The province had no immediate comment.

Aboriginal Affairs sent a written statement on Tuesday evening in response to questions posed on Friday morning.

"The assessment on the road conditions for all First Nations in New Brunswick has been completed by the province and the proposal is now under review," spokeswoman Michelle Perron said in an email.

"We will continue to work with the province of New Brunswick to determine opportunities that may exist for partnering on road construction projects in First Nation communities, including exploring options to include various First Nation roads in future provincial public-private partnerships (P3) road construction projects."

The briefing note to Valcourt says on-reserve roads in New Brunswick are in bad shape.

It says 59 per cent of on-reserve paved roads are in poor condition. Another 27 per cent are in fair condition and only 14 per cent are in good condition.

Meanwhile, 92 per cent of unsurfaced roads are in poor condition, while eight per cent are in fair condition. None of the unpaved roads are in good condition.

The government of New Brunswick estimates it will cost $68 million over 12 years to repair and maintain the roads.

Aboriginal Affairs says that's much more than what has traditionally been set aside for road work in the province.

The department's infrastructure budget is already strained.

A recently released document said Aboriginal Affairs shifted half a billion dollars budgeted for infrastructure over a six-year-period to try to cover shortfalls in education and social programs.

But the document adds that moving the money around has only put greater pressure on the department's infrastructure program. Even with the reallocated money, it says Aboriginal Affairs' social and education programs are still short.

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