Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The two banks of the St. John River have never been closer.
There’s no need to rush to the window. We are speaking philosophically.
The picturesque river divides Fredericton into north and south sides, and for a long time it also divided the haves from the have-nots, the jobless from the employed, the good neighbourhoods from the bad neighbourhoods, the good drinking water from the poor drinking water and modern water and sewer systems from obsolete pipes.
Do people still look down — at least a little bit — on northsiders? It would be hard to argue no.
The history of that division dates back to the 1960s and 1970s when Fredericton amalgamated the villages on the north side of the river. Many people still associate themselves with those communities such as Barkers Point, Devon, Marysville and Nashwaaksis.
There’s nothing wrong with remembering your history, but it’s much healthier to look to the future as a united city.
But that division has decreased substantially in the years since the Westmorland Street Bridge opened in 1981.
That bridge instantly added many thousands of dollars to the property value of every homeowner on the north side and brought the two sides closer together.
Sure, it’s still a bit of a bottleneck. But the next time you are fuming about the slow pace of traffic on the bridge, cast your mind back to the days of the two-lane Carleton Street Bridge when the police used to turn it into two lanes heading south for the morning rush hour and north for the evening rush hour.
Good luck to anyone trying to go against the flow during those times.
The north side now has its own high school and shopping centres. It has the city’s main indoor swimming pool, and when council decided to build two new arenas, the north-side facility was built first.
There is even a water pipeline running under the river.
Since most of the available land on the south side within city limits has been developed, most new homes in Fredericton are constructed on the north side.
But newly re-elected Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside wants to make the river even narrower.
“I’m going to get rid of this northside, southside stuff,” he said, Monday night. “We’re one city.”
“We’re all members of council to serve the city, and anybody who is selected for anything will be selected on their merit.”
It’s an admirable sentiment to be sure, but talk is cheap.
We would like to see the mayor and new council lay out a concrete plan to eliminate the long-standing northside-southside sentiment.
Council is about to go into a strategic planning retreat after the election to plot the future of the city. Among the many issues that process should address is making the capital truly one city.
Hopefully the three new councillors, combined with the veterans who were re-elected, are the right mix to make it happen.

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