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Affordable housing is a key thing municipal councillors are looking for in federal platforms

Federal candidates in Sudbury and Nickel Belt affirm their commitments to working with the City of Greater Sudbury’s elected officials on local initiatives.
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Tom Davies Square. (File)

There’s no lack of things the City of Greater Sudbury’s elected officials are looking for in federal parties’ platforms, but addressing poverty remains at the top of the pile for some.

Sudbury.com reached out Greater Sudbury’s mayor and council this week seeking their wish lists in federal parties’ platforms for the Sept. 20 election.

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc said homelessness and its associated issues, such as the opioid crisis and affordable housing, have been top of mind when looking at the federal platforms. 

These issues, he said, “will determine which way I’m going to vote,” adding that the Liberals and Conservatives have both put forward plans he believes will work to better the current situation.

“Affordable housing is top of the list because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to really help everybody in the city right from the homeless to the seniors to right across the board,” he said. “It starts with housing, and the services come after that.”

On this front, he pointed to the $7.4 million in funding Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation pledged toward at least 28 transitional housing units to help people who are chronically homeless transition into permanent housing.

Greater Sudbury city council approved a Lorraine Street address for the build last month, but a cheque hasn’t been cashed and a change in government brings about the possibility of the city not receiving the funding. 

“So anything can happen, but fingers crossed whoever gets elected will honour the $7.4 million and will recognize that a municipality of our size needs more than $7.4 million to create affordable housing or transitional housing moving forward,” Leduc said. 

In addition to funding pledges, Leduc said he’d like to see the federal government OK a supervised injection site in the city. 

Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer said he’s optimistic the funding for the transitional housing units come through.

“The way the parties are speaking now in the campaign … I think that money will be there regardless of who wins this federal election,” he said, adding that homelessness, the opioid crisis and health care appear to be coming up a great deal this election cycle.

“Those are all issues that have to be dealt with, and they’ve been highlighted as a result of COVID,” he said. “It was always there, but there’s certainly more awareness.”

Eager to work with whomever wins in the federal Sudbury and Nickel Belt ridings, he said the municipality has maintained a strong relationship with the federal government in the past and that he expects this to continue. 

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan shared a similar sentiment, noting that he tends to stay out of provincial and federal politics.

“We’ve got issues at the municipal level that we’ve always had excellent support from in working with our provincial and federal representatives,” he said, adding that regardless of whether they’re in power, the city works with local MPs. 

Affordable housing, homelessness, public transit, infrastructure and support for the insolvent Laurentian University all come to mind for Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti when soaking up federal election coverage.

“There are a lot of issues that a lot of communities face, but we want to be at the forefront when whoever’s selected that they know Sudbury is the capital of the North and we want to make sure we’re recognized when those funding sources come available,” he said, adding that their relationship with other levels of government is integral to achieving their goals without raising taxes to an unrealistic degree. 

“We have an infrastructure deficit,” he said, referencing a recent report that indicated the city would have to spend an additional $100 million per year to maintain its assets in their current state. “We can’t do it strictly on municipal dollars, so that relationship has to be top of mind.”

The city’s relationship with the federal government, through local MPs, appears to have been positive from what Signoretti has been able to tell. 

“I think it’s been good,” he said. “It could always be better, but that’s up to the leader of the council to have those discussions, and I’m hoping that’s happening.

“The communication side of it is not very forthcoming to council, which is a little disturbing from my perspective. I think all councillors should be made aware of what’s going on and the conversations that are being had, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

Sudbury.com was unable to connect with Mayor Brian Bigger despite repeated attempts. 

Federal candidates respond 

The three leading candidates in the Sudbury federal electoral district affirmed their commitment to working with the City of Greater Sudbury moving forward. 

Sudbury.com reached out to Sudbury candidates because the electoral district includes most city wards, although the municipality is also in the Nickel Belt federal electoral district. 

Although she’s a new political newcomer, Liberal candidate Viviane Lapointe pointed to her predecessor, MP Paul Lefebvre, and Nickel Belt Liberal incumbent Marc Serré’s successes.

They helped bring an approximately $400-million investment to Greater Sudbury during the past five years, she said, citing $234 million toward infrastructure, $27 million to the Maley Drive extension and $3.5 million to the Greater Sudbury Airport. 

There was also a $50 contribution toward transit and active transportation, including bike lanes around the city, and more than $170 million toward the four-laning of Highway 69. 

Further, she said the $7.4-million pledge toward transitional housing currently awaiting finalization points to the Liberals’ commitment to addressing the issue of homelessness.

“I think there are many opportunities for the federal government and the municipality to collaborate either on either key issues facing the community or on opportunities facing the community,” she said. 

There are a few key structures already in place to help link local MPs with the municipality, which Lapointe said she’d tap into if elected.

“Those types of vehicles are really important because that’s where you’re hearing directly from the municipality, what their greatest needs are.”

NDP candidate Nadia Verrelli said there’s no doubt her party would honour the commitment of $7.4 million toward transitional housing in Sudbury, as it aligns with their platform to address issues such as homelessness and affordable housing.

“In our platform, we are planning and promising 500,000 affordable units in the next 10 years,” she said, adding this will require working partnerships with municipalities and the provinces. 

“I plan on working with all levels of government to assure the people of Sudbury are fully represented here in Ottawa, and this means working with both the municipal council and the provincial government to bring forth what we’re promising in our plan.”

Conservative candidate Ian Symington’s office emailed their response to Sudbury.com’s inquiry in which they noted the party planned on building one-million homes over the next three years.

They also plan on looking at federal land holdings and properties, which number upward of 37,000, and consider releasing up to 15 per cent to convert into housing.

The Conservatives would be “a reliable partner in addressing housing needs of Indigenous communities and implement a for Indigenous by Indigenous housing strategy.”

The party would also never tax Canadians’ capital gains on the sale of their principal residences.

Last week, Symington made addressing the issues around homelessness a pillar in his campaign, pledging to learn more about what’s going on and to take action.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.