As many people expected, the 2018 municipal election in Greater Sudbury has become a referendum on the Kingsway Entertainment District.
I’ve criticized the process that got us here before, so I’m not going to mine that ground again, but the question of the large projects — the $100-million arena/event centre on the Kingsway (and the associated companion projects) and the $100-million Junction arts and culture hub downtown, plus the millions the city has promised to help construct and operate the Place des Arts performance space and gallery — has become the defining aspect of this election.
And well it should. When we're talking about financing more than $200 million worth of work, when we're talking about changing the nature and landscape of our community, when we're talking about saddling a generation of taxpayers with the expense, there should be a considerable amount of soul-searching and constructive navel-gazing (editor's note: as an aside, the technical term of navel-gazing is "omphaloskepsis," just a cool word) that goes into the decision.
Remember, there are taxpayers who will be paying for these projects who are not even born yet. They don't get a say in this.
The question of these projects has become a complex stew of opinions and criticisms, data and conjecture. Some people (voters and candidates alike) are for the event centre, but not the casino. Some are for the casino, but want the arena downtown. Some don’t believe the city should be saddling a generation of future taxpayers with hundreds of millions of dollars in financed spending. Some just think it's a bad investment all around.
Either, both, neither. Have you stopped to consider where you, yourself, stand on the issue? I know I have. Have you stopped to consider where the candidates stand on the issue?
If not, I suggest you should. You might find the candidate you thought you were supporting holds an entirely different opinion from your own. The city council we're electing on Oct. 22 (or between Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, the electronic voting period) will be responsible for taking the baton on the KED file (for simplicity's sake, I'm just going to use "KED" as a general term for the entire project: event centre, casino, hotel combined).
In the mayoral race, incumbent Brian Bigger is unequivocal in his support for the KED, as one would expect from the guy under whose watch the project was approved.
Also on the unequivocal side (but on the opposite end of the spectrum) are Bill Crumplin, Jeff Huska, David Popescu (who objects to the whole project on moral grounds) and Bill Sanders. They don’t support the project or the casino, and want the arena to stay downtown.
Troy Crowder hasn't participated in any of Sudbury.com's election coverage (despite numerous requests), and the platform on his website, TroyCrowderforMayor.ca, doesn't mention the KED that I could see.
More nuanced in their opinions on the KED are Cody Cacciotti, Dan Melanson and Patricia Mills. Basically, they acknowledge there is considerable public support for the project, but are critical of various aspects of the process that led us here, and how project is being financed. They promise better oversight.
I’m not going to run down the list of where all 43 candidates for city council fall in terms of their support. What's interesting to me is that there are pro-KED and anti-KED candidates running in every ward save Wards 2 and 3 (where the councillors were acclaimed). Of the remaining 10 ward races, most of the candidates have stated they are pro-KED.
That the candidates have mostly all declared one way or the other indicates just how much the KED has come to dominate the election.
If you want to know where the candidates stand on the KED, casinos and a host of other issues, keep your eyes on Sudbury.com. We're running an election service entitled, fittingly, Where Do They Stand? We reached out to every candidate (mayoral and council) in an attempt to nail them down on nine issues that we see as important. We've already rolled out stories on the KED, the casino, all the large projects, the urban-rural issues that still plague the city, and taxation.
Look for new Where Do They Stand? stories on Sudbury.com every weekday. And visit the Election section of our website (a link is on the menu bar on our homepage) to learn more about all the candidates and the issues that are driving them.
Also, on Election Night, stick with Sudbury.com for our live election show. We'll be bringing you interviews, stories, analysis, issues and live coverage of the results, as well as interviews with winners and runners-up on Oct. 22, starting at 7:30 p.m.
And don't forget to vote.
Mark Gentili is the editor of Sudbury.com and Northern Life.