We have a very small group of vocal anti-KED antagonists who have been doing everything they can to create the illusion that city councillors are dysfunctional, divisive and incompetent.
It would appear as if these activists have co-ordinated their efforts using social media, letters to the editor, petitions, mass emails and mainstream media reports to orchestrate a toxic environment in an attempt to influence public perception of council.
Many of their commentaries are not only false and misleading, they are inflammatory and derogatory with the clear intention of maliciously undermining and impairing the reputation of city councillors who have supported the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED). Just look at the names of the people writing letters to the editor or creating hateful social media posts. They are the same names over and over again.
They make it appear as if there is widespread criticism of council, but all of the rhetoric is coming from a small group of people who are mostly against the KED. We are going to see more and more of this disreputable activity as the municipal election in October comes closer.
I want to make it perfectly clear that city councillors are not as seriously divided as we are made out to be, nor are we incompetent and dysfunctional. There is even no authentic division on city council with respect to the large projects, namely the KED and the downtown Junction East, or any other issue that comes before us. The large projects are both critical masses with significant investments that will move forward as planned, despite the attempts by some political objectors to give the impression that there is dissention and uncertainty among individual councillors.
For example, city council made two major decisions on July 14, 2021, and those decisions guide our direction today.
First, we gave staff the authorization to make arrangements with our architects to develop a detailed design for the Junction East project that will incorporate the Greater Sudbury Public Library, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Sudbury Theatre Centre and the Sudbury Multicultural & Folk Arts Association into an iconic facility that will be one of the most spectacular of its kind in Northern Ontario.
We were told on Jan. 25 that a detailed design will be presented to council by the end of March for final budget and timeline approvals that should see this site completed sometime during 2024.
Second, city council gave delegated authority to Ian Wood, the executive director of Communications, Strategic Initiatives and Citizen Service, which will allow him to work with Gateway Casinos, Genesis Hospitality, and the land developer, Dario Zulich, to do whatever is necessary to ensure the KED is ready for use by the end of the summer of 2024.
On January 11, 2022, Mr. Wood indicated that a Project Completion Agreement would be negotiated, which would obligate all parties to complete their respective projects or be subject to significant financial penalties. We were also told that by June or July we will be asked to approve the final budget and award the contract for construction of the arena to the winning bidder. Site preparation is now expected to begin before the end of 2022 with the KED expected to be ready for occupancy in 2025.
The decisions that were made on July 14, 2021, were supported by the following eight members of Council:
- Mayor Brian Bigger;
- Deputy mayor and Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyn-Landry Altman;
- Deputy mayor and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer;
- Finance & Administration Committee chair and Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo;
- Board of Public Health Sudbury & Districts chair and Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre;
- Planning Committee chair and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan;
- Audit Committee chair and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, and;
- Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, whose ward includes the KED.
The eight councillors who supported the decision on July 14, 2021, remain committed to moving the projects forward. They have all consistently demonstrated professional proficiency and commitment in their positions on council. The next major decision points for both projects will be on the final budget and timeline. Those decisions will be made by the end of March for Junction East and in July for the arena / event centre.
The five Councillors who have not supported the KED will likely continue to oppose the project at every opportunity in order to satisfy their respective connections in the community. They include Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland and Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier.
Furthermore, I want to remind all residents as well as Gateway Casino and Genesis Hospitality that any change in direction for the KED moving forward will constitute a reconsideration of the July 14, 2021, decision by the majority of council. That would mean that four of the group of eight who voted in favour of the direction would have to change their votes. I can assure you that there is no chance of that happening.
I conclude that any perceived discord among members of city council is being manufactured by a small group in our city to give the public a false impression that councillors are uncertain about the future of the KED and Junction East. In fact, all councillors are very clear in their positions and as such, the majority decision of council will prevail.
When the time comes for the next decision points in March and July, we will examine all of the details and make another informed decision that will be in the best interests of the city as a whole. This is what we do for all decisions with the majority determining the direction we take.
Now that the KED and Junction East are on a direct path towards completion, I am sure that the general population will begin to see for themselves that city councillors are not as divided and conflicted as the political antagonists would like to have you to believe. In fact, when you look at just about every other matter or issue over the past seven years, council is usually quite united with the implementation of our decisions. We have our debates, but once a decision is made, most councillors support those decisions and refrain from vocal opposition to the decision of the majority.
The KED is the only exception to this.
So the next time any of the political radicals try to convince you that this council is dysfunctional and divisive, take a good look at the misinformation they are trying to get you to believe. Look at the names of the people leading the complaints against councillors and notice the councillors who are the target of their complaints.
Then you can judge for yourself what is going on. Rest assured that once you get away from the KED, this council gets along quite well when dealing with the business of running the city.
Robert Kirwan is the city councillor for Ward 5.