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#TheSoapbox: Seven reasons why we need a referendum on the KED

Sudburian Patrick Crowe argues there are just far too many issues with the project and far too many concerned residents to proceed with the entertainment district project without putting the question to the people
301118_KED-artists-representation
An artist representation of the Kingsway Entertainment District. (Supplied)

Editor’s note: This open letter to Greater Sudbury’s elected officials was shared with Sudbury.com by the writer. We have elected to publish it as an op-ed column under our #TheSoapbox banner.

To the councillors and mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury, it is astonishing that the recent scandals and revelations surrounding the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) scheme have not halted this project indefinitely. 

Instead on Tuesday, Sept. 28, council is meeting to possibly approve spending nearly $10 million to begin preparation of the construction site adjacent to the dump in November of this year.

At risk of stating the obvious once again, there are many reasons why this project should be paused and no conceivable reason why it should be pushed forward.  

1. There is an ongoing police investigation into allegations of bribery from the developer. This alone is sufficient grounds to lay down shovels. 

2. There is a legal challenge into the legality of how the KED approval was rushed through council in July of this year with direct implications pointing back to Item No. 1.

3. Despite multiple freedom of information requests, the city has not provided any evidence of actual commitment from the partners supposedly integral to the project financing. Meanwhile Gateway Casino's financial stability has been reduced to junk bond status and, let’s face it, there is no hotel chain prepared to sink millions into a site adjacent to the malodorous dump.

On Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan’s Valley East Facebook page, he recently shared a city document that outlines the resolution to prepare the KED site that is the focus of the meeting Sept 28. The document reveals that the financing of this $9.4-million ‘Asset Preparation Phase’ is to be borne entirely by the city with no contribution from any other party.

And since there is no urgent need for a new arena, why are we prioritizing this construction during a period of soaring pandemic pricing? What's the big rush? The cost of the site preparation alone has skyrocketed 16 per cent in two years due to rising costs directly attributable to this worldwide crisis, yet they're pushing through the construction of a pleasure palace for the middle classes when we should be more concerned about housing those left without even rudimentary shelter due to the same disaster. We have to stop the insanity.

4. To that end, I am the co-originator of a popular online poll that legitimately claims over 2,500 verifiable Sudbury residents committed in their fervent opposition to the KED and there are a further thousand signatures (rough estimate) on paper. In total, these signatures represent the equivalent of seven per cent of votes cast in the last municipal election. Alarmed by its import, one city councillor recently breached the Council's Code of Conduct by signing the online petition using a false name (any guesses who?) in an attempt to discredit the petition. The intelligent objections of these petitioners, as well as their numbers, speak volumes. Check them out at Change.org/stoptheKED.

5. A rival pro-KED poll on change.org has failed to secure even 500 signatures. There is no proof of popular support for this looney scheme.

6. As Ian Berdusco has already so brilliantly demonstrated, the vast majority of letters (more than 80 per cent in the Sudbury media) oppose the KED, while the majority of letters written in support of the KED were reliably authored by Coun. Kirwan, who has now been twice reprimanded for his unethical conduct by the integrity commissioner.

7.  There are also issues regarding climate change, the health of our drinking water, civic planning, urban transit and fiscal responsibly — there are red alert flags generated by the KED than can reasonably be addressed here.

The greed of developers has caused too much division in this city already. A referendum is the only responsible answer. But until then, not a single stone should be turned on this suspect site until all police investigations and legal challenges are concluded. 

Councillors, we appeal to you all to do the right thing. You know what that is.

Patrick Crowe is a two-time Emmy Award-winning film and digital media producer from Sudbury.