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Letter: Former Ward 4 candidate says quitting race was difficult

‘Withdrawing was necessary because my decision to run in the first place was about change. We need change all over starting at the top’
typewriter pexels-min-an-1448709 (From Pexels by Min An)

My decision to withdraw as a candidate in Ward 4 was difficult but necessary. It was difficult because I knew it would disappoint everyone who saw in me the leadership that our city so desperately needs. I was right about this and to them I say sorry for quitting and thank you for your support. Many have asked me to reconsider my decision and I am humbled by this.

Withdrawing was necessary because my decision to run in the first place was about change. We need change all over starting at the top. At the top, there is hope because we have two serious contenders for mayor with the experience, wisdom and passion we need to lead our city. 

The Ontario Government's pending strong mayor legislation and the possibility of it being extended beyond Ottawa and Toronto is also encouraging. But there are problems that no new mayor with new legislation can ever solve alone.

I have learned as a candidate that our city is becoming a financial disaster. A 2017 report prepared by KPMG on our long-term financial plan made the following forecast: "a decrease in the City’s overall debt levels, with outstanding debt decreasing from a projected level of $76 million in 2017 to $49 million in 2028."  One council later and our debt is closing in on $355 million. That is some decrease. Our city has actually borrowed $2.3 million just to fix some playgrounds. It gets worse.

Our CAO recently stated that our infrastructure deficit is really more like $1 billion than the $3 billion being suggested, yet the 2019 budget states, "the City has identified an infrastructure renewal requirement of $3.1 billion during the duration of the Long-Term Financial Plan" 

Does our CAO not read the budgets he signs? How are we going to fix this problem when we are borrowing money for playground equipment and the current Council has saddled us with $355 million of debt? And just where is the plan to deal with it regardless of its size? Is allocating $35 million from future roads to cover the funding shortfall on the Junction East going to fix a single road? The Onaping Falls Community Centre? The leaking roof, broken siding and cracked concrete floor at Whitewater Park in my ward? Do we not all see what happened at Laurentian University when deficits were ignored and over $300 million of debt was accumulated? 

On the Junction East, when did we become so complacent that we allow a city council to jamb a $98-million building down the taxpayers’ throats with borrowed money — for a building nobody wants or needs at that — will never solve a single real problem downtown?  

No shiny new buildings will keep the Crosses for Change from growing while this building goes up or save a single person from homelessness, mental illness and addiction, reign in the crime epidemic, or fix a single decaying building.

This is the legacy of the current council and we are heading for a "meet the new council, same (and likely even worse) than the old council" moment. This is not a council I could or would even want to work with. They have governed us with their collective heads in the sand on issues that matter.  They have spent foolishly and ignored our decaying infrastructure. 

They have allowed our debt to soar while the borrowed money burns a hole in their pocket for senseless and needless projects. They have disrespected each other to the point of exhaustion for all of us.

I am not alone. The Sudbury Chamber of Commerce has recognized the leadership problem and the major issues facing our city, as have many others, and to all of them I ask this: Where are you? I know it is a minimum wage job that, with all the keyboard critics, deserves hazard pay but are there none among you willing to step up to the plate and help solve the problems? We can complain all day but in the end we get the government we deserve and none of us gets off the hook for our collective “all talk no action.”

We all love our city. It is a mostly friendly, outdoor paradise in every direction for every season of the year. All we want from our council is a needs-based, common-sense approach to spending. All we want from our council is common decency and mutual respect which allows us to work together collaboratively to solve our common problems. All we want from our council is a sense of common purpose by rallying behind the leadership of a strong mayor do the things that truly make a difference and truly matter.

This is a council I would be proud to be part of, but it is a council we are not going to get. Prove me wrong future councillors. You can start by cancelling the Junction and reducing our debt, you can show support for our new mayor and you can find a new CAO who has the skill and desire to right the Sudbury ship.

Pauline Fortin
Greater Sudbury