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Letter: Is it still realistic for CGS to move forward with large projects amid the pandemic?

‘We are asking our councillors to take pause and seriously review the path we are on’

Thank you, Mr. Archer, for providing all of the informational links to helping us with our concerns as outlined in our previous email.

We have gone through much of the contents and will continue to do so, but please know that we will also continue to pursue this issue until we get our voices heard. 

We once again ask this council to focus on our original request by providing us with a POST COVID-19 Strategic Plan.  Respectfully, we do not believe this council’s position is asking us to accept the CGS Strategic Plan to be the one and only never-to-be-reviewed master plan. 

To be clear, this is not about pro/anti KED protesting. This is about the relevance and viability of having these large projects move forward in their current format. 

Mr. Archer, the link you sent us is prefaced on the realities of that time which is a pre-COVID strategic plan. Certainly you can agree that this Strategic Plan does not reflect the realities of today.

It begs the question …  Why is this council so reluctant in taking a PAUSE for REVIEW and doing what seems so obvious to many of us taxpayers given the following?

1.   The financial impact to the global economy has yet to be truly revealed. Recent stats show a second wave of COVID-19. In spite of the dated information our city seems to be leaning on, the financial ramifications have yet to be determined

2.  The CGS pre-COVID strategic plan provided by Ed Archer was developed on a set of assumptions that are dated and questionable given today’s realities.

a.   How can the revenue streams and costs assumed at that time be the same today?

b.  As of today’s news on BNN June 12th 2020, Canadian household debt to income ratio rose 176.9 per cent in Q1. This data also makes reference to lower/mid income households are actually worse off. How can this council assume that the financial well-being of Sudburians will be able to endure further tax increases as expected in the S&P/KPMG reports?

3.   In the CGS pre-COVID Strategic plan under Economic Capacity & Investment Readiness section 4.1 Review Key Core Services and Service Level, the document makes reference to Conduct a core services and service level review and Maintain a long-range financial plan that enables the city to anticipate and respond to emerging issues and changes in its operating environment.

a.  Would the COVID-19 pandemic not qualify as an emerging issue and its obvious impact to the city’s pre-COVID strategic plan? And

b.   If the pre-COVID plan is designed to address emerging issues such as the one we are facing now, where is it shown in the current Strategic Plan in how we can respond to it accordingly?

4.   In the CGS pre-COVID strategic plan under Create a Healthier Community section 6, page 40, the last sentence of the mission statement states “This strategic goal reflects the continued desire of the council to effect change within Greater Sudbury community to improve health, economic and social outcomes for its citizens” Can council explain and justify how Creating a Healthier Community is achieved given the following:

a.  Part of KED’s site and vision is having a casino, which is touted on bringing in tourism gaming.  BUT the gaming company, in filing an IPO to the New York Stock Exchange, openly stated that the casino revenue was based solely on local gamers, not tourism gaming. 

How is taking money out of our local economy improving health, economic and social outcomes for our citizens?

Why would people living in North Bay, Elliot Lake and surrounding cities that have Casinos near them come to Sudbury?

How do you attract Millennials, the next largest market, to want to come to a casino, given that they favor technology which online gaming has achieved and according to Vegas statistics is one of the major challenges facing their casinos?

5.  In the S&P Ratings Report prepared on June 2019, Key Ratings Factors are prefaced upon two categories. Credit Context and Assumptions and Base Case Expectations. It is worth noting that the CGS AA/Stable rating is given on these set of factors.

a.  Credit Context and Assumptions and Base Case Expectations. Four points worth stating:

S&P Global Ratings expects moderate growth in household income, population and taxable assessment to support the city’s revenue generation.

We believe the city’s relationship with the Province of Ontario will remain supportive around core policy issues.

The city will finance its rising capital program with a combination of Reserves, Grants and Debt.

We expect the city to maintain strong operating surpluses, while its after-capital balances will gradually slip into deficits.

1.   The COVID crisis not only represents a health-care crisis, but it has and will for some time affect ALL of Canada. To take a position without a serious investigation that these assumptions still remain true and pose no concern to our city is in itself a cause for concern. Do we believe that S&P would still give us this same rating and provide this city a GREEN light to move forward on all of our planned projects? 

2.   Do we know at the present time that the province of Ontario will remain supportive around our core policy issues given the urgent need to address our Long Term Care facilities?

3.   Has the province of Ontario given any indication for support since this crisis started?

Systemic seems to be the operative word occupying today’s news. Our police force, our corporations, all levels of governments, all of us are asked to do what is right. 

To be silent is no longer acceptable. To be silent is being part of the problem. We all have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves these very important questions. Are my actions representative of doing what is right? 

We are asking our councillors to take pause and seriously review the path we are on. Not to challenge why we put into action the plans of the past, but to assess the realities of today in how it will impact us moving forward. 

We are all on board for a healthier community. Let’s be confident that we can get there.

R. Hibbs, Sudbury