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Letter: Past GSDC chair find's mayor's motion to disband board 'disturbing'

Opportunity for meaningful renewal has been tossed into a political quagmire, he says
(File photo)

I have read all the letters and articles regarding the mayor’s motion to disband the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation board and replace it with members of council. I find this whole matter perplexing and concerning.

There is no doubt in my mind the GSDC is overdue for renewal. Since leaving the board, I have become increasingly concerned with the political interference in the development corporation’s activities and its assimilation into the bureaucracy of Tom Davies Square. 

An economic development corporation in any city is the mechanism through which the private sector deals with the city, outside the political and bureaucratic arena. Investors must have confidence in the confidentiality of information shared with a development corporation regarding their interest, in investing in a city. Any premature leak of this information could impact an investor's business plan, affecting property values and financing applications.

They must also have confidence in the business acumen of the development corporation’s leadership and staff. They rely on the expertise of the development corporations and its willingness to think outside the box and guide them through the bureaucracy and political landscape to bring their investments and business plans to a successful outcome. 

If an investor even suspects that a development corporations leadership is aligned with the bureaucracy and city politics, they will avoid them totally, which will likely lead to moving these businesses to other places. 

Currently, the general manager of the development corporation is a member of the senior management team at Tom Davies Square. He answers to the CEO and takes direction from him and council. He is not employed by the GSDC, nor is anyone else within the development corporation. While the board may develop strategic plans and goals, the CEO determines the directions and priorities for the staff, through his general manager.

This situation was at the heart of the recent governance review. The control exerted by the CEO and the mayor over the activities of the development corporation is contrary to successful structures and best practices found in cities across Canada. 

If the mayor truly wanted to renew and make the GSDC more effective and efficient, he would have established a task force, in consultation with the GSDC board, of which he is a member, to examine best practices in economic development in cities across Canada.  

This information is readily available and would have formed the basis for a robust and thorough discussion regarding proposed changes to the governance, leadership and structure of the GSDC.
Equally disturbing is the connection between this motion and the private-sector-led initiative to reclaim the downtown rail lands. This potential game-changer has been talked and dreamed about for over 40 years. How a mayor could not embrace and unconditionally support this project is mind numbing.

Instead of proceeding in a thoughtful and transparent manner, the opportunity for meaningful renewal has been tossed into a political quagmire. This seems to be consistent with the actions taken by this mayor and his advisers.
John Caruso
Past board member – Sudbury Regional Development Corporation
Past chair of the steering committee to create the GSDC following Amalgamation in 2000
Past chair of the GSDC from 2001 to 2005