Developing downtown was a major theme of Mayor Brian Bigger's inaugural address Tuesday, as he and the rest of city council were sworn in for another four-year term.
While touting the need for more police downtown, particularly at the Rainbow Centre, Bigger pointed to $160 million in investments ongoing or planned in the city's core, which includes the Place des Arts and a new library, art gallery and convention centre.
He made a veiled reference to the Downtown BIA's involvement in a legal fight aimed at stopping the Kingsway Entertainment District, which includes a new casino and moving the arena from downtown the new site.
“We need a new direction for our downtown and those who advocate for businesses there,” Bigger said in his speech. “The BIA owners and members I’m speaking with tell me they want to see community and business improvement ideas and initiatives, not political action and pettiness that is divisive, counterproductive and has done so much damage to our downtown and our community.”
When asked after the speech whether he was talking about the BIA and the KED battle, Bigger said he was emphasizing the need to change the direction downtown is headed.
“Well, I think it was clear in my speech I talked about coming back with proactive ideas for the downtown and focusing on improving the downtown and that's the focus,” he said. “The direction it has been going in is not healthy.”
Bigger also announced former provincial cabinet minister and Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci will be working with his office as an unpaid adviser and will act as a liaison with the business community to help get projects developed.
“As a point person for economic development and investment, Rick brings a wealth of experience to our city having been our MPP for 20 years and a senior cabinet minister,” he said. “As we move forward, I will also be calling upon other experienced people for their expertise and ideas. In short, if qualified people want to help make our city better, I am interested in hearing from them.”
Bigger said Bartolucci will be part of his push this term to eliminate barriers to business in Greater Sudbury, promising a “a new era of economic development.”
He also borrowed a term being used by Premier Doug Ford, announcing that Greater Sudbury was “open for business.”
“With our expertise in mining, with our emerging technology sector, with three top rated post-secondary institutions, a medical school and a regional health facility – Greater Sudbury needs to be the place new business wants to be part of,” he said.
“No longer is it acceptable to hear of business or industry that came to Greater Sudbury … but instead opted to invest in other Northern cities.
“No longer will it be acceptable to say we tried …and lost out on new investment, new jobs and the opportunity to finally capture the economic and population growth we need.”
Bigger also spoke about the election night fiasco, when a slowdown by Dominion Voting's internet provider led to the election being extended an extra day.
He said there was no hack and voter information was secure, but many people lost confidence in the process. And seniors who needed help in the online-only vote felt their privacy was lost.
While it will cost more money – about $900,000 according to a 2017 staff report – he said the next vote will be online and paper ballot.
“It may come with a cost … but the price to pay for an election process that does not reflect the wishes of the very people we must hear from is too steep and frankly non-negotiable,” he said. “Next election we will do better. We must do better.”
In an interview after his speech, Bigger said he was confident the KED would emerge from legal battles, despite delays and news last week that Gateway Casinos is telling investors the legal battle in Sudbury means the new $55-million casino may not happen.
“We're on track,” he said. “This is a rolling out as we had expected. I didn't see anything unexpected the came out of the information that we saw this week …
We know it's a good thing for our community and council stands behind it.”
Bigger, the first mayor reelected since amalgamation, was returned in the October vote along with 10 incumbent city councillors. Two new faces – Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc – were elected after the retirement of Evelyn Dutrisac (Ward 4) and Lynne Reynolds.
City council, 2018-2022:
Mayor - Brian Bigger
Ward 1 - Mark Signoretti
Ward 2 - Michael Vagnini
Ward 3 - Gerry Montpellier
Ward 4 - Geoff McCausland
Ward 5 - Robert Kirwan
Ward 6 - René Lapierre
Ward 7 - Mike Jakubo
Ward 8 - Al Sizer
Ward 9 - Deb McIntosh
Ward 10 - Fern Cormier
Ward 11 - Bill Leduc
Ward 12 - Joscelyne Landry-Altmann