While it has been the subject of much debate and is currently under appeal, Mayor Brian Bigger says most Sudburians are excited about the Kingsway Entertainment District.
"I think the entertainment district is something that has actually pulled the community together," Bigger said Thursday, outside of Soucie Salo Safety on Lorne Street, where he launched his re-election campaign. "We're strongly behind that project. This is from what we're hearing from citizens. When I'm out at Valley East Days or anywhere in the community, what I'm hearing from citizens is, let's move forward.
"I can assure you that, under my leadership, we're going to have a new and modern and excellent facility that's accessible to everyone in Greater Sudbury."
Bigger thanked his wife, Lori, during his remarks, as well as former MPP Rick Bartolucci, who was on hand at the event and is helping with the campaign.
Bigger ticked off accomplishments he said council had achieved since 2014, including getting rid of store hours regulations, ending councillor slush funds and record spending on the city's road network.
“People tell me everywhere I go — they want us to focus on the roads,” Bigger said. “And we have. We have approved capital projects of up to $300 million, compared to $140 million in the four-year term prior. That more than doubling the investment in roads.
"There's still a lot of work to do — I drive the same roads as you do — but the roads are better today than they were four years ago."
He said the Maley Drive extension is almost done and it's millions of dollars under budget, and said Lorne Street from Elm to Power streets will be done next year.
"This will be a brand new road network at the end of 2019."
Sudburians voted for change four years ago, Bigger said, electing a council with only two incumbents. This council delivered, he said, and hopes voters will recognize that and make him the first mayor in the history of Greater Sudbury to be re-elected.
"We've reshuffled the deck every four years for almost two decades now,” he said. “This term, this council has finally been working together — sometimes, with a heated debate. But we are all working together to move our community forward.
"I know the path we started four years ago is the right path for our city."
Speaking to reporters after his remarks, Bigger said the heated attacks on him by other candidates is all part of the political process and happens every campaign.
"They must feel I'm a very strong incumbent,” he said. “It's a very common strategy in politics."
Some candidates have taken him to task for spending on the big projects – the $100-million Kingsway arena, the $46-million art gallery/library, the $60-million convention centre, as well as the $30-million Place des arts – wondering how residents can afford so many expensive projects.
He responded that the city's investment in the Place des arts is $5 million, which helped make a $30-million project a reality — a good return on investment for taxpayers.
And there's a lot of financial expertise on council, including professional accounts, he said, and the spending is all part of a an affordable, long-term financial and strategic plan to grow the city.
"Those investments are prudent," he said.
While some city councillors have called for spending to stop on the Kingsway Entertainment District until planning appeals are heard, Bigger said the city was aware when they approved the KED, it would be appealed.
So they were extremely careful to ensure the planning process and language conformed to provincial law and guidelines. He and council will move forward with their timelines to get the project done, he said.
"We were aware they would possibly be appeals so what we've done is continue to move forward in a responsible way," he said. "We're determined to move our community forward and this is one of the most significant projects on the table right now."