Eliminating red tape is front and centre in Devin Labranche’s campaign to become mayor of Greater Sudbury.
“It’s amazing what a community can get together and do if they feel they can do it,” he said, adding that the most successful work is done by community groups and not governments.
“I think there’s a lot more opportunity to make people feel like they can have a lot more impact, and there are systems that need to be put in place to allow them to get that done.”
Labranche registered as a candidate on Thursday, at which time he became the sixth registered candidate.
The candidate said he still needs to hash out much of his campaign’s nuances, but that he’d like to see the city afford more responsibility to surrounding communities to make decisions.
“The city needs to do less,” he said. “We need to allow more opportunity for people to take control of their lives and what’s going on around them.”
Labranche was born and raised in Greater Sudbury, grew up in Skead and Coniston, and currently lives in Garson. He took environmental studies in university and has worked as a realtor for the past five years.
He first got interested in municipal politics in high school, but took earnest notice four years ago during the previous municipal election. At that time, he decided in four years’ time he’d run.
Part of what he brings to the table is his perspective as a world traveller, having visited 41 countries and hundreds of cities and towns thus far.
“It gives you a lot of perspective into where you are, where things can go right or where to go wrong,” he said, adding the most successful communities he has seen were those whose governments allowed their citizens the freedom to take on projects they are interested in.
“The way forward is to allow for more opportunity for leadership and power both in town and on the outskirts,” he said, adding the amalgamation which formed the City of Greater Sudbury more than 20 years ago has eroded many opportunities such as this.
“I don’t think the way forward is by spending a ridiculous amount of money on big, big projects, I think it’s just a bunch of small things,” he said.
With the $215-million Kingsway Entertainment District voted down earlier this month, the next-biggest project the city is currently looking at is the $98.5-million Junction East Cultural Hub, which city council greenlit last month.
Labranche said he didn’t know enough about Junction East to comment on it yet. As for the KED, he said the borrowed funds earmarked for the now-dead project might go toward renovating the Sudbury Community Arena or paying down the city’s debt load.
He also criticized Greater Sudbury for carrying “the fifth-highest tax rate in all of Ontario,” which he called “insane.”
Although real estate website Zoocasa has cited this fifth-highest statistic, they look at tax rates and not property tax amounts actually paid. Rates work in concert with property assessments to determine how much property owners pay in taxes. While not technically inaccurate, the city uses the BMA Management Consulting Inc.’s metrics when comparing municipal taxation with other municipalities in the province, which provides a better apples to apples comparison.
Using this metric, Greater Sudbury’s tax rates are actually middle of the road among Ontario municipalities and on the low end of the scale for municipalities with populations greater than 100,000.
Among his other platform points, Labranche wants to see the city do something about the old St. Joseph’s Health Centre building on Paris Street, which is privately held by Panoramic Properties. He considers its longstanding vacancy “embarrassing.”
Also on Paris Street, he said the crosses at the Crosses for Change site, which was set up as a memorial to raise awareness of those who have died locally during the opioid crisis, “need to come down.”
“Anyone who drives by and is new to the city, it’s not a good look and it’s incredibly sad,” he said. “That makes the whole city look depressing to anybody who’s new here.”
In its place, he said a proper memorial should be set up somewhere.
As for resolving the city’s addictions and homelessness crises, he said the city needs to allow community groups greater freedom to help out wherever they can.
Labranche’s campaign will be primarily held online, and will feature a series of Facebook videos, such as the one available by clicking here, highlighting community needs and platform points.
Other registered mayoral candidates include Evelyn Dutrisac, Don Gravelle, Bob Johnston, Paul Lefebvre and Miranda Rocca-Circelli. Mayor Brian Bigger has yet to register with the city, but has reaffirmed his commitment to Sudbury.com earlier this month he intends to seek re-election.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.