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Mayor 'excited' to follow up with province after budget tabling

Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre said there’s plenty of cause for optimism in the province’s latest budget, a sentiment Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West shares alongside criticisms and a cautious optimism the province will proceed with what they’ve promised to do
Mayor Paul Lefebvre speaks during the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area annual general meeting at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in February 2023.

With the province tabling their latest budget this week, called “Building a Strong Ontario,” Mayor Paul Lefebvre said they’ve sparked the latest round of municipal advocacy.

Not that advocacy efforts have ever let up, he added, clarifying that he has met with provincial ministers on several occasions since he was elected mayor in the Oct. 24, 2022, civic election.

With the provincial budget highlighting several goals which align with those of the Nickel City, Lefebvre said the city’s advocacy will target specific pots of funding being made available.

“I'm excited to follow up on conversations with the appropriate ministers,” Lefebvre told this week, citing the budget’s section titled “Addressing Homelessness through Supportive Housing” as being particularly important.

In it, the province has pledged an additional $202 million each year toward supportive housing and homelessness programs.

Lefebvre plans continued advocacy for provincial funding toward the city’s upcoming transitional housing complex and supervised consumption site, whose operations are both under provincial jurisdiction but funded by the city due to the province neglecting to come forward with money.

There are some promising things in the budget related to spurring economic growth, with an entire section titled “Unlocking Northern Ontario’s Economic Potential,” which centres on tapping into the region’s potential in fueling the growing electric vehicle industry.

This is a subject Lefebvre has been active in, having forged an ongoing relationship with Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli and other provincial officials to ensure Greater Sudbury remains front and centre in related discussions.

There’s potential for more value-added work to take place in Northern Ontario, Lefebvre said, 

The budget’s Skills Development Fund, for which $75 million will be invested over the next three years, is of special interest to Lefebvre, alongside various other efforts to train skilled workers.

“We need more skilled trades,” Lefebvre said, citing it as a “huge gap.”

“I'm all in to work with the province to address that and we work with our different unions and our colleges in order to enhance that workforce. It is critical for our success, our future success.”

Another highlight flagged by Lefebvre is the budget’s pledge to spend more than $48 billion over the next 10 years on hospital infrastructure to add 3,000 new beds, which he said might assist in tackling Sudbury’s undersized Health Sciences North.

“We know we should have a few hundred of those beds,” he said of the proposed additions, pointing to the budget’s pledge to add more doctors to the workforce as a closely related point the city will advocate to be part of. 

As NOSM University president, vice-chancellor, dean and CEO Dr. Sarita Verma told city council last week, it’s a “buyers’ market” for physicians, with Northern Ontario currently in need of 350 full-time equivalent physicians. 

“The plan is to go to Queen's Park and further conversations with the administrators in their team as to how the budget allocations could be beneficial to Sudbury,” Lefebvre said, adding that the city’s position as the most populous municipality in Northern Ontario bears reiteration.

“That's what I've been doing for the past number of months since I've been elected, and I want to continue down that advocacy path with them. I'm looking forward to those constructive discussions with the province to to highlight some of what's in the budget, and ultimately how it could benefit the people.”

While the provincial budget addresses Sudbury in broader terms under the umbrella of Northern Ontario for the most part, there are two direction mentions of the Nickel City:

  • The Churchill Public School addition in Sudbury will add 49 licensed child care spaces to an existing school serving 433 students. 
  • Investments in research and innovation will continue to support productivity and economic growth, such as for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB).

Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West responds

Though he’s critical of certain aspects of the province's 2023 budget, Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West told he is generally optimistic.

However, his optimism is somewhat tainted by pessimism due to what West described as the province’s ongoing practise of failing to fund their budget-day pledges.

“They never spend what they say they’ll spend,” he said. “I've always been optimistic about stuff, so I'm very optimistic that the premier will keep his word.”

Alongside advocating for many of the same things as Lefebvre, including provincial funding for the transitional housing complex and supervised consumption site, West pointed to notable absences in the budget.

There’s no mention of the Ontario Autism Program, of which the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance has been long critical and strived to make an election issue last year, including through a public protest in Sudbury.

There’s also no mention of completing the four-laning of Highway 69. Laurentian University and NOSM University are also notably absent, despite the turmoil they continue to go through as a result of LU’s insolvency

An investment of $72 million toward making more surgeries available at community surgical and diagnostic centres would be better spent on bolstering the current public system than the shift toward private clinics, West said.

The government, he added, is “putting millions of dollars into building for-profit, private surgical suites, ignoring the fact that we have existing surgical suites, like in Sudbury with Health Sciences North, but because the government only funds a certain number of surgeries, those suites are empty after 4 p.m.”

A pledge to bring back the Northlander rail service in Northern Ontario is positive, West said, assuming the province follows through on it.

With its merits and pitfalls, West said the provincial budget doesn’t do much for those in a tight financial position.

“I don't see anything in here, really, that's going to help a lot of people who are struggling to make ends meet,” he said, adding that things like eliminating licence plate stickers and reducing the tax on gasoline isn’t going to do much for those struggling the most.

“This is a budget for a normal environment,” he said. “This is not a normal environment that we're living in.”

Click here for a copy of the 207-page Ontario 2023 budget document.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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