Intent on tackling what he perceives as a “sheer wasting of money” at the City of Greater Sudbury, Don Gravelle is the latest mayoral candidate to file his nomination paperwork.
“My biggest pet peeve over the last eight years I’ve been in town is how much money we’re wasting on consultants and such,” he said.
“Elected officials are elected for a reason, to make decisions.”
Although certain consultations are mandated by senior levels of government, Gravelle said that he would like to see the city’s elected officials make decisions using existing municipal resources more often than they currently do. Gravelle is also concerned about major infrastructure projects such as the Kingsway Entertainment District and Junction East.
The KED, which proposes a municipal hockey arena/events centre and private casino and hotel on The Kingsway, was originally budgeted at $100 million, but an open-ended budget within an updated design-build request for proposals process has put this total into question.
The Junction East project, which would include a new library and art gallery downtown next to the Sudbury Theatre Centre, recently doubled in cost to an estimated $93.2 million.
“The KED or any other large projects that aren’t absolutely needed with infrastructure should be done via referendum,” Gravelle said, adding, “If we’re spending that kind of money, the public should have a say in it.”
There’s a disconnect between the city and the public when it comes to the KED, he said, adding that there has been “too much information” floating around.
“Most people aren’t going to read a 300-page report … or all the freedom of information that came out,” he said, adding that he’d like to see public debates on the project take place so people understand what they’re voting on before a referendum is held.
“I guarantee you right now that after COVID, the pricing of that project is going to, if not double, triple.”
Earlier this year, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier pushed for a referendum on the KED, but his motion died at the city council level in February.* As it stands, the city’s current projected timeline for the project would remove it as an elected issue before the Oct. 24 civic election, but that would depend on city council staying the course. In addition to waiting on the results of the design-build request for proposals, the city is awaiting the results of a judicial review the Minnow Lake Restoration Group filed against the project.
Another focus of Gravelle’s campaign will be tackling the city’s homelessness crisis – a topic he’s currently hashing out the nuances of but would include a new facility to help people who are homeless transition toward permanent housing. This would be in addition to the transitional housing complex the city is planning to help ease the chronically homeless into permanent community housing.
Gravelle was born and raised in Sudbury. He left his home community for Toronto for several years before returning approximately eight years ago to be closer to his mother after his father died. He’s currently employed in the insurance industry, and has four kids.
He’s taking the leap straight to the mayor’s chair rather than seek a councillor position first because he’s confident he will be working full-time hours in either position and can’t see himself working two full-time jobs at the same time.
“I’d like to dedicate as much as I can toward assisting the people of Greater Sudbury, and this is the best way to do so,” he said, adding that his goal is to remain present throughout his tenure as mayor, if elected.
This, he said, is in contrast to Mayor Brian Bigger, who wasn’t publicly visible for chunks of time during the pandemic while he cared for his ailing father, Leo Josef Bigger, who died in April.
“I would have been far nicer to have seen more of Mayor Bigger during the pandemic,” Gravelle said. “During an emergency, leadership shows, and there appeared to be a lack thereof.”
Gravelle said that he plans on producing a campaign website and establishing a social media presence in the lead-up to the Oct. 24 election date. Thus far, only mayoral candidate Miranda Rocca-Circelli has published a campaign website.
Alongside Gravelle, registered candidates thus far in the mayoral race include former Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac, homelessness advocate Bob Johnston and Rocca-Circelli, a local businesswoman.
Mayor Brian Bigger and former Liberal MP for Sudbury Paul Lefebvre have also announced their intentions to launch mayoral campaigns but have yet to register.
The city updates its list of registered candidates regularly on its web page devoted to the 2022 civic election, which can be found by clicking here.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.
*Edit: The manner in which city council killed Montpellier's motion has been corrected.