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Mayoral candidates pledge to update the Downtown Master Plan

Seven of eight mayoral candidates still seeking election participated in Wednesday night’s mayoral forum hosted by Downtown Sudbury BIA

Dusting off the decade-old Downtown Sudbury Master Plan appears to have support from the city’s mayoral candidates, who were unanimous last night in urging for it to be updated.

“Ten years have gone by and we’re still looking at a plan with almost 80 per cent of it that has not been actualized,” Miranda Rocca-Circelli said during Wednesday’s mayoral debate, adding there are plenty of people eager to see the city update and progress with the plan.

Pointing to a number of accomplishments, including the School of Architecture and Place des Arts, Paul Lefebvre said there are other things, such as the Elgin Street Greenway, which are included in the plan and still need to be completed.

“We need to kind of review the downtown master plan, bring it to 2022/2023 standards … and I think there are a lot of opportunities.”

Seven of eight mayoral candidates still seeking election participated in Wednesday night’s Mayoral Candidates Meet and Greet event, hosted by Downtown Sudbury BIA at Durham Hall (located above Respect is Burning restaurant).

Joining Rocca-Circelli and Lefebvre was Evelyn Dutrisac, Don Gravelle, Bob Johnston, Devin Labranche and Mila Wong. 

Brian Bigger did not attend, having announced earlier this month that he has withdrawn his candidacy (but will still appear on the ballot). David Popescu did not attend.

The Downtown Sudbury Master Plan was adopted by city council 10 years ago, and city council voted last month for staff to draft a business case to update it next year. The city council elected on Oct. 24 will vote on whether to proceed with the plan during 2023 budget deliberations.

Although admitting he is “not as familiar with the Downtown Master Plan as others might be,” Gravelle said much has changed in the past decade, and that the current economic climate will affect how the city proceeds with a plan.

“We need to hold back for a year or two to see how the recession plays out,” he said of major projects, such as the $98.5-million Junction East Cultural Hub project – a new downtown central library/art gallery city council greenlit earlier this year.

Johnston echoed this sentiment in declaring, “Let’s cancel all the fantasy island projects until we can see some true numbers.”

As for the ongoing debate regarding the future of the city’s downtown arena – whether to replace it, renovate or refurbish it, Johnston said renovating would go a long way for the “beautiful” building in a “perfect location.”

Johnston also proposed making Elgin Street a one-way and and closing Durham Street to traffic in order to create more patio space and room for community events to make the area “the entertainment district of the north.”

Labranche said he’s keen on the city shifting the 52-acre CP Rail Yard from the city’s downtown core (see Page 58 of the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan).

Wong did not directly address the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan in her response, but noted the city has created a “concentrated centre of poverty” downtown, and that affordable housing is needed with support from the federal and provincial governments.

Dutrasic said she has a copy of the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan and its various recommendations, which she summarized as citing a need to create “activities and growth.”

Housing, she said, is key.

“If we look at developing housing in the downtown we’re going to ensure the success of our downtown,” she said, adding this should be a priority for mayor and council alongside updating the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan. 

In addition to candidates affirming their commitment to the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan, some key campaign points and ideas during share during Wednesday’s event included:

  • Parking is a “major factor” downtown, Rocca-Circelli said, noting a private-public partnership might be able to get a parking garage built. She also argued for the creation of incentives to get more student housing built downtown.
  • Wong pledged work to “decrimnalize simple drug possession,” which Ontario nurses have been advocating for. Wong is a retired registered nurse.
  • Johnston said the city needs to pair police officers with social workers, addictions workers and people versed in mental health.
  • Labranche said the Crosses for Change need to be removed and replaced with a monument for mental health.
  • Rocca-Circelli said the city’s downtown needs more police officers on the ground and funding might be freed up for the effort through a line-by-line review of expenses.

Several mayoral candidates also outlined their commitments to the city’s downtown core in response to a question by earlier this month. Click here for the story.

A video of Wednesday’s “Mayoral Candidates Meet and Greet” event is available by clicking here.

This was the fifth mayoral debate candidates were invited to participate in. It followed, in order, an Oct. 1 debate hosted by the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, an Oct. 3 event focusing on social and environmental issues at the Indie Cinema, an Oct. 5 event in Capreol focused on the city’s outlying communities, and an Oct. 6 Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce event focused on the business community and economy.

Candidate David Popescu, a convicted purveyor of hate speech, has not attended any debates.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for