The decentralization of city services to better meet the needs of area towns came up as a priority a number of times during Wednesday’s mayoral debate at the Capreol Arena.
It’s a topic that has come up regularly since the amalgamation of area municipalities formed the City of Greater Sudbury in 2001 – a move seen by some as to the detriment of area towns.
Amalgamation resulted in a “one city, one service” model favouring the city, mayoral candidate Evelyn Dutrisac said, pledging to push forward a decentralized model.
This, the former Ward 4 councillor said, would ensure that “services are assigned to the needs of individual towns, as they were before amalgamation. That is very important for our people.”
During Wednesday’s debate, Dutrisac repeatedly highlighted the importance of an inclusive community, which would include the entire municipality – a point she also stressed during last month’s campaign launch.
Miranda Rocca-Circelli has also shared plans for a decentralized model in order to offer outlying communities a “sense of autonomy and efficiency.”
During Wednesday’s debate, Rocca-Circelli said area communities need more events with municipal officials to ensure city council is engaging with them regularly, and that opening up social media to comments might also help engage the community.
In April, the city closed off Facebook comments to curb the spread of misinformation and harassment.
Decentralization of power to the municipality’s outskirts to ensure greater autonomy is also in Devin Labranche’s platform, but he cautioned Wednesday’s crowd that “there’s a lot of politics in it,” and that it would be a slow march to see gradual results.
“Downtown gets all the funding and nothing comes to the outskirts,” he lamented, later adding that people aren’t coming to Greater Sudbury to visit downtown, and its true potential for tourism is at the municipality’s outskirts.
After pledging to cancel the Junction East Cultural Hub project – a $98.5-million library/art gallery project planned for the city’s downtown core – Labranche received a healthy round of applause.
Don Gravelle said he spent the day doorknocking in Capreol, and reported hearing from someone about the recently cancelled Kingsway Entertainment District just once.
“I did hear that your services have been cut, there’s no police presence,” he said.
Further, he asserted the city is attempting to take the Capreol Arena away from them.
The Capreol arena is a two-pad arena, whose unused pad No. 1 is under a three-year lease for use as a film studio. In the event the city moves forward with a proposed twin-pad sports complex in Hanmer, staff has recommended the closure of four existing ice pads.
These include Raymond Plourde Arena, Centennial Arena, Capreol Arena pad No. 1 and one additional pad yet to be determined.
Whether this fourth pad is the Capreol Arena pad No. 2 remains to be seen, though both Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre and Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakbuo have said it’s highly unlikely given how much the facility is used and the condition it’s in.
Gravelle said he’d also work to ensure understaffed volunteer fire departments are able to get the people they need.
“The people that volunteer and help are the backbone of our community, and if we’re not going to help them, what’s the point?”
Paul Lefebvre said he agreed with the concept of decentralization, and pledged to visit every ward each year to hold town halls with ward councillors.
“I want to be there to listen as well and respond where I can,” he said.
Lefebvre also pledged support for the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre and said he’d work on getting a long-term care home in Capreol.
Mila Wong pledged to host regular town hall meetings rotating throughout the municipality, monthly reports from wards and greater services in area towns “so you don’t have to make a pilgrimage to downtown Sudbury to do your business.”
This would presumably be in addition to the Citizen Service Centres the city has already set up in six area towns, including one at the Capreol library.
Six of the city’s nine registered mayoral candidates attended Wednesday’s debate, with Bob Johnston, David Popescu and Brian Bigger absent.
On Tuesday, Bigger announced he was withdrawing from the race for family reasons.
Wednesday’s debate was hosted by the Capreol Community Action Network (CAN), the Capreol Lions Club and the Capreol Royal Canadian Legion Branch 179. They also hosted last week’s debate featuring Ward 7 candidates.
A similarly-themed rally took place outside of Tom Davies Square on Tuesday, which was intended to remind the incoming council of the city’s outlying communities.
Led by Onaping Falls resident Chantelle Gorhman, amalgamation was described as a “vortex” they didn’t wish to be dragged into.
“It shouldn't take a call from the citizens to say, ‘Hey, our light posts haven't worked for years’, or, ‘Our garbage is overflowing’,” Gorham said at the time. “The roads are almost impassable, certainly for bicycles and pedestrians, and it shouldn't take a resident to highlight these issues.”
The next mayoral debate is taking place tonight, when the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce hosts a “Mayoral Candidates’ Fireside Chat” at the Collège Boréal concert hall from 7-9 p.m. Members voted on which candidates they’d like to see attend, and they selected Dutrisac, Lefebvre, Rocca-Circelli, Wong and Bigger.
With Bigger withdrawing his candidacy, they’ve moved one up the list and have invited Gravelle.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.