Paul Lefebvre appears to be Greater Sudbury’s new mayor, with early results showing him in a clear lead above eight other registered candidates in the Oct. 24 civic election.
A crowd waiting for Lefebvre at The Daventry Kitchen and Bar on Regent Street cheered loudly as the results rolled in, showing Lefebvre with a decisive early lead of more than 50 per cent of ballots cast (at that time, 73 per cent of ballots had been tabulated).
Lefebvre arrived shortly thereafter, spurring more cheering from supporters gathered in the crowded restaurant on Regent Street.
In a speech delivered in both French and English, Greater Sudbury’s bilingual mayor-elect was flanked by family members as he thanked supporters and highlighted his plans for Tom Davies Square.
“It’s clear that the residents of Greater Sudbury do want to make good things happen, and we will make good things happen together,” he said in reference to his campaign slogan.
“Tonight is evidence that a positive, optimistic message is what Sudbury was looking for and we delivered.”
After thanking a team of more than 100 volunteers and all candidates who sought public office, Lefebvre reiterated his campaign pledges and five pillars, which included lead with purpose; promote, attract, innovate; environmental responsibility; support and empower citizens; and foster a livable city.
On Tuesday, he said he plans on phoning all elected city councillors to line up meetings within the next seven days to discuss their visions for the city.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said, after which he made a few key promises.
“I will promise that I will work to build an economy that is sustainable and a tax base that is progressive,” he said, adding this will include streamlining the processes at city hall and cutting red tape.
The tax base must grow, and he said his goal is for there to be more than 200,000 people residing in the city within 20 years.
“We need to make it easier for citizens, developers and businesses to invest in our community, grow our economy and create jobs,” he said.
Greater Sudbury is also poised to be a leader in the green economy, he said, as the world will need more of the critical minerals mined from the region.
Lefebvre pledged to be the “brand ambassador that brings the Sudbury story to the world,” as he said he did during his time as MP.
“I promise that I will keep all the citizens in mind as I work to move Greater Sudbury forward”
There were nine people vying for the mayor’s position in Greater Sudbury during this year’s civic election. This includes Mayor Brian Bigger, who sought re-election until he announced on Oct. 4 that he was backing out due to family reasons. His name remained on the ballot due to his withdrawal taking place after the deadline to do so.
Political newcomers Don Gravelle, Devin Labranche and Miranda Rocca-Circelli joined past city council members Mila Wong and Evelyn Dutrisac in seeking the mayor’s chair alongside outspoken homelessness advocate Bob Johnston, who unsuccessfully sought election in the past. Filling out their ranks was stalwart candidate David Popescu, whose campaign Sudbury.com did not actively cover due to his conviction for purveying hate.
Lefebvre’s campaign launched in April, when he announced his candidacy, at which time he argued a shift from his previous role as Sudbury Liberal MP into the mayor’s seat would be a natural transition.
The tax lawyer was elected as MP in 2015 (23,534 votes, well ahead of NDP challenger Paul Loewenberg’s 13,793), and did not seek re-election in last year’s election, which newcomer Viviane Lapointe secured for the Liberals.
When he announced his plan to not seek re-election as an MP, Lefebvre said, “the time away from my family these past six years has been difficult, and it’s time someone else earned the chance to serve this great riding.” He reiterated this point when announcing his candidacy for mayor.
“Now that I’m here I’m going to miss less of their stuff that I can be at,” he said. “There will be some times that are conflicts, but at least I’m home.”
Lefebvre officially launched his campaign at First Round Sports Bar and Restaurant in Val Caron on June 23, at which past mayor and Member of the Order of Canada Jim Gordon endorsed him as a candidate. The campaign slogan Lefebvre has used since that time has been, “Together, making good things happen.”
He went on to open a campaign office on Notre Dame Avenue in Sudbury on Sept. 1, making him the first candidate to do so. He was followed by Dutrisac, who opened a campaign office of her own downtown on Elgin Street a couple of weeks later.
During his campaign, Lefebvre pledged to:
- Roll the mayor’s salary back to $143,000 (what salary/benefits were in 2016, which has since increased to $228,873 in 2020)
- Support the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan objectives, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. He has said there should be stronger goals leading up to this final goal, which are “attainable in the short term.”
- Encourage the city to roll out a fleet of electric buses more quickly than currently planned.
- If the project proceeds with an arena project, Lefebvre said they should stick to the funds originally borrowed for the Kingsway Entertainment District ($84.8 million remains of the $90-million borrowed). These borrowed funds should go toward an arena project, he said.
- Work to bring in funding from senior levels of government and bring together not-for-profit organizations to work on the homelessness crisis collaboratively.
- Create policies that make it easier for developers to build homes, “while ensuring that neighbourhoods meet a variety of residents’ needs.”
- Work to secure funding for the Assertive Community Treatment Team and complete construction of the transitional housing complex (40 units aimed at easing the chronically homeless into permanent community housing) they will work at.
- Lead the way for a proposed review and update of the Downtown Master Plan.
- Visit every ward each year to hold town hall meetings with ward councillors.
- Take better care of industrial lands, including a renewal of Fielding Road.
- Make strategic investments, and “support projects that enhance livability for our citizens and make Sudbury a recreation and entertainment destination.”
- Proceed with the Junction East Cultural Hub only if its plan and costs are thoroughly reviewed.
Other candidates pledged such things as a tax freeze and deep audits of city finances, with a prevailing theme that money was being wasted at Tom Davies Square.
When polling stations closed at 8 p.m., Student Vote released the results of their election, drawing results from 38 schools in Greater Sudbury. They selected Johnston as mayor with 23 per cent of the vote, or 692 votes. Lefebvre followed with 533.
Later this week, Sudbury.com will publish a rundown of election pledges from all winning municipal candidates so voters have an easy to reference guide to hold them accountable.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.