A combination of timing and experience make for a natural transition from federal politics to the municipal realm, former Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre told Sudbury.com shortly after announcing his candidacy for mayor today.
In advance of last year’s federal election, Lefebvre, who served as Sudbury’s Liberal MP since 2015, announced that he would not be seeking re-election, citing a need to be closer to family as part of his rationale. Viviane Lapointe retained the seat for the Liberals.
“My middle son, now, is driving, so I’m a lot less of a glorified taxi driver, or not even glorified, let’s say ‘taxi driver’ for my kids,” he told Sudbury.com with a chuckle.
His eldest child with wife Lyne Giroux is 20, their middle child is 17 and their youngest is 14.
As mayor, he said that he would be able to serve his community politically again, but without the constant trips to Ottawa.
“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.”
During these past few months outside of politics looking in, Lefebvre said that he has found himself following municipal news more closely, which has exposed what he perceives as being shortcomings in its current direction.
“I just find that now is a very important time for Sudbury to move forward and to grow, and we need a different skill set than what has been there for the last eight years to make that happen,” he said.
One of the key deficiencies, in his view, centres on communication from the mayor’s office to clarify various points of information which are technically publicly available but not necessarily disseminated to the general public.
“That’s the job of the mayor, to communicate with people and to work with the communications department to make it happen,” he said.
“If that doesn’t happen, then there’s a lot of rumours or people assume things, and I think that's what’s going on now. There’s a lot of negativity out there, which I don’t like because I’m proud of my city.”
Lefebvre was born in Kapuskasing and raised in the area. He is a former tax lawyer and past board member of various organizations, including the role as founding chair of the Jazz Sudbury Festival. His stint as Sudbury’s MP included three years as Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources.
His campaign, whose nuances he said will be hashed out this summer, includes three pillars:
- Economic development and creating good paying jobs for all Sudburians
- Renewing and investing in Greater Sudbury’s infrastructure
- Building public confidence and transparency in the City of Greater Sudbury and in city council
“We need to be selling Sudbury across the world on why businesses should be establishing here,” he said, adding that the message should be that “Sudbury’s open for business.”
“I think the job of the mayor is to promote that, to sell that, and to attract those businesses.”
Troubling to Lefebvre in recent years has been the city’s limited reserves funding and a municipal debt that the current city council has added $303 million to in the last couple of years.
“There’s no concrete plan. What’s the visions going on? Where does that all fit in?” Lefebvre said. “What is the return on our investment, why are we doing it, how are we doing it? … The city and the citizens of Sudbury aren’t being brought into this vision and this path forward.”
The debt in question has been earmarked for specific projects:
- 2020 Roads and Bridges Program - $33 million
- 2021 Roads and Bridges Program – $10 million
- Pioneer Manor Bed Redevelopment - $59.9 million
- Arena/Events Centre (Kingsway Entertainment District) $90 million
- The Junction $68 million
- Municipal Road 35 $30.8 million
- Bridge and Culverts $6.9 million
- Place des Arts $5 million
- Playground Revitalization $2.3 million
- McNaughton Terrace Treatment Facility $2.2 million
Despite this, Lefebvre said the city hasn’t been transparent when it comes to certain projects, such as the Kingsway Entertainment District, which is a municipal arena/events centre planned for construction on The Kingsway alongside a private casino and hotel.
“We’re not seeing right now, in my view, seeing what the concrete plan is. What is the business plan, what is the capital cost of these projects?” he said.
“These are important projects, and I truly believe that they should move forward, but I think we should be transparent with Sudburians: What are we getting, for how much and what is it going to cost us as taxpayers?”
It’s currently anticipated that the full cost of the KED will be determined and approved by city council alongside a project completion agreement and design/build request for proposal before the Oct. 24 municipal election.
A meeting devoted to providing city council and the public with an update on Junction East, a proposed 62,000-square municipal building in downtown Sudbury to include a new central library, art gallery and other amenities, has been scheduled to take place next week, after being postponed earlier this month.
Maybe everything will be resolved before the municipal election takes place, Lefebvre said.
“But right now ... I just can’t assume this all will be hunky dory and everything’s fine and everything’s perfect,” he said. “Now is a critical time as we move on this path of these very important investments that we make sure we’re transparent with Sudburians.”
The infrastructure component of Lefebvre’s platform is intended to address the city’s infrastructure deficit, with the city estimating last year that they would need to spend an additional $100 million per year on municipal assets to keep them in their current state.
A tough pill for the municipality to swallow on its own, Lefebvre said the city needs to take a “multi-pronged approach” to filling this gap by better enlisting help from the federal and provincial governments.
By focusing on “developing in the community and developing in a more sustainable way” by building on land that is already serviced rather than sprawl onto undeveloped land, he said the city can also help mitigate future shortcomings.
Pledging greater nuance to his campaign prior to the election day, Lefebvre told Sudbury.com today that it’s still in its earliest days.
He publicly announced his candidacy today and plans on backing away until after the June 2 provincial election, at which time he’ll file his nomination forms and make his campaign official to dig into it full bore this summer.
His plan is to enlist members of his team from his days in federal politics, as well as other people from the Nickel Belt riding, friends and family eager to support him and built up momentum during the summer.
“Come August, September, October, we’ll have everything going as a well-oiled machine.”
Also seeking the mayor’s seat is incumbent Brian Bigger, who is seeking a third term, former Ward 4 councillor Evelyn Dutrisac and local homelessness advocate Bob Johnston.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.