Visibly angry, Mayor Marianne Matichuk took aim at her detractors Sept. 28, saying she’s fed up with the sniping she’s endured since she was elected two years ago.
“These little games? This is absolute garbage,” Matichuk said, sitting in her office and battling the effects of a bad cold. “And it’s disrespectful to the taxpayers of this community. They don’t need this nonsense.”
Matichuk was referring to comments from some city councillors who have accused her of being too inexperienced for the job, of not being engaged enough with issues in the city’s 12 wards, and of supporting a local lobby group that is openly calling for most city councillors to be replaced in the 2014 election.
She’s received little support from council on the agenda she was elected on, such as deregulating store hours and introducing recall legislation. She’s lost vote after vote, something that’s unusual for a sitting mayor.
But Matichuk said some councillors made it clear from Day 1 they had no interest in working with her, and she’s had enough of trying to convince those people to work with her for the good of the city.
“It’s very disrespectful when people put you down like that. That’s terrible. And I’ve had enough. I’m ... done,” she said. “If people aren’t happy, leave – resign.”
Despite the criticism, Matichuk said councillors have made progress in many areas, and the city is poised to take advantage of an economic surge over the next 10 years.
“There’s lots of good stuff going on,” she said. “We have a movie studio now, which wasn’t even (on the list of) priorities ... We’re working on the new casino, and hopefully we’re going to get a convention centre with that. So there are a lot of good things going on.”
Some city councillors take particular issue with Matichuk’s pursuit of recall legislation, which would create a mechanism for removing a politician in mid-term.
But Matichuk said the idea wasn’t aimed at anyone – it’s simply a concept she supports.
“There were a lot of voters who wanted that platform,” said. “Recall is something new. It’s not punitive. It takes a lot for a person to be recalled.
“Somebody decides they don’t want me in, they have a voice. There’s always the election, but sometimes it’s too late.”
Recall legislation and other planks of Matichuk’s election campaign mirror the priorities of the Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Association. Paul Demers, an executive with the group, ran Matichuk’s 2010 election campaign. But that doesn’t mean, she insists, that she’s affiliated with them now.
“Paul did work on my campaign,” she said. “But they’re a separate organization. They do their own thing. I don’t have anything to do with them. I don’t control them.”
Their priorities are similar because they were involved in her campaign, Matichuk said.
“Maybe they believe in the things I put together,” she said. “Let’s be really clear and let’s be really honest about that campaign. A lot of it was driven by me.”
As for accusations she lacks the necessary experience to lead the city, Matichuk said “that’s garbage.”
“This crap about leadership – I’ve basically had enough of that,” she said. “I worked here for 17 years. I defy anybody to go and work in a sewage treatment plant, pothole patching – do half the stuff that I’ve done. And I know every staff person here, and they tell me what's going on. So that is nonsense.”
She said it was disheartening to return to Sudbury from the MINExpo in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, where she said the delegation from Sudbury wowed everyone.
“I was so proud of the people who were there,” she said. “There are companies who are working hard – very hard – for our city. They were first class. It was such a joy to see that.”
While there, the Sudbury delegation was praised by the Nevada Canada Business Council, a group that fosters the more than $780 million in annual trade between the two.
“They were complimenting us on Sudbury Rocks. They were very intrigued and want to do some partnering with us,” she said. “This is the kind of stuff we need to be doing.
She repeated that a press release she issued while at MINExpo said all of city council – herself included – shoulder the blame for a loss in public confidence.
“It was council as a whole,” she said.
The current debate on the relationship between city council and Matichuk was ignited when Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann brought it up at the end of the Sept. 25 council meeting, which the mayor missed because she was at MINExpo. Landry-Altmann called for a special council meeting or summit to look for ways to change the relationship. She left the meeting without speaking to reporters.
“I don’t think that would work,” Matichuk said, of holding a councillor summit. “I don’t think there’s a lot of support for it among the councillors. Look at (Ward 3 Coun.) Claude Berthiaume, as he said, what’s that going to do?
“As far as holding hands and singing kumbaya, that’s not going to happen. We need to just move forward with the work that’s important to this city. And leave the personal stuff out of it.”
Instead, Matichuk said councillors have to realize that even if they don’t get along, they have to look for ways to have a productive relationship.
“I think everybody’s got to put their differences aside,” she said. “I’m not some big ogre. I’m different, and that’s too bad. I want to see change for this city … I think they do, too, but let’s put the personal and political agendas aside and move forward. That’s enough nonsense.
“I don’t care if someone hates my guts. At the end of the day, we’re voted in by taxpayers for the taxpayers to do the job we were elected to do.”
As for accusations she doesn’t know what’s going on in the 12 wards across the city, Matichuk said she has attended two Community Action Network meetings in the last six months.
“I do know what’s going on the wards,” she said. “And I can tell you of the CAN meetings I’ve been to, I’ve been to the one out in Azilda. I know what they’re going through, their Whitewater Lake and all the other stuff they’ve been doing. And I was at the one in Dowling. And we’re working on some issues with them, and with Claude Berthiaume. So that’s a bunch of crap.
“This weekend I’m going to Dowling for the Cavalcade of Colours. I go around this community a lot. I shop In Capreol, I’m in Lively … I’m out in the community a lot. If anyone wanted to take the time to look at my Facebook and see where I’ve been going and what I’m doing. Perhaps they need to get engaged.”
As for what council should focus on for the last two years of its term, the mayor said fostering long-term economic development and investment are key.
“We’ve got to build up our base now, while the city’s in good shape,” she said. “Because mining is cyclical. We are going to hit the bad times and I want to be prepared for that. Our city deserves that.
“This city is poised for a great boom. We need to start focusing on the big picture. And that’s the only way we’re going to be successful. There’s a lot of good things. Tax (increases) are lower, because we’ve been fighting for that as a council. There’s accountability. We brought in an attrition policy. These are good things.”
City council has agreed to a list of priorities to focus on, including infrastructure, growth and jobs, image, tourism and healthy community.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t build a new arena,” she said. “It wasn't one of the priorities, but that doesn't matter. If it's going to benefit the taxpayers of this community at a … very low cost, if we can figure a way to do it.”
While the city is poised for growth, Matichuk said funding sources from the federal and provincial governments have dried up. So council has to find other ways to come up with the money needed to make Greater Sudbury reach its full potential.
“And the only way to do that is to increase our tax base – and that is by providing jobs,” she said. “And that’s an issue that’s very near and dear to my heart – creating jobs in this community.”