Rather than spend the next four years “banging my head against the wall,” Pauline Fortin said she has withdrawn her candidacy for Ward 4 in the Oct. 24 municipal election.
In a Facebook post made to her otherwise blank campaign page, Fortin wrote that “running for council with a $3 billion infrastructure deficit, $355 million of debt and misplaced spending priorities is like being the only applicant for a job as a deckhand on the Titanic - sure you will get the job, but reporting for duty doesn’t change the location of the iceberg!”
With what she predicts to be a city council “no different or better than the current one,” she said her time would be better spent working directly in her community.
The $3-billion infrastructure deficit figure has been making the rounds in recent months due in large part to the work of Our Towns Our City Institute, a taxpayer watchdog group whose members drew real numbers from reliable sources, but have taken them out of context.
As city CAO Ed Archer explained to Sudbury.com earlier this year, the current infrastructure deficit estimate is $1 billion, though this figure is somewhat fluid pending the level of risk the city is willing to take and what service level is being sought.
With Fortin dropping out, the Ward 4 race is down to incumbent Geoff McCausland and political newcomer Alice Norquay.
Although he disagrees with the defeatist tone of Fortin’s announcement, McCausland told Sudbury.com he can at least understand where she’s coming from.
“It’s going to be a challenging term ahead, with a possible recession, labour shortages, climate change on the horizon, and we need a council that’s ready to find those innovative solutions for our community and isn’t just going to throw in the towel when times get tough,” he said.
“She’s right that our infrastructure deficit is very big, and as our asset management plans come online these issues come into greater focus,” he said.
“We do have those tough decisions ahead, we want to make sure we do it with proper public consultation.”
In what he described at the time as a “beast of a report,” city council learned last year the city needs to spend an additional $100 million every year to maintain assets at current levels, which would require a property tax increase of 33 per cent if placed entirely on the existing tax base.
With city council unlikely to do this, McCausland said senior levels of government will need to be enlisted. With nine mines operating within city limits, where they pound municipal roads with heavy machinery, he said there’s a case to be made for greater infrastructure funding.
The last term of city council was weighed down by the now-defeated Kingsway Entertainment District and drama around council chambers, McCausland said, adding this gives people a skewed vision of city council as a whole. There were also numerous city council decisions for initiatives such as those to help the city’s most vulnerable residents, which passed unanimously.
A self-described optimist, Norquay told Sudbury.com she respects Fortin’s decision, but believes there’s a positive path forward for whatever incarnation of city council is elected Oct. 24.
“She bit the bullet and put herself out there, and she has the right to bow out of it for whatever reason, and it’s nice to see women putting themselves forward on the political scene,” Norquay said, also commending Fortin for stepping down when she recognized it was not for her.
Norquay is a lifelong resident known for community service in Azilda, supporting striking staff at Collège Boréal and coaching basketball. She’s a child and youth worker currently engaged in private tutoring and counselling alongside work as a school bus driver.
Although understanding of Fortin’s frustrations with city council, Norquay said regardless of who makes up the new city council, she would be able to work with them.
A lot of the frustration she’s been hearing from people while campaigning is “with city council being kind of stuck,” she said. “One of the things I pride myself on is action. Discussion is good, talking about things is good, but at the end of the day you need to be able to take action.”
Fortin responded to Sudbury.com’s request for comment by stating she intends on issuing a media release in the next few days.
The slate of candidates for city council and school board trustee positions has been filling out in recent weeks, with the city continually updating its online list.
The following are the registered candidates for the Oct. 24 civic election as of Wednesday afternoon:
Michael Vagnini (incumbent)
Michel Guy Brabant
Gerry Montpellier (incumbent)
Pauline Fortin (withdrawn)
Geoff McCausland (incumbent)
Robert Kirwan (incumbent)
Michel (Mike) Parent
René Lapierre (incumbent)
Al Sizer (incumbent)
Deb McIntosh (incumbent)
Fern Cormier (incumbent)
Bill Leduc (incumbent)
Luciano Di Mario