Voters want to know where the candidates stand on the issues and so does Sudbury.com.
To that end, we’ve created this election special feature: Where Do They Stand? We reached out to the council candidates and invited them to participate.
Each candidate has 250 words or less to stake out their position on each of these issues: the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED); downtown Sudbury and the urban-rural divide in our amalgamated city and; the top three issues facing the ward in which they're running.
We’ve be rolling out a new story on a new ward every week day for the past week or so, as we work our way through all 12 wards, save Ward 2 and Ward 3 where the incumbents (Michael Vagnini and Gerry Montpellier, respectively) have been acclaimed.
Ward 11 is an interesting race. Incumbent Lynne Reynolds is not seeking re-election, so the ward race has been wide open. Among the candidates are some familiar faces. John Lindsay is a long-time community activist and former media personality; Terry Kett is a former municipal councillor; and Derek Young is a community volunteer and event promoter. All three participated in Where Do They Stand?, as did Kevin Lalonde, a political newcomer.
The fifth candidate in the riding, Elizabeth De Luisa, who is executive director of the Greater Sudbury Homebuilders Association by day, chose not to participate. Bill Leduc, another political newcomer, opted not to participate either.
The three questions we asked are:
1. Kingsway Entertainment District
People want to know: Do you support the construction of an event centre / casino / hotel complex on The Kingsway east of downtown? Do you support using taxpayer dollars to build a $100-million arena that will be paid off over a generation? Do you support expanded casino gambling? Explain your position.
2. Downtown and the urban-rural divide
The prevailing wisdom is that a healthy downtown equals a healthy city. Great downtowns attract new residents and new businesses (to the community, but not necessarily to the downtown core), and are a measure of a community’s economic health. But in our amalgamated city, municipal spending downtown is unpopular in rural parts of the community, which feel the urban areas receive more spending and more services. Are rural concerns legitimate? Are we doing enough for downtown? What should we do? Explain your position.
3. Ward issues
Thinking about your ward, what do you see as the top three issues facing your area of the city? How do you propose to address those issues?
You can click on each candidate's name to visit their election website on Sudbury.com.
Kingsway Entertainment District
The Kingsway Entertainment District is a space where we will be able enjoy ourselves and our northern lifestyle — a place our growing community can gather and celebrate. It will be an innovative experience and a choice destination for the 550,000 people of northeastern Ontario. The idea is a key part of the city’s need for strategic investment to spur economic growth, create jobs and enhance its quality of life. Simply put, it’s a great idea!
The location is excellent. It is on Hwy 17. It’s close to the SE Bypass. It’s connected to Elm Street, Falconbridge Road and Barrydowne and is fully serviced.
Do I support its construction? Yes. What concerns me was that the arena portion was originally touted as a P3; whereby the developer was to build the arena and then hand it back to the city over time. This is common practice all over North America. All of a sudden, council changes its mind and decides to go it alone to the tune of $100,000,000!
What I wish to do is to bring this back to council in December and persuade my fellow councillors to return to the original P3 decision.
KED is a transformative project just like Science North, NOSM or Health Sciences North for our community.
Downtown and the urban-rural divide
Is there an urban-rural divide? Definitely. Greater Sudbury is still a relatively young city. It is a city that was forced into amalgamation by the Harris provincial government. Prior to this there were seven municipalities, all functioning well and tied together by a regional government. Thus, there were seven downtowns. Today under amalgamation we have one — the old city of Sudbury’s downtown. It’s natural that there is still some resentment from rural residents. I believe that those negative feelings are dissipating. I feel that the Downtown Master Plan which is only about eight years old is an excellent plan which when completed will revitalize our downtown and make us all proud of our downtown.
Roads: Roads continue to be the most often mentioned concern from Ward 11 residents. They are pleased that key streets such as Second, Leveque and Moonlight have been reconstructed with sidewalks and bike lanes. People want to see the Howey Drive-Bancroft corridor redone as this is the key daily roadway for thousands of Minnow Lake residents. Attlee Ave. and Beatrice Crescent are in need of repaving for Adanac residents Secondly, area residents want more resources put into resurfacing our side streets. So many are in very poor condition. Finally, many residents want to see the road link between Bancroft Drive and Silver Hills completed as soon as possible. I intend to work with my fellow councillors both on the Operations Committee and the Finance Committee to reallocate more of the budget to roads.
Taxes: There are 2 issues over taxes. Firstly, residents are concerned over the increases in taxes over the past three years. Many believe the increases are too high. I have over 25 per cent of my residents on fixed incomes. Secondly, some residents say that they don’t mind paying taxes but they want their council to show leadership. Make a good decision on a matter and then get it done! I intend to find savings WITHIN the budget in order to keep the level of taxation down. I further intend to work with my fellow councillors to get us to refocus on what is best for our taxpayers and then to get things done!
KED: The Kingsway Entertainment District is a topic I discuss at almost every door. Generally, residents are in favour of the project, especially in the Minnow Lake area where support for it is over 90 per cent. But there are concerns. Residents want council to make up its mind as to how it will be financed and the get it done! Stop procrastinating! There are also concerns over the amount of traffic, events will generate. I intend to meet with area residents to discuss their concerns and then bring those concerns back to council for action
Kingsway Entertainment District
Absolutely support a new arena and casino at the Kingsway location. There aren’t many instances where communities are not the sole owner of their community arenas. While all communities bear the costs of the new arenas they build, it's hard to compare the way this one will be afforded. Most communities are stuck paying the costs directly through a tax increase the first year upon completion. What mitigates that increase for us is the property tax of a hotel and casino along with the added revenues from hosting a casino. That's our edge over other communities building new arenas. Treating expanded gambling has to be no different than any other form of entertainment. People can argue the social economic costs of this form of entertainment. To me, not much different from going to a bar or a movie theatre, water park or air park. You can't be the morality police on what someone chooses to appease their entertainment needs. Like everyone else in this community I spend more per year on Lottomax and 6/49 tickets than at the casino, yet I don't see anyone outside the corner stores and gas stations picketing the use of OLG ticket-dispensing machines. At least at the casino I can get a few drinks, maybe a show and a few laughs for my money I am soon to be departed from.
Downtown and the urban-rural divide
I think judging the health of a city by just the downtown core is a misconception, especially for city as geographically large as Sudbury. If the downtown is in distress, but the Garson area is booming the Hanmer area is booming and the Four Corners area is booming are we to assume the city is not healthy because of the downtown state alone? If that were the case than it could be construed this city hasn't experienced any growth or hasn't been healthy since the 1970s, which we know isn't true. The biggest problem for downtown is it has had bad direction from the BIA and DVDC and has a real problem branding itself and defining itself to developers. When you tell investment developers that you want to be quaint, unique or diverse and have a mishmash of this and that it sends the wrong signals. Developers investing in any area don't understand mishmash, they want the surrounding areas to coincide with their investment. Tell them your new direction is office space and medical offices and sell it to them that way. Then maybe you will see this are become a little more healthier. Rural areas don't receive as much spending simply because of the population diversity from urban areas. Rural area concerns on basic services or lack of are usually legitimate.
Ward 11 is on a precipice of becoming the busiest ward in the city. The sheer scale of the development that has been approved for the ward is mind blowing. The KED, senior centers on Silver Hills and Second Ave., subdivisions off Third and Howey Drive. Possible future development of a grocery store across from the KED. Developing this economic engine is of paramount concern. Secondly is the infrastructure upgrades required over the years that will be needed to facilitate not just for these developments but for future expansion. One of the more worrisome concerns for me is easterly traffic leaving the KED heading to the bottle neck at the bypass. From 4-6 p.m. at present day this can be a pain to get through now. A remedy might be necessary once the KED is finished. Every ward receives HCI funds for support, but Ward 11 is about to support the biggest investment in this city’s history. Along with that comes a strain on our neighborhoods. With that in mind and the fact that once the casino is operational the city will receive an extra 4 per cent on table revenues, I would like to see a small portion, say one per cent of these revenues, set up in an extra infrastructure fund for Ward 11 aside from our HCI. This fund could be used for the little extras like bumping up some of our secondary roads on the priority list even if it's just a shave and pave. I think it's the least that can be done for hosting the casino in our ward. We don't want our area to resemble areas or streets that resemble the Detroit casino areas do we?
Kingsway Entertainment District;
Simply stated, the KED is the wrong project in the wrong location at the wrong time. With a stagnant economy and a static assessment base the expense is too high for taxpayers now and into the future when there are other priorities such as repair of crumbling infrastructure. Besides, we already have a functional arena that could be enhanced at far less cost than a new facility and is located downtown close to other amenities, including the central transportation hub and multiple access points plus available parking, regardless of what some many claim. Expanded gambling in the form of a casino on the KED site will only generate more revenue for the provincial government with little net benefit to the community and is not endorsed by the Health Unit due to negative social and health concerns. Claims of extra jobs and increased tourism are not justified by evidence from other remote communities such as Thunder Bay. If there is to be expanded gaming it should take place at the current location in Chelmsford and the city should lobby for return of horse racing such as at 15 other gaming locations in Ontario to revive a once thriving local industry.
Downtown and the urban-rural divide;
The reality is that the downtown is the prime financial, legal, medical, service, arts, hospitality and government centre. There are other downtowns that serve their respective areas and multiple malls throughout Greater Sudbury. Nevertheless, there is a general feeling of disconnect and many feel the former Regional Government model provided more local control and services and that some form of de-amalgamation should be considered. Many citizens do not frequent the main downtown area unless necessary and this could likely be changed if convenient and less costly parking was available which could be realized by having civic and business employees park for free or at reduced rates outside of the downtown core such as in lots across the CPR tracks. As we are a vehicle-centric city with few walking, biking or taking public transit, parking is important in the downtown and we should be cognizant of the effect of removing valuable parking opportunities in the downtown such as building on present central parking areas such as for the Place des Arts and the creation of the Elgin Greenway. The downtown should be treated like a mall, with security and cleaning individuals (paid for by the BIA) which would serve to answer citizen concerns of the downtown not being safe or clean. Like what took place in North Bay our arena, of the same age could be upgraded and enhanced at relatively low cost and take its rightful place as the heart of the downtown in the arts district.
The ward is comprised of the Minnow Lake area along the north and eastern shoes of Lake Ramsey and the western portion of New Sudbury. Once regarded as one of the least desirable neighborhoods, the Minnow Lake area has become one of the most favored areas to live. A resident since 1985 I have been involved with the Minnow Lake Restoration Group and Community Action Network and in the many changes that have taken place to improve image and liveability. Ward 11 is now fortunate in having many amenities, including retail, except perhaps a local grocery store, to serve our varied population. For recreation, there are ball fields, tennis and beach volleyball courts, skateboard, dog and people parks, walking and hiking trails in the Minnow Lake area and in New Sudbury the Rotary Trail. There are community meeting places, three elementary schools, including Adamsdale, which we were involved in saving from being closed last year. There are swimming opportunities at Moonlight Beach and at other spots along the lakeshore. There is boating and fishing in Minnow and Lake Ramsey. At the Adanac downhill skiing hill my wife has an annual season pass. Many residents are concerned about traffic, especially speeding and we have advocated for photo radar and sensible traffic calming measures. We are very much concerned about salt pollution to Lake Ramsey from the large parking area of the proposed Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) plus increased traffic congestion in the area. We believe in community meetings to discuss issues of importance to residents.
Kingsway Entertainment District
I 100-per-cent support the KED vision and the will of council. Downtown and Kingsway can work together. KED will be a catalyst to future development. I work with similar venues across Canada like Evraz Place, Western Fair District in London Ontario and Exhibition Place in Toronto, and recognize economic development opportunities like KED as the best way to stabilize property taxes. These projects can bring community together. Western Fair District is perhaps the best example incorporating exhibition buildings, race track, multi-ice pad, ballrooms, a Gateway Casino and the annual Western Fair, making the venue a year-round destination. Remember, Downtown Sudbury is only a seven-minute drive to the Kingsway.
Mr. Zulich originally pitched a Private-Public Partnership. As developer, he was looking to the city to help guarantee the mortgage on the arena, leverage funds from other levels of government and share in the risk, reducing the overall burden on taxpayers. At the end of the 30-year mortgage, the building would have become a city asset. The city opted to purchase the land, own the arena and entered into shared cost agreements to develop KED as a consortium with each party sharing the cost proportionate to their level of investment. The city's portion is included in the $100 million.
Expanded gambling is here to stay. Smart phone technology and online gambling is even more accessible. We must ensure that the right supports are available for those with gambling addictions and collectively address social disorder and mental health in our community.
Downtown and the urban-rural divide
Downtown Sudbury BIA is very vocal in their support against KED and is part of the Casino Free Sudbury movement. Their participation has created an even further divide, taking focus away from the role and responsibility of the BIA. A number of other issues still need to be addressed such as economic development, residential development, safety, security and parking in the downtown core. I believe the library, Art Gallery, Place des Arts and the convention and performance centre are best-suited downtown and more complementary to the current mix of businesses.
We can do more. Downtown Sudbury was the place to be and is transforming. I believe downtowns are the heartbeat of the community, however, as described our current downtown and its leadership needs help.
However, companies like Vista Hospitality, Zulich, Dalron and other developers continue to make investments in the core. Recently, with Desjardins relocating their business commercial banking centre downtown. To stimulate further investment, I feel it is important that we have a dedicated economic development officer.
Prior to amalgamation, we had a two-tier government with city and town councils and a regional government. Downtown Sudbury is still the core of the former Regional Municipality of Sudbury. Communities like Valley East, Capreol, Rayside Balfour, and Walden maintain their sense of community pride and civic engagement. We must recognize and build on the unique strengths of these communities. Their town centres are equally as important to Greater Sudbury and should be supported as such.
Kingsway Entertainment District is the No. 1 question at the door. Where do you stand? I am 100 per cent in support of the vision of KED. As someone who works in similar venues across Canada, I see the potential of what is possible. The economic development opportunities surrounding KED (and similar amenities across Greater Sudbury) will help to attract new residential and business development to our community and is the best way to stabilize property taxes.
Roads and Roadblocks is the next biggest issue. Many residents are concerned with the quality of road work on major routes throughout the city and in their own neighbourhoods. They are concerned about the safety of their streets in particular with ATV, snowmobile and increased vehicular traffic. Aside from roads, residents are concerned with our aging municipal infrastructure and our city's ability to invest in it while not being taxed out of their homes. We need to be innovative, creative, responsible and provide leadership to address these concerns collectively. We need to build relationships in our community with businesses, residents and industry partners who are solution-driven to address some very complex municipal issues.
Job creation is the next common theme. Young professionals are looking for good paying jobs and opportunities beyond contracts and temp work and their parents and grandparents want them to have these opportunities in their community. The economy grows when people invest, and people invest when they have jobs. Government does not create jobs. Government creates the environment that creates jobs. As larger metropolitan cities become over crowded, those residents are looking to places like Greater Sudbury and have certain expectations of their community and demand a similar quality of life or better. We must proactively be attracting new businesses to our community, selling Greater Sudbury as the destination of choice, making smart infrastructure investments and investing in quality of life infrastructure to ensure there are things for employees to outside of work. Green jobs, tech jobs, and creative industries is the future of Greater Sudbury.