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Where Do They Stand? Ward 5 candidates on the top issues in their ward

Sudbury.com’s Where Do They Stand? series continues
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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’ll be rolling a new story on a new ward every weekday, 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.

From Ward 5, we have answers from all three candidates: Jerry Desormeaux, Michel Lalonde and the incumbent, Robert Kirwan, possibly the most outspoken candidate or sitting member of council.

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?

Jerry Desormeaux ​​​​​

1.  Kingsway entertainment district
My position on the development of the KED site is I always welcome new development to the city, however this project has been tainted from the beginning with misleading information, and the uncertainty of its partners. I would hope it would not fall back to the taxpayers. There are too many unknowns at this time and we should definitely take a step back and re-evaluate the site.

2. Downtown and urban rural divide
We need to invite new business and industry to our city promote and make it inviting to open up shop in our city. We need to remove the red tape from city hall and work in partnership with all new developments to move our city forward. As for the casino, they should leave it remaining in the outlying area of Chelmsford. We do not generate enough business for it downtown and just would cause more issues in the future. I am not sure if the downtown core will ever be the same again. We need to take a look and work with the downtown business to see where we can improve.

3. Ward Issues
The top three issues for me are:
Affordable seniors housing: We have a lot of empty real estate in the valley that can be utilized with the right developer to construct or re-purpose old buildings to allow new units to be opened for our aging population. Transit Hub for our community: Installing a transit hub in the valley with parking so we can increase more ridership into the city without having to worry about parking. Installing a user-friendly playground with a splash pad for our community: Hopefully we can work with getting local businesses to donate funding, apply for grants, and work with the community on fundraiser to move forward.

Robert Kirwan (incumbent)

1.Kingsway Entertainment District
The Kingsway Entertainment District provides our city with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build one of the most spectacular facilities of its kind in Ontario. The selling point for me when considering this project is that it establishes a successful collaborative partnership model that the city will be able to use time and time again for other projects in the coming years. We have approved a funding model that requires us to identify an increase in taxes of 1.2 per cent or about $3.2 million per year to cover the debt payment. The Municipal Act requires us to identify how we will fund the arena/event centre in order to balance our budget. However, once the casino and hotel open up, the total revenue that will be generated through commercial taxes and increased casino revenue for the city will be over $5 million per year. I am in total support of expanded casino gambling as part of the Kingsway Entertainment District. The local residents will still be spending the same amount as they always have at Sudbury Downs, but there will be little to no additional local money being spent in the expanded casino that will be part of the KED. The expanded casino is a critical element in the KED cluster and without that component the KED would not be viable.
 
2. Downtown and the urban-rural divide:
This city council has laid the groundwork that will create a healthy downtown and a health city. That is why it was critical for us to approve the Kingsway Entertainment District and the Downtown Arts & Culture District developments. The two are a package deal. One cannot survive without the other. The KED offers local residents and visitors many options through the casino and the arena / event centre. The Downtown Arts & Culture District will be anchored with the new library, the new art gallery, the new conference and performance centre and the hotel that will be built with it. As well there are other enhancements that surround the core cluster, such as Place des Arts, the Elgin Greenway, the Brady Green Stairs walkway, the Tom Davies Courtyard renovations, the Laurentian School of Architecture, Memorial Park, a renewed Sudbury Theatre Centre, and a pedestrian friendly centre block west of Paris Street. All of these venues provide visitors and local residents with a multitude of options in the area of arts and culture. Once we have the downtown development operating at full capacity, it is expected that the renewal will continue to expand more and more to encompass a much larger segment of the existing downtown core. By developing both the KED and the downtown, this will satisfy both the urban and rural segments of our city since there will be many resulting spin-off benefits from the combined synergies of the two clusters.

3. Ward issues
Affordable housing: I have been working with several developers on some ideas for building adult living villages in several locations in Ward 5 so that older adults who are living in their current larger house can sell them and then move into rental accommodation that would be much more affordable and better meet their needs. In order to provide some incentive to build, I will be working with the developers to prepare unsolicited proposals to the city which will contain an offer to build affordable housing in return for a “partnership” of sorts with the city that may waive development charges, or reduce property tax for a number of years in order to keep the monthly rental costs down. 
Quality of Life: I have been making an effort to help develop neighbourhood associations in order to encourage more community engagement. Our Age Friendly Strategy has been developed by the Seniors Advisory Panel, which will be taking action to ensure that the needs of our older adults are met. Over the next four years we will be implementing many initiatives that will focus on active living, playground revitalization, and improving accessibility so that we remove the health inequities that exist today.
Economic Development: The KED and the Downtown Art & Culture District are going to create hundreds of new jobs for many of the residents who are currently unemployed or working in part-time positions. Many of the residents living in social housing complexes in Ward 5 will benefit from these new jobs. I have also been working for the past few years on expanding the Valley East Industrial Park in order to promote more industrial development. During the next couple of years staff will be doing a review of the industrial park land in the Greater Sudbury Area and it is expected that we will add another large section on the east side of the industrial park.

Michel Lalonde​​​​​​

1. Kingsway Entertainment District

On June 27, 2017, our current city council voted in favour of the Kingsway site for the new arena/event centre and entertainment district. Although I did not personally agree with this decision, I do respect the democratic process, and the decision made by our current city council. As your potential city councillor, my personal opinion is not of importance in any decision-making. My job is to represent each and every citizen of my ward, and to put your best interests forward.

The Kingsway Entertainment Business Case underlines methods to be used to pay for this project, which includes a tax levy. It should be noted that the city is looking at other sources of revenue for the cost of this project, included but not limited to fundraising, facility revenues (naming rights, ticket surcharge), redirecting funds from current and approved uses, the hotel room tax, and finding new funding sources.

As for expanded casino gambling, many residents and organizations have voiced their concerns of the economic and social impacts it will have on the city. I do not take these concerns lightly, and believe it is important to address these concerns in order to minimize impacts to our community.

I've had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of residents about this subject. The vast majority have showed their support behind this project, even with underlining the rise in property taxes, and the economic and social risks of expanded gambling. Therefore, as a potential Councillor, I will work together with members of council and city staff to ensure the Kingsway Entertainment District becomes a staple of our city.

2. Downtown and the urban-rural divide

I’ve spent most of my life (25 years) living in a rural part of the City of Greater Sudbury, and three years living in the urban part of the city. Many residents underline that the roads were in better condition, taxes were at a lower rate, and services were better offered under the old divide.  These are contributing factor of the frustration by the outskirts with heavy investments being made within the old City of Sudbury.

The prevailing wisdom is that a healthy downtown equals a healthy city. The City of Greater Sudbury is in a somewhat unique situation with one “major” downtown (i.e. Downtown Sudbury), and many more “mini” downtowns.

Investment in the city’s downtown has risen over the years with the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan, which has brought projects such as La Place des Arts and The Junction, and investments from private groups, such as Desjardins regional hub. We need to continue discussions with potential investors to see what the city can do to encourage more investment in the area. I also believe we need to concentrate on increasing the downtown population numbers with housing construction projects, and work with developers to make this happen. 

The outskirts downtowns have seen some investments (i.e. Capreol façade revitalization), but much more needs to be done to ensure growth and prosperity. To help achieve this goal, I believe we should look into creating Business Improvement Area (BIA) Associations and Community Improvement Plans in other business districts of the City. 

3. Ward issues
When speaking with residents of Ward 5, the top three issues identified are as follows (and in no particular order of importance): 

1) Infrastructure
I’ve received many complaints to the lack of road repair and maintenance to city-owned infrastructure. I believe it is important to work with our community experts, city staff and city council to prepare an action plan to address these issues. This means significant investment in our infrastructure (and finding new ways to generate revenue for the city to cover the cost), before it falls into a further state of disrepair. 

2) Affordable Housing
We need to work with developers to encourage more senior friendly development in key areas near services (i.e. doctor’s offices, grocery stores, clinics, restaurants, etc.), which will leave current affordable properties for younger families wishing to establish themselves in the area. We need to continue to build affordable housing complexes (with the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation), as there is a growing demand and long wait times for units. I would also advise extensive public consultation with residents of Ward 5 to address the housing needs in their individual neighborhoods, and to work with city staff and groups (such as the Social Planning Council of Sudbury) to find the best ways to address these needs, and to create a plan of action. 

3) Investment in the area
Residents of Ward 5 feel there could be more investment in the area, specifically in terms of beautification (i.e. New Christmas lights), playgrounds and recreation (i.e. revitalization of our parks, a dog park community gardens, revitalization of Kalmo Beach), city services (i.e. snow removal services, new children programs at the public library or fitness facilities), private enterprise (i.e. retail, commercial and food), and the list continues. 

I believe the best strategy to address these concerns is the creation of a Community Improvement Plan for Ward 5. Each phase of this project would be a focus of key priority identified through extensive public consultation with the residents of Ward 5, and identifying the needs of each area of the Ward. We also need to work in partnership with community agencies (i.e. Playground Associations, SPCS, VECAN, etc.), businesses, city staff and other levels of government to implement and fund the initiatives underlined in the C.I.P, and to ensure it is well-planned and thoughtfully designed.




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