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Where Do They Stand? Ward 6 candidates stake out their positions on the issues

Voting period begins Oct. 15

Voters want to know where the candidates stand on the issues and so does

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 6, we have answers from three of four candidates: Chris Bentley, Jesse Brooks and former city councillor André Rivest. An earlier version of this story omitted the submission from incumbent René Lapierre. That has been corrected.

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?

Chris Bentley

Kingsway Entertainment District
This is one of the very questions I get asked when meeting people on the campaign trail. I am 100 per cent in favour of the Kingsway Entertainment District. This will be a fabulous complex that will really put Greater Sudbury on the map as the true capital of Northern Ontario. But it is just the beginning. An event centre, casino, and hotel alone just won’t do. There is another 120 acres on that property that is already subdivided and needs to be developed. All of this is going to help generate new commercial tax revenue. That is much needed tax money that won’t have to come out of your pocket or mine. We need to show everybody that Greater Sudbury is open for business. We need to do everything we can to encourage that development. The economic upside is very exciting. Every building that gets erected on that property will pay its share of taxes to the City.  This is much needed revenue that we can use to offset the cost of both the KED and the Junction. This will save taxpayer dollars. I truly feel that businesses are going to want to jump on board and be a part of this transformational project.

I have spent a lot of time talking to people within Ward 6 about this very subject and most just want to get it built. They are very anxious for this to take shape and move Greater Sudbury forward successfully. Given all the misinformation out there, I have done my own investigating into this and believe wholeheartedly that we are making the right investments for the better of our future as a City. There is no doubt in my mind. I look forward to getting through the LPAT process and moving forward with the Kingsway Entertainment District.

Downtown and the urban-rural divide
Talk of the KED leads us right into talk of revitalizing the downtown core. Once the KED is in place, the Junction can begin to take shape. Establishing a beautiful arts and culture district in the heart of the city will be the shot in the arm the downtown needs. It will change the atmosphere in our core and will be a definite attraction for our citizens and all of Northern Ontario. There are some very talented groups among us like Sudbury Performance Group, Theatre Cambrian, Sudbury Theatre Centre, and the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Bringing them all together into one unified hub will help make them all stronger.  Some of these groups are already collaborating and working together. Establishing the Junction will make that process even easier. The benefits to a healthy arts and culture community are more social than economic. Given that, the City will have to provide some level of funding to ensure its success. All successful cities do this and Greater Sudbury should be no different.

The Downtown has a stigma of being dangerous, dirty, and an impossible place to park. I don’t believe this is true, but it is the perception. That is a tough hill for our downtown supporters to climb. It will take a unified effort to disspell the myth. As a community, we can definitely do that. We need to come together as citizens of Greater Sudbury to improve all areas of our City. 

Top issues in Ward 6

Community Safety
In meeting people from all different areas of Ward 6 and engaging in many, many conversations, the top issue that stands out within the ward boundaries is overall community safety. There are concerns about speed and driving habits, of course, but the larger issue is pedestrian safety, especially where our children are concerned. There are areas where we might need sidewalks, crosswalks, or a strategically placed set of traffic lights or 3 way stop. These are all relatively inexpensive updates and additions that could go a long way in keeping our pedestrians safe. There are children of all ages who walk to and from school. There are some who simply don’t drive so walking is how they move around. They deserve to be able to do so safely.

More family oriented activities
People need and want more family oriented activities in their own neighbourhood. Regularly I hear, “We don’t want to have to go to town all the time,” and “Why can’t we have that here?” Well, I see no reason why we can’t. I watched, with envy, all the hoopla surrounding the opening of the new splash pads in both Garson and Onaping and the establishment of a beautiful dog park on Second Avenue. Why can’t we have that here? No reason comes to mind. The Valley East Community Action Network (VECAN) has been back and forth with the City for over a year trying to find the right location for a dog park. I plan to work closely with them to help speed up that process. People in Ward 6 should not have to travel to Sudbury or Azilda to find one. There are many, many dog owners who would love to have one close by. An active and successful CAN needs the full support of the area Councillors and I plan on providing just that.

Better transit
Our transit system is a hot topic in outlying areas and that is no different in Ward 6. It has improved vastly from when we used to have to rely on the service we had back then from a private company. Improvements are coming when the new routes are rolled out in early 2019. It is a step in the right direction. I am hopeful that the new routes out here will make it easier for people to travel within the Valley as well as to and from Sudbury. I don’t anticipate it will be the perfect solution but it is definitely one we can work with. I look forward to hearing feedback from riders on the new system and the continued work to improve something  that is vital to our City and its people.

Jesse Brooks

Kingsway Entertainment District
I do support the construction of the Kingsway Entertainment District in its entirety. Most of the funding for this project has been secured and the partnerships that are required to share overall cost such as site development are also in the works. It is important, however, to be aware of and limit debt financing going forward. I am of the opinion that pursuing the project as a private event centre may have been a financially responsible avenue; however, it is now a prime opportunity to replace aging infrastructure. Though there is a long-term financial impact, a new arena will benefit our community for many years to come. It will bring in tourism dollars to Greater Sudbury through attraction and attendance of sporting events, conventions and in turn, local businesses such as restaurants and hotels will see increased revenue. It will provide our youth with the proper training and playing facility they deserve. In terms of casino gambling, I will leave each individual to decide whether gambling is right for them, as I believe that it is up to individuals to choose their own lifestyles rather than the government to impose on them.  We can, as a community, do as much as possible to ensure that there is education and support for problem gamblers to access.

Downtown and the urban-rural divide
Rural concerns are very legitimate. I believe that rural areas should receive equal funding which aligns with those qualities that make them unique. For instance, I would love to see kayaks at the beach in the Valley so that families can rent them and enjoy the outdoors. Increased  bussing service hours would also be beneficial to the outlying communities as they feel disconnected from the city core at times. In terms of the downtown, though we have contributed greatly, I believe more can be done. Increased green spaces, such as the Elgin Greenway, improve the desirability of the space for both business and family use.  Downtown also needs to work on parking issues and accessibility so that when there are events more people can attend them including provisions for those who choose to walk or bike. Many of the spaces currently available are reserved by private corporations. I think that the master plan for the downtown area is a great step forward but that this needs to be mirrored in the outlying communities.

Ward issues
Human Priorities: Ensuring that people’s basic needs are met is one of my top priorities. Ensuring that housing is affordable, that we have enough access to the food bank, and that people have access to exercise so that their quality of life remains high are examples of human priorities. "People first" is a reminder to myself to concentrate on policies that support people in their homes and neighbourhoods.
Growth of Community: Ensuring that people are out participating in their community in events such as Raise the Barn, A Day in the Trails, Senior’s Day and maybe even ball hockey tournaments in the arenas during the summer are all examples of ways that we can grow together and make life here more enjoyable.
Standard maintenance objectives: Ensuring that developers are able to move Ward 6 forward in terms of structural growth, repairing roads where the worst sections are, hopefully helping residents with ditches, trail maintenance and doing these within tax increases that are acceptable to residents.

André Rivest​​​​​

Kingsway Entertainment District
I’m in favor of the location and of the project. We just don’t want our tax dollars to increase because of this new project. This endeavor would be a good anchor for our city that may turn out to be the precursor to a convention center.

Downtown and the urban-rural divide
The downtown is still lacking in parking in order to bring businesses and residents. This parking should be free to all users. That would help to revitalize the downtown.

Ward Issues
Our ever-increasing property taxes.
Our garbage pick-up is slated to be one bag per week as of October 2019 instead of the two-bag limit we presently have. Many families may have a difficult time meeting this one-bag limit. I will not support this reduction.
Our roads and subdivisions roads need major repairs.
The outdoor lighting at the Hanmer branch of the library needs to be improved.
If I am elected councillor for Ward 6, I will focus on a zero-per-cent tax increase. We had a 10.5-per-cent tax increase in the last three years.
Every time you increase the budget, you are also increasing the fat. At the first budget meeting, I will introduce a motion to focus on a zero per cent tax increase without any cuts in the level of services.

René Lapierre (incumbent)

Kingsway Entertainment District
I support the construction of an event centre/casino/hotel complex known as the KED. 
I think the Kingsway Entertainment District will be a great destination area as well as an economic driver for our City. I look forward for the LPAT board to make their final decision on the appeal, so we can keep proceeding and make this project a success. These types of projects are a huge decision for municipalities as they only happen once every 50 to 60 years. I also think it is good timing with the other initiatives we are working on, such as new bus routes, arena infrastructure renewals and more. We can incorporate many of the moving parts into the decision-making to ensure the best moves possible all together. I do support the financial plan of cost associated with this development. I do believe there is a way to minimize the direct levy impact with reallocating internal commitments that are coming to their end. Gabling is and has been in our community for a very long time. I believe that if a private developer wants to spend their money to expand their business then we need to look at those opportunities for employment as well as possible tourism influx for these activities.

Downtown and the urban-rural divide
As explained in the question, I do believe that communities require to have central hubs known as “downtown” to maintain a good economic health. I also believe that not all spending should be allocated to one specific geographical area of the City. Should an urban downtown require the assistance then a plan need to be constructed to find a way to support it and provide the attention it needs. As change occurs and time advances, things must evolve, adapt and new innovative ideas and visions must be created. Having no investment at all in the downtown would be a cause for concern, but to continue to update uses for all the area's known as downtown and provide financial support is important. I believe the new updated vision for the downtown of Greater Sudbury is bold, state-of-the-art and will help support the many current restaurants & business.  

Ward issues
When speaking to residents, what I have heard is the following. It was difficult to only have three but these were at the top of many discussions:

  • More road repairs on local roads as well as surface treatment and better maintenance of gravel roads. 
  • More affordable seniors' housing 
  • More city-maintained walking/biking lanes 

My action plan is as follows. I will bring a motion forward to include crack-sealing of local roads. I believe preventing the breakdown of our roads is more cost effective as a preventative measure. This practice was stopped years ago, but in order to keep our roads in better condition longer we must prevent them from deteriorating. The city’s current policy is to do crack-sealing on all the highways and major/collector roads, but not on local roads. I would like to see us prevent our local roads from getting worse and increase their life cycle. I will ensure to enhance the walking trails at Howard Armstrong. Ensure to adopt the non-official section of trail into official trails, make the whole trail network fully accessible (AODA accessibility standards) so everyone can use them, and integrate this work simultaneously as the city proceeds with the development of a twin pad arena facility, and for the affordable housing I will continue to work with our federal partners to receive additional funds from the “affordable housing grant” to create more living spaces, but also renovate our current stock of housing units to one- or two-bedroom units as this is in such high demand and the wait times can in some case be years. The need is now so we need to create spaces as soon as possible.