Imagine a City
[Check Against Delivery]
June 17, 2009
Madam President, Mister Chair, Colleagues and Friends
I am pleased and honoured to be here this afternoon to present the 2010 Mayor’s State of the City address. I want to express my appreciation to the Chamber and its members for providing this forum and I want to thank the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation both for sponsoring this event again this year and for their ongoing contribution to this city. Since its opening in 1999, the Slots at Sudbury Downs have transferred more than $21 million to their host municipality.
This is my fourth State of the City address and it is an important annual opportunity to take stock of where we have been and where we hope to go as a municipality and as a community. The past twelve months have been challenging in many ways but have once again demonstrated our community’s resiliency and our unrelenting collective commitment to build for the future.
As I prepared these remarks, I was reminded of a phrase from Michael Ondaatje’s iconic novel about the history of Toronto, In the Skin of a Lion.
‘Before the real city could be seen,” Ondaatje wrote, ‘it had to be imagined.”
As you came in today, you will have noticed the displays of architectural concepts around the room. This is where imagination comes to life and a city is born. Of course imagination and city-building are pursuits not limited to those in the architecture profession, and this community has been truly blessed by those who imagined the city such that we can see it today. Former Regional Chair, Tom Davies, who imagined a green and environmentally restored city, and former Mayor, Jim Gordon, who is here with us today, who had the audacity to imagine the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, are two outstanding examples of how our community has been shaped by this force. As the City of Greater Sudbury moves into its second decade, powerful imaginations are again at work on our future.
As Mayor, I have the good fortune to be able to meet many of those who are so committed to building this community, to travel across this vast territory and see the results of their efforts, and to stand before you to share the great successes of our citizens, along with some of the challenges we all face.
Over the past four years, I have also been lucky in having a tremendous group of people to work with around the Council table. I see here today Deputy Mayor Ron Dupuis, Councillors Janet Gasparini, and Doug Craig and I want to thank them for being here this afternoon. As a Council, we determined early on that we would focus on four strategic priorities – Infrastructure Investment, Fiscal Sustainability, Community Development and Excellence in Governance.
Throughout this term, we have maintained this commitment and have delivered in each of these areas. I am proud that this Council has largely operated as a team, with each member bringing their individual interests and expertise to the table, working together to tackle issues, and finding supportive ways to make decisions and move forward. I take particular pride in the fact that we have worked through some issues that have vexed this municipality for some time. Greater Sudbury now has a Top Soil By-law that protects our useable farmland for the future. We have put in place a reasonable system of development charges to ensure that future growth will cover more of its own costs for municipal service expansion. Finally, after more than 17 years, we are completing Countryside Arena to address the ice shortage issue in the city core.
Our Council committed to find efficiencies and assure that citizens receive maximum value for their tax dollars. To achieve this goal, we created the position of Auditor General and hired Brian Bigger to take on this work. Brian released his first audit two weeks ago and city staff are already working to address his recommendations. The Auditor General’s Office continues to work on an identified list of priorities and we will see more public assessments and recommendations as the year progresses.
When I spoke to this gathering one year ago, Doug Nadorozny was just a few months into his permanent role as the city’s Chief Administrative Officer. I see that Doug is not here today so I can talk about him without causing too much embarrassment. In the past 14 months, I have watched our new CAO in action with Council, with the public and with our employees, and I can say without equivocation that the decision to hire Doug was the single most important organizational decision this Council has made. He has made significant inroads into changing the way we do business at city hall to make us more responsive, more flexible and more efficient. I am looking forward to these efforts continuing into the future.
Under Doug’s leadership, municipal staff are working to improve communications with citizens, they are breaking down silos to create a more responsive and efficient work unit for development approvals and they are using benchmarking and performance measurement to ensure that we deliver high-quality services in an efficient manner. I am very pleased that our new CAO and his team have successfully reached a tentative agreement with our largest employee group and that this tentative settlement is being recommended for approval by the CUPE leadership team.
As the largest geographic municipality in Ontario and the second largest in Canada, Greater Sudbury’s relatively low density of population creates an enormous challenge in terms of infrastructure renewal. We have tackled this challenge head on, and made an unprecedented investment in our basic infrastructure. Since 2007, more than $170 million dollars have been allocated to capital projects on our municipal roads. The maps on the screens give you an indication of the cumulative impact of these improvements across our vast city.
Early last year, the Federal and Provincial governments announced stimulus programs to get people back to work and offered municipalities the opportunity to partner. We took maximum advantage of these programs and secured almost $26 million from Ottawa and Queen’s Park to rebuild Lasalle Boulevard, a portion of the Paris/Notre Dame Corridor and Falconbridge Highway. We also used federal Gas Tax Funding to assist in the reconstruction of Paris Street from Boland to Lily Creek and, in addition to an improved road, we were able to improve the water quality in Lake Ramsey by installing an entirely new storm water system to divert run off from the street into a settling tank system that protects the beaches of Bell Park.
Stimulus funds were also made available for community recreation and we were ready. With two-thirds funding from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, we initiated a $5 million rejuvenation project for the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre in Bell Park. By Summer 2011, this jewel by the lake will once again become the focus of our summer festivals and a centerpiece of our artistic life. The same program will allow us to substantially upgrade the James Jerome soccer facilities at Lily Creek, extending soccer and football seasons by lighting up this centre for night play and opening this city’s first artificial turf field. This complex, along with the all-new Laurentian Community Track, will be the principal venues as Greater Sudbury hosts the Ontario Summer Games in August and les jeux de la francophonie canadienne in 2011. Finally, we are putting almost a million dollars into the exterior refurbishment of the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre in Hanmer.
The Howard Armstrong Centre is also the site of a new soccer centre and, along with Coté Park in Chelmsford now boasts a water spray splash pad for children. These improvements in smaller centres outside the city core reflect our Council’s commitment to uphold the values of the Constellation City Report and create a ‘Community of Communities” in Greater Sudbury. This landmark report, completed by a team of citizens led by Floyd Laughren, continues to inform municipal decision-making and influence policy development at City Hall.
I have personally had the opportunity to spend a full day in ten of our constituent communities and I must say that these visits are one of the highlights of my job as Mayor. From a pair of determined and resourceful young mothers restoring their park and playground in Coniston, to a dynamic young couple and their amazing horse breeding farm in Whitefish, to a committed mechanic and his classic automobile showroom in Val Caron, this city is full of the most interesting and entrepreneurial people. In every community I also met students who are determined to learn and make a difference as well as community volunteers who want to work in cooperation with the municipality to make our city greater.
Strategic municipal investments are an important way to trigger growth and to improve our quality-of-life as citizens of Greater Sudbury. I have already mentioned our investments in roads and in infrastructure stimulus projects, but either as Council directly or through the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, taxpayer dollars have been used to initiate important projects in healthcare, education, municipal infrastructure and economic development.
In Levack-Onaping, for example, we opened a completely new water system late in 2009 at a cost of $13.5 million plus $5 million from Vale. In Chelmsford, we committed $2 million for a new long term care facility, Villa St. Gabriel, that will house 128 seniors and create 60 jobs when it opens next year. This facility is being constructed on land generously donated by the late Gabe Belanger and his wife Laura, who is here with us today.
Through the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, investments have been made in a variety of economic development opportunities. The Sudbury District Motorsports Association, for example received funding to allow this group to assess the feasibility of a new motorsports park. In just two years, the membership of this association has grown to more than 2,000 enthusiastic ‘gearheads” whose passion for dragster racing, karting, dirt biking, motorcycle racing and oval racing, takes them all over the province. They are determined to build a facility here and stage events that will attract similar enthusiasts to our city.
The GSDC recently made a strategic investment in the start up of the Northern Ontario Cancer Therapeutics Research Initiative, or CTRI (see-tree). This initiative, which first came to the city’s attention through the Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Health Cluster Development, chaired by Jim Gordon, springs from the powerful imagination of Dr. Hoy Yun Lee. Dr. Lee is intent on establishing a world-class pharmaceutical research hub in Greater Sudbury. CTRI is the first non-government initiated effort in Canada to achieve the development of effective anti-cancer drugs. They have already screened 36,000 natural and synthetic compounds, many of which come from the boreal forests of Northern Ontario and Dr. Lee has identified 1,000 compounds that exhibit some potential for anti-cancer therapeutics.
The development corporation board, supported by municipal staff, has a broad mandate and an excellent track record in identifying, pursuing and supporting opportunities for economic development in this city. In a unique partnership with city council, the GSDC is entrusted with more than $900,000 each year to invest in activities as diverse as tourism marketing, mining research, festival development and motorsports. Just last week, four board members stepped down after six years of service on this board and I want to take this opportunity to publically commend Claude Lacroix, Greg Baiden, Sylvia Barnard and Debbi Nicholson for their dedication to the growth of this city.
Earlier this year, as part of its Digging Deeper strategy, the GSDC began to track economic trends. I believe that you all have a copy of their new ‘dashboard” document on your table. You will note that our labour market trends are on the upswing and that 3,400 jobs have been created in the city since January. In fact, in the month of May, new jobs were created in Greater Sudbury at a faster per capita rate than any other urban centre in Canada. Housing starts are also up over last year. These kinds of numbers indicate that our local economy is recovering to pre-recession levels, despite the now eleven month old strike at Vale.
Let me take a moment to speak about the difficult dispute between the Steelworkers and Vale. Although I am pleased that the success of our city’s diversification efforts has meant that we have weathered this strike better than previous ones, I am acutely aware that it is having an impact on businesses and individuals across this city. I am deeply concerned about the families that have been affected and especially those who are facing economic crisis. From the beginning, my council colleagues and I have consistently said that the only real solution lies at the bargaining table. I am pleased that both sides will meet again tomorrow and I know that I speak for every citizen when I say that I pray that an agreement will be reached in the very near future.
The diversification efforts of the 1980s have indeed borne fruit. In the Greater Sudbury of today, significant jobs and economic activity now come from the health, education, tourism, retail and government services sectors. These sectors themselves are building on the critical mass that has been created and launching new initiatives to diversify and grow.
In the tourism sector, for example, Greater Sudbury will add to its position as Northern Ontario’s most accommodating city with a 105-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel that will open in December. This $9 million private investment recognizes the importance of business travel and tourism in our city.
Science North recently announced a complete renewal and rejuvenation of its core attractions. Funded through the Federal/Provincial Infrastructure Stimulus Program, this project will renovate the exterior of the complex as well as completely renew the visitor experiences in the centre itself. Wildfire, a new forest fire fighting exhibit, will be developed for the Inco Cavern and new interactive displays on the Boreal Forest and the Great Lakes will cement Science North’s reputation as the must-see attraction in Northern Ontario.
In education we continue to see excitement and innovation at all levels. Best Start Hubs and integrated daycare centres are now found at neighbourhood schools. Amazing new green buildings are delivering healthier, more efficient classrooms for children in settings that encourage environmental learning and responsibility. At the post-secondary level, all three institutions are bringing forward cutting-edge projects that will provide more opportunities for students and faculty, and increased recognition for the city.
At Cambrian College, the Energy Systems Technology Program is preparing students for the burgeoning green jobs marketplace and the Sustainable Energy Centre continues to gather momentum.
Collège Boréal is pushing forward to develop a new Institute of Trades. Under the guidance of President Denis Hubert, this active institution is expanding in other parts of the North as well as in Toronto and Windsor, but Sudbury remains at its heart.
Laurentian University is marking a milestone this year, celebrating 50 years of education and community contributions. President Dominic Giroux is meeting with success as he seeks to attract more students and gain national recognition. Construction of the leading-edge Vale Inco Living with Lakes Centre is well underway and I am confident that we are on the right track towards the realization of the Laurentian School of Architecture. I am proud of our unprecedented municipal commitment of ten million dollars to this project and I appreciate the work of the innovative partnership that is driving it forward.
Retail as an economic driver has never been more significant, and investors continue to choose Greater Sudbury as the place to make their mark in Northern Ontario. Over the past year, we have seen a dramatic expansion with the opening of Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in New Sudbury and a massive Walmart SuperCentre on Long Lake Road. These two anchor developments are already attracting new neighbours and we will soon see additional major tenants at these sites.
In the historic core of our city, boutique retail and innovative cuisine are making the downtown a more people-oriented place. A new Shoppers Drug Mart will soon rise on the north side of Elm Street, complementing the rejuvenated Market Square across the street. The city, along with a dynamic group of citizens has developed a partnership with the provincial and federal governments to fund the development of a comprehensive downtown master plan. This exercise will help private and public organizations to determine where and how to best invest to see long term returns. As part of the commitment to a Constellation City, the results of this initiative will be adapted to assist the other downtowns in our smaller centres across the city.
The health care sector has been a focal point for economic diversification and for improving the quality of life for every citizen in Greater Sudbury. Just a few months ago, our long-awaited one site hospital opened its doors. Those of you who have had the opportunity to visit the new space will share my enthusiasm for this new building. With state-of-the-art facilities and the dynamic leadership of Dr. Denis Roy, I have no doubt that we will see the realization of his compelling vision for an Academic Health Sciences Centre to serve Northeastern Ontario.
I remain concerned about the problem of patients who should be in some other type of care blocking acute care beds in the hospital. This was one of the first issues raised with me when I became mayor and, despite some important initiatives, it remains a vexing problem. As the leader of this municipality, I will continue to work with the community steering committee to develop innovative solutions to address this problem and keep our hospital beds for those who require acute hospital care.
Municipal investment is strengthening primary healthcare by providing space for Family Health Teams and Nurse Practitioner clinics. Since its inception just two years ago, the city’s physician recruitment program has signed on 27 future family physicians and thirteen of these doctors are opening their practices this year. The Sudbury District Nurse Practitioners will soon open a new clinic in Lively and the City of Lakes Family Health Team has opened its doors in New Sudbury and Val Caron with plans to open later this year in Walden. These initiatives will help thousands of local patients and families without a family doctor to find the continuity of care they need.
As our population ages, high-quality health services for seniors will become a critical component of our healthy community strategy, and this community is already developing solutions. The North East Centre of Excellence for Seniors’ Health, located at Pioneer Manor, is the first comprehensive, long term care and wellness centre of its kind for senior citizens in Northern Ontario. In addition to long term care, it offers services from the City of Lakes Family Health Team, Sudbury Manitoulin Alzheimer’s Society, The Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Northeast Specialized Geriatric Services, headed by Dr. Joanne Clarke. Just last week, I had the pleasure of opening a new residence section at Pioneer Manor. The Lodge offers the most advanced living units designed for the specific needs of residents with dementia so that they can enjoy a safer and more home-like environment.
While all of these initiatives contribute to diversification, there is no doubt that mining, mineral processing and mining supply and services are the backbone of Greater Sudbury’s economy. New mines, such as Xstrata’s Nickel Rim, are coming on stream. Older mines, such as Vale’s Totten, FNX’s Levack and First Nickel’s Lockerby, are being redeveloped. Processing plants are being updated for emissions control and energy efficiency and all of this activity provides an economic boost for the city.
I have always maintained that if you want to know about mining, you come to Sudbury. Our position as the global mining centre was reinforced earlier this week by the results of the Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Services Study. This study, conducted in partnership with the five major cities in the North, shows that the North’s mining supply and services sector employs about 23,000 people and produces about $5.6 billion annually in goods and services. Greater Sudbury is responsible for more than half the employees – 13,800 – and almost three-quarters of the output – $3.94 billion. It is critical that we better understand these numbers, that we know how our companies are working around the globe and that we use the recommendations of this comprehensive study to assist this vital industry to grow.
Our mining expertise has helped Greater Sudbury become an important centre for diamond processing. Crossworks Manufacturing opened their factory here in October and has already doubled its initial floor space and has cut and polished more than $50 million worth of the world’s best diamonds. The company has started to bring in local trainees to learn the trade and Birk’s Jewelers have launched Ontario Certified Diamonds to great success. Uri Ariel, President of Crossworks assures me that I can now say that we are home to the largest diamond factory in North America.
New mineral discoveries in Greater Sudbury and across the North will continue to provide opportunities for our city. There has been much attention given recently to the ‘Ring of Fire” discoveries in the remote north of the province. Some have speculated that the mineralogical complex of chromite, copper, nickel and other metals found in this region may be as significant as the Sudbury Basin. To develop this opportunity will require massive investments and it is important that Northeastern Ontario’s mining experts play a significant role in this development. To this end, the Mayors of Timmins, North Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Greater Sudbury have agreed to work together to ensure that the flow of these resources comes to this region to maximize the added value for the people of Ontario. Earlier this week, the Mayors met with industry representatives and government officials in North Bay and we will continue our efforts in the coming weeks and months.
Speaking of partnerships between cities, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the presence here today of North Bay Mayor, Vic Fedeli, and his wife Patty. Since becoming Mayor, one of the personal benefits I have gained is the opportunity to meet and enjoy interesting and engaging people – Vic is one of those people. The Ring of Fire is just one example of the ways in which our two cities have set aside traditional rivalries and worked together to advance this region. Vic has announced that he is not seeking re-election this fall and I want to express to him that he will be missed not only by me, but by all of the people of this city.
There is no question that Greater Sudbury is on the move. Demand for industrial land is increasing and, as I indicated earlier, single-detached housing starts are up substantially over last year. The Greater Sudbury Airport’s newly expanded apron and hangar facilities have been largely filled, creating significant new business activity on the site. I can’t mention our airport without speaking with pride about the introduction of Porter Airlines service on March 31. Congratulations are in order for Airport CEO Bob Johnston, and Director of Business development, Terra Glabb, for their work on this file. As I had predicted in my meetings with Porter President, Bob Deluce, this service has been very well-received by the people of Greater Sudbury and we are all hoping that an expanded schedule will be coming in the not too distant future.
A month or so ago, Greater Sudbury had the honour and the pleasure to host Canada’s Governor General, Michaëlle Jean. Her Excellency spent a couple of days in the city, visiting Laurentian University and Collège Boréal, and speaking to her own event on the importance of the arts. When I had the opportunity to speak privately with her, the Governor General shared her impressions of our community. She said that she could feel the pulse of our city and a strong movement toward the future. I think she connected with the imaginations that are determined to make our real city come to life.
Imagination is a powerful force and, as I said earlier, this city has been and is now blessed with many who have come here, identified opportunities, and imagined our future.
People like Scott Murray and Marc Savard, who imagined a city with opportunities for high-performance athletes to train right here, and will open the most advanced ice and dry-land training facility in Northern Ontario this weekend.
People like Blaine Nichols, Kirsten Robinson, David Robinson, and the late Derek Wilkinson. They imagined a city with a School of Architecture in its downtown core: Four hundred creative minds, and each applying his or her own special insights into the architectural and design challenges that face us every day.
People like the members of the Community Adjustment Committee, its Chair, Gisele Chretien and the hundreds of community members who assisted this group to identify opportunities for further diversification. Their draft report will come to Council on June 23 with four key recommendations for future economic growth.
People like Brian Smith, Vicki Jacobs, Naomi Grant and the members of the Rotary Club, the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee and the Greenspace Advisory Committee, who collectively imagine a city that preserves and enhances parks and trails to allow citizens to create linkages with nature, with each other and with outdoor recreation.
People like Paul Lefebvre, who imagines a city with a renowned Jazz Festival and a city worthy of its reputation as the cradle of Franco-Ontarian culture.
People like Cory Nero who imagines a city of urban Vespa commuters and who is willing to take the risk and open a scooter dealership here in Greater Sudbury.
Throughout our history, this has been the strength of Greater Sudbury, people like all of you in this room, who have been able to imagine a city that is greater than what it appears today. I look forward to working with each of you to realize the vision that we all share.
Merci – Meegwetch – Thank you