Thunder Bay responds to Drummond Report -by Jamie Smith (tbnewswatch.com – February 16, 2012)

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While there are some concerns, the city says it is already following many of the recommendations made in the Drummond Report. Cost containment and finding efficiencies are part of programs the city has been implementing over the last few years mayor Keith Hobbs said.

“It lines up great with what the city is already doing,” Hobbs said at a media conference Thursday afternoon.

What was missing from the massive report, which has recommendations for almost every provincial department, is the massive revenue potential from the Ring of Fire, Hobbs said. While mining potential is mentioned, it wasn’t enough.

“I do think in the Drummond report they really down played it quite a bit. They really need to step up.” City manager Tim Commisso said given that the ring of fire could be one of the province’s largest economic generators, Ontario needs to be a leader when it comes to infrastructure for the project.

“I’m surprised there wasn’t more discussion about how this really should be looked at as an investment,” Commisso said.

One of the reasons the province is facing such a massive deficit is because its industrial tax base over the last few years. That loss of revenue means cuts Commisso said.

“If you don’t invest in infrastructure and you don’t invest in the economy and stimulate the economy you’re just in a cost-cutting mode and that’s not going to get you there (to recovery),” he said.

That’s why the city is hoping the province will continue to invest in infrastructure and special projects over the coming years. The report talks about predictable funding for municipalities through a city’s asset management system.

“If we know we can plan say for five years and we can expect on some of our major projects that we’re going to get provincial funding it really helps us,” Commisso said.

Another thing that could help the city is more centralized bargaining, especially for the city’s emergency services.

Those services are usually a city’s largest expense Commisso said. He points to teachers and other public sector employees who currently bargain provincially saying that could help in other public sectors as well.

A recent seven-year arbitration between the city and fire fighters is an example of how the current system is not working Commisso said.

“Nobody liked it. They didn’t like it. We didn’t like it,” he said.

Hobbs agreed. The former police association president said he has been making a case for one police service in the province for years. That way everything from training to bargaining would be standardized.

“It’s a system that is broken and it needs to be fixed,” Hobbs said.

Both agree that the upcoming provincial budget will be an important one for municipalities and will be keeping a close eye on which recommendations Ontario chooses to implement.

For a video report, please go to tbnewswatch.com website: http://www.tbnewswatch.com/news/189944/The-city’s-response

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