By Paul Lefebvre
Consider these simple factors: the rapid electrification of transportation and industry; emphasis on ethical sourcing of critical minerals; the migration of people away from the main centers with high costs of living; and, finally, the commitment to telecommuting and the search for a better work/life balance.
All of these trends provide many opportunities for a mid-sized Canadian city like Greater Sudbury. And we have the benefit of being blessed with many assets, such as geographically fixed mineral wealth; a successful mining technology, equipment and supplies sector; and strong educational institutions. We also have a high quality of life here, with access to the natural environment and a thriving arts, festival and entertainment scene. It is up to us to take advantage of these circumstances and opportunities.
Like any successful business, a municipality must walk the fine line between investing in the future and living in the present—within a budget, of course. As a candidate for mayor, I listen to our citizens—young and old, professionals, entrepreneurs, and working families—and continue to see other successful role models in this country and abroad. In these conversations, I have found some common themes: People want to live in a community that is responsive to their needs and respectful of their tax dollars. More specifically, people are attracted to clean and livable cities; where opportunities to work, live and play abound; and where they can see a future for their children and grandchildren.
This will require us to manage well, plan well and invest wisely. But as I mentioned earlier, this is a very fine line.
Consider responsiveness to needs. Many people I have heard from say that the city has not responded to the voices of citizens, businesses and investors. Taxes go up, but services don’t improve. To address this criticism, we need to encourage economic growth; make strategic investments in physical, recreational and social infrastructure; and ensure a more responsive and transparent city council. And, yes, where possible, this can include cutting red tape.
We have all heard about the unacceptable delays in obtaining permits and other barriers that businesses, citizens and investors face when moving projects forward. My commitment is to ensure that we remove unnecessary obstacles to sustainable growth and development by creating performance benchmarks. We need to have clear and simple rules and measurable results. Clarity and accountability help attract talent and investments that result in economic growth and add value to our tax base.
Like the familiar concept of a household budget, Greater Sudbury should live within their current means, ensuring proper maintenance is done, while ideally setting aside some money for a rainy day.
In fact, there are many demands made on a municipality, the most fundamental of which are housing, roads, water and sewage. Then there are the things that make a city livable and attractive that serve social life, sports, entertainment and the arts. Both are important for a city to be successful. Jobs and investment are driven by the successful achievement of both, while prudent management and value for money assessment and auditing will create better results for both.
To stay on budget, balancing spending and savings goals, we must assess value for money and audit city spending. This means that we will not always look for the lowest price: we will look for products and services that provide lasting value, be it roads, water infrastructure or other city services. Only by carefully tracking and measuring where our tax dollars are going, and how they are performing, can we better manage our current and future budgets.
Finally, wise investment. Yes, roads are always at the top of this list and will be a priority. But recently housing, and more importantly affordable housing, has become a very important area of concern. This lack of affordability will directly affect our ability to attract new talent, investment and newcomers to Sudbury.
The role of the mayor is to lead through principles of good management, strategic investments and measurable results. As Mayor of Greater Sudbury, I will act as a brand ambassador for our community. To me, this means promoting the city and championing innovation, while fostering economic growth by attracting talent and investment. I will make it clear to newcomers, businesses, higher levels of government and investors that Greater Sudbury is a growing and promising community. A big part of the role will be asking, how can I help you make investments in Sudbury? And then act on this to bring projects to life to help grow our tax base and create jobs.
I started this article by listing the bountiful opportunities that lie ahead for Sudbury. I truly believe that as a council and a community, we have the power to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. But it will be hard work and it will mean that we will make difficult decisions based on fiscal realities and the need to invest to grow. As citizens, we already know that Greater Sudbury is a great place to live, work and play; now we need to build on that and make sure the world knows about it.
I know that together we can make good things happen.
Paul Lefebvre is running for Mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury.