Mayor Keith Hobbs – What do we want Thunder Bay to look like in the future?

Thunder Bay City Hall Unhealthy Behavior

Mayor HobbsTHUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – Mayor Keith Hobbs delivers State of the City Address – Ladies and gentlemen, Members of Council, Good evening, Boozhoo and welcome to the Annual State of the City Address. This year’s address focusses on the transformation of Thunder Bay: creating the City we all want.

We begin by acknowledging that our city resides in the Robinson‐ Superior Treaty and has been built on the traditional lands of the Ojibwa people of Fort William First Nation. We would also like to recognize the contributions made to our community by the Métis people.

That acknowledgement is important, not just because it shaped who we are today. It will also shape our future. The relationship of this municipality with all Aboriginal peoples is a priority for this City Council and an important part of the transformation of Thunder Bay.

Management guru Peter Drucker said this: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” That’s what we are doing in Thunder Bay. As we said in our Strategic Plan, our goal over the next 10 years is to create the future we all want. A Thunder Bay that is connected, healthy, vibrant and strong.

The future we want to create requires continuous effort. Where we want to be tomorrow requires time spent today. What do we want Thunder Bay to look like in the future? It’s a big question and an important one. As our city grows and attitudes change, it is vital that we talk as a community about what we want our city to become.

As I prepared for this address, I spoke to many people. They told me there are signs of transformation all around them. They had a message for me, all Members of Council and Administration. They said “We’re heading in the right direction. Keep going. Stay strong and move forward” – and that’s what we intend to do.

Everyone I spoke to agreed that, first and foremost, the award‐winning development at Prince Arthur’s Landing is transforming Thunder Bay. It reconnects the downtown to the shores of Lake Superior.

The park has seen record attendance, more than 140,000 people last summer alone, and continues to be met with overwhelming industry acclaim and community support. To date, the project has received eleven design awards. The sights and sounds of people enjoying the new public amenities fill the park and reinforce our success in creating a gathering place for the community.

Construction of the foundation for all three buildings at Prince Arthur’s Landing – the hotel and condominiums – is expected to start in January.

The private sector development will complete the vision for a thriving mixed‐use area with increased activity.

If you take a drive around Thunder Bay, no matter where you are – from Westfort to Current River – you see signs of redevelopment from both the private and public sector, from new office buildings and banks, to new housing, to the re‐use of old school sites, to new stores. The face of our community is changing.

There are three new hotels that are being built. This is clearly a response to the fact that Thunder Bay enjoys one of the highest hotel occupancy rates in Canada.

We have seen another very busy year for the construction industry in Thunder Bay with a total construction value for building permits issued of $210 million dollars – the highest on record, partially due to the courthouse.

We expect another big year in 2013. A new Medical Services Facility is being built on Oliver Road that will expand the research capacity of the Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group is expanding its facilities, and new offices are going into Innova Park.

The Courthouse building is out of the ground and is already starting to change the face of the South Core along with the attractive new Social Services building near City Hall. And yet there is much more work to do to continue the revitalization of the South Core, in partnership with the businesses and residents.

Single‐detached housing starts are up this year at 211, which is only the third time in the last 15 years that we have been over 200 starts. These are new homes, in new subdivisions and those numbers are expected to increase next year. Condominium starts this year have reached 118 units, the highest since 1991.

Next year we will see two new fire stations built for the first time since North Central Fire Station was built in 1985, and four stations renovated to accommodate emergency medical services. Co‐locating these emergency services and making the new facilities energy efficient are examples of how we are working each day to make sure vital public services are more effective and efficient. We opened the new Superior North EMS District Headquarters this spring on Junot Avenue. The building is designed to meet the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design – LEED – Gold standard.

Santa-Parade-2012-Mayor Hobbs- Raven and Destiny
Mayor Keith Hobbs hops a ride aboard the Santa float.

Along with improved service to people, this building is esthetically pleasing for residents and paramedics alike, and it complements and enhances the neighbourhood.

In his first message as 2013 Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, EdSchmidtke of the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority said: “Thunder Bay as a whole is experiencing steady economic growth in many sectors throughout the economy.” He is proud to report that passenger traffic at the Thunder Bay International Airport will hit another all‐time high in 2012.

Our Port Authority is also on track for a strong end to the shipping season and, just last month, the jobless rate in Thunder Bay fell to 5.6 per cent from 6.1 per cent. By comparison, the national unemployment rate was 7.2 per cent.

And there are other signs of transformation. Next year, students will be able to study law in Thunder Bay at Ontario’s first new law school in more than 40 years and the first in Northern Ontario.

One of the most evident signs of transformation is in our health research sector. In five short years, the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute – the research arm of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre – has created more than 100 jobs. And I want to note that City Council supported that initiative with a substantial contribution.

Because of this activity, many young people can pursue a career in the sciences right here in Thunder Bay. The multi‐millions of dollars in research grants awarded to TBRRI scientists have put the Health Sciences Centre on the Top 40 List of Canadian Research Hospitals for the second year in a row. TBRRI has resulted in more than a $128 million impact on our economy.

As well, The Health Sciences Centre will soon house a new cyclotron which will manufacture medical isotopes for diagnostic imaging so we will not be as susceptible to shortages of the isotopes. Scientists and physicians continue to be attracted to the city and stay here because of the natural beauty of our region.

New streetscaping guidelines for Thunder Bay’s higher profile roadways, known as Image Routes, will be implemented over the next 20 years. The first roadway to see such  improvements is Algoma Street, where wider sidewalks, street trees and attractive paving stones have set the stage for further improvements such as new street furnishings to come this spring. The Arundel Active Living Corridor by Boulevard Lake is a great example of our efforts to foster active, healthy residents and a more walkable Thunder Bay.

Our region is experiencing tremendous growth in mineral exploration and mining, and that growth is expected to result in significant economic and social development for our City, the Northwest region and surrounding Aboriginal communities.

Northwestern Ontario mines currently produce approximately one third of Canada’s annual gold production. In addition, thirteen mineral deposits have been discovered in recent years that are forecast by industry, to start production between 2013 and 2017.

Included in the list of world‐class mineral deposits are 25 million ounces of new gold reserves, and the spectacular Ring of Fire chromite and nickel deposits.

A comprehensive study conducted by Lakehead University of the nine mining projects currently underway in Northwestern Ontario predicts these mines will produce 136 billion dollars in mined product and provide more than thirteen thousand jobs right here in our region.

As mining exploration ramps up, Confederation College is also developing appropriate training programs to prepare for the building construction boom. With the potential need for new bridges, roads and power infrastructure to build, the College offers apprenticeship training in carpentry, electrical, motive power trades, and construction trades.

[pullquote] Transformation involves a dramatic change. No one notices the changes in Thunder Bay more than the people who come home at Christmas or for a few weeks each summer. They are amazed at the new waterfront. [/pullquote]

In response, we are working with Fort William First Nation, the Community Economic Development Commission and other stakeholders including NOMA, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, and the exploration and mining sectors to develop a comprehensive Mining Readiness Strategy. Even before it’s fully complete, the Strategy is creating excitement about the opportunities to come over the next 20 years and beyond. Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, recently wrote to congratulate
the Community Economic Development Commission on awards received for the Ring of Fire project.

He said, and I quote, “Our government looks forward to continuing our constructive working relationship to help position Thunder Bay as an international mining infrastructure and service hub.”

Transformation involves a dramatic change. No one notices the changes in Thunder Bay more than the people who come home at Christmas or for a few weeks each summer. They are amazed at the new waterfront.

They are noticing the refurbished, old buildings. They are trying out the new restaurants.

They are also thrilled to hear that we are developing Thunder Bay as a destination city by engaging the public and consulting every step of the way as we work toward an Event Centre in the Waterfront District. If built, in my view, our new facility would represent the best mid‐sized Event Centre in Canada, if not North America.

We have already had great success in attracting various sports events and major conferences such as October’s Rendez‐Vous 2012. The world conference, hosted by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, welcomed over 850 health professionals and delegates from almost 50 countries to Thunder Bay.

Just this week we discovered that the city will be hosting the July 2013 Canadian Soccer Association National Championships All Stars Girls.

More than 300 participants will meet in Thunder Bay for the week‐long championship.

I am also proud to tell you that Thunder Bay has been selected as the host city for the ‘2014 Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Annual General Meeting and Conference’. That conference will see some 250 delegates come together from all over the Great Lakes area of North America, including Chicago, Milwaukee and Toronto.

We will also play host to the 2016 Can‐Am Police‐Fire Games. This will be one of the largest Games ever hosted in Thunder Bay with more than 1200 anticipated competitors participating in more than thirty sports and activities at twenty‐five different venues.

These events generate major economic dollars for our City from visitor spending, and it’s clear that event planners are making Thunder Bay their go‐to destination of choice.

We are one City with many neighbourhoods. It is important for us to concentrate on building and sustaining strong neighbourhoods throughout our City by creating lasting changes in the community. Increasingly, our neighbourhoods are inspired by the example of Evergreen: A United Neighbourhood. This organization is dedicated to enhancing the capacities and strengths of the people in the Simpson‐ Ogden neighbourhood, and being proactive in identifying safety issues in the area and working to improve them. The changes are fueled by
what Evergreen Coordinator Linda Bruins refers to as “positive passion.” Residents are gathering, creating activities for young people and holding clean‐up activities.

Dancing up a storm at Windsor
The music brought the young people onto the makeshift dance floor for fun and lots of smiles.

Another such group is the Community Action Group in the Windsor/Picton/Blucher neighbourhood. They recently received a Mayor’s community safety & crime prevention award, and we know that recognition has strengthened their resolve to lead change in their neighbourhood and inspire others.

The presentation of the second annual awards in November was a great event. In all there were eight winners. They make me very proud to be Mayor of this City. They are leading change. They understand that crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

At its root, crime prevention is about building strength, capacity and resilience within our communities and neighbourhoods. As well, community leaders must combine efforts to meet the health care needs of our population and address key issues such as mental health and addictions, Aboriginal health and chronic disease.

The people of our community can also help by committing to healthier lifestyles. This will not only reduce the risk of chronic disease and visits to the Emergency Department, it also leads to happier, longer and more productive lives.

Shortly after becoming Mayor, I became a grandfather. Every decision I make is filtered through the knowledge that the outcome of our decisions will have a far greater impact on those born today and tomorrow than yesteryear. I make decisions in the best interests of my children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren and I’m confident that my colleagues on Council do exactly the same.

We have called upon the youth of Thunder Bay to be involved in the development and operation of a new youth centre in Victoriaville Centre, as part of a partnership with Wasaya Group. This important pilot project is just a start. With the formation of “Youth Centres Thunder Bay”, we look forward to growing our youth centres over the next few years. We applaud Wasaya Group for their leadership. We share their value of empowering youth.

YOUTH Centre
Mayor Hobbs, Tom Kam, Pierre Mapeso at Victoriaville Centre

Young people and young professionals are telling me that they feel the City is doing a better job of public engagement and providing opportunities to hear their concerns. They feel strongly that we need to listen to everyone’s dreams and hopes for the future, and to empower young people to participate in creating the future they want with opportuni ties that keep them here.

Organizations like SHIFT are leading the way when it comes to bringing together motivated, ambitious, and committed young professionals.

2012 was an awesome year for SHIFT, with its membership growing to more than 1200 and its community presence becoming stronger than ever.

[pullquote] Tom Kam, President and CEO of Wasaya Group, agrees there has been a big change in how we work together. “It’s making me feel welcome,” he said. That’s critical and not just because his group of companies are drivers for the Thunder Bay economy. [/pullquote]

Transformation is more than the obvious changes to the buildings around us. It’s about social transformation ‐ people changing how they relate and work together. It’s about inclusion and a sense that we all belong. Our historic relationship with Fort William First Nation is notable, and attracting attention across the country among other cities looking to strengthen Aboriginal relations.

Edmund Collins, Economic Development Officer for Fort William First Nation, recently told me that their positive relationship with the City of Thunder Bay has resulted in new business, stemming from the great work we have done together over the past few years.

Tom Kam, President and CEO of Wasaya Group, agrees there has been a big change in how we work together. “It’s making me feel welcome,” he said. That’s critical and not just because his group of companies are drivers for the Thunder Bay economy.

We all want to live in a welcoming community. It’s one of the strongest indicators that we are thriving and truly transforming. My hope is that one day Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation will be connected through a beautiful new Unity Bridge we can all enjoy.

When it comes to the efforts we need to make to further the transformation of our City, addressing racism is top of mind for many people. This past year, the City has been proud to embrace respect.

An initiative of the Anti‐Racism Advisory Committee and the Crime Prevention Council, the campaign recognizes that respect is a human right. It is a fundamental belief in our city which is made up of people from all backgrounds, religions, shapes, sizes, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, and socio‐economic backgrounds.

We will continue to deepen our commitment to promoting respect in the years to come. The goal is to be able to say proudly and without hesitation that respect lives here. A respectful community is also a community that addresses poverty. As I’ve said before, seeing a child without food is totally unacceptable.

As we come to the end of another year, it’s so important to recognize the organizations that do their best to give aid when it is needed most – groups like the Salvation Army, Dew Drop Inn and Shelter House. Just as an example, Grace Place on Simpson St., which I visited on a recent Mayor’s walkabout, will serve over 35,000 meals this year.

Through dedicated volunteers and generous support, these organizations protect our most vulnerable citizens. It is a classic example of people working together to help one another.
As well, people need access to affordable rental housing, something that is increasingly in short supply in our city. A broad‐based coalition has started work on a Poverty Reduction Strategy. By this time, next year we expect the Poverty Reduction Strategy will be in place.

Similarly, we also acknowledge the great work that has been done on the Age‐Friendly Initiative.

These strategies and others are putting in place concrete actions to make Thunder Bay among the very best places in the world in which to grow up and grow old.

Work is also underway on a multi‐year Accessibility Plan to meet or exceed our obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The changes that we make under that plan will make Thunder Bay more accessible for all residents.

On an occasion such as this, it’s important to remember those who have left us who made a difference to our community. In February 2012 we lost former Mayor Dusty Miller. As we consider the transformation of Thunder Bay, it’s impossible to know what our city would be like today without the foundation she laid for a community that embraces arts and culture.

When we look at Terra Firma, the tree sculpture on the front of City Hall, or enjoy the lines of poetry on the granite benches throughout the waterfront, her spirit will be with us. Dusty epitomized the idea of predicting the future by creating it.

2012 will always be known as the year of the Thunder Bay and area flood disaster. The flooding on May 28th was a complex event in its impact and consequences. Assessments are still being completed and we will have more information in the new year.

We recently updated the community on what happened as a result of this natural disaster. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted. Immediately, our main focus was making homes safe and addressing health issues.

For example, through the City’s Safe Homes program, we helped families in more than 450 homes with basement inspections, clean‐up, and furnace and hot water tank replacements.

We will continue that support through programs such as the new Drainage Assistance Rebate and our Neighbourhood Master Drainage Study. I also want to thank the citizen volunteers who have worked tirelessly to raise funds to help those affected as well as Salvation Army and Red Cross.

We are aware that many people in Thunder Bay continue to face tremendous challenges, and we commend the members of the Disaster Relief Committee for their ongoing efforts in continuing to help those affected by the flood.

We can be proud of Thunder Bay’s response to the May 28th storm, our resilient residents and dedicated staff. Just last week we saluted the employees at the Atlantic Avenue Water Pollution Control Plant for working around the clock during the flood disaster and their ongoing hard work in the days since.

[pullquote] We will be preparing an Adaptation Plan in response to climate change that will call on each of us to take action and make changes to better prepare for severe weather. [/pullquote]

Extreme weather events are impacting communities around the globe with devastating consequences. Through the Community Environmental Action Plan we have been working to reduce our contribution to climate change, and to raise awareness of actions citizens can take as well. With the increasing impacts of severe weather, communities across Canada including Thunder Bay are developing proactive ways of planning for the future.

We will be preparing an Adaptation Plan in response to climate change that will call on each of us to take action and make changes to better prepare for severe weather.

Another reality all governments face is fiscal restraint. This is nowhere more apparent than at the municipal level. Though municipal services are the services closest to residents, they are delivered with only nine cents of every tax dollar collected in Canada. As expected, the City Manager’s efforts at core service review have been challenging because no one wants to give up valued city services.

City Council and administration, union and management must all continue to work together to provide efficient affordable services while finding new and innovative ways to deliver them. Just as an example, through CityLean we already have identified $400,000 in 2013 budget savings related to our City fleet.

We are investing more in our community infrastructure through the enhanced infrastructure renewal program. Since 2010, the City’s contribution to capital out of taxation revenue has risen to $20.7 million a year. That’s an increase of $9 million or 78% in only three years, with most of those dollars going towards roads and bridges.

In June, Standard & Poor’s upgraded our credit rating to A+ positive and signalled that if we stay the course with sound financial budget practices and debt management, we should see a full‐level upgrade to AA. The bottom line is the City’s financial position is good and continuously improving.

We are also stronger because of our wholly owned subsidiaries, TBayTel and Thunder Bay Hydro. TBayTel continues to grow and post record revenues and Thunder Bay Hydro is investing in an innovative renewable energy program.

Council has taken great care to appoint strong Board members to these companies, and together with strong Administrative staff, their success is an important part of the City of Thunder Bay’s positive financial position.

I want to thank my colleagues on Council and Administration for their hard work and dedication. You work long hours and are accountable and accessible to the constituents you serve. Special thanks also to all employees of the City for their dedicated service. I’ve seen first‐hand the great job they do.

This year, employees of the City of Thunder Bay, Superior North EMS, Thunder Bay Public Library, and the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board pledged over $252,000 to the United Way. That’s an increase of $70,000 over last year’s total and through the efforts of our employees and City Council, the City is now the No. 1 donor to the United Way. As the 2012 United Way Campaign Chair, our own Carol Busch said it best: “The generosity of our employees is nothing short of amazing.”

I would like to commend my colleagues on City Council for their work in our community, the committees they are involved in, and the many meetings they hold with other orders of Government to further our City.

After two years as Mayor, I can assure you that there is a strong commitment within the City of Thunder Bay to create the future we all want. By working together, Councillors, employees and citizens, we will get there. In closing, I would like to wish all the citizens of this great city all the best for a safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to a new year of continued growth and unity.

Thank you, Miigwetch.

Mayor Keith Hobbs