THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Voting day is October 22nd. NetNewsLedger reached out to candidates for mayor. Candidates were asked four questions.
Here are the answers provided by Shane Judge:
NetNewsLedger: What would you do as Mayor of Thunder Bay to ensure the future of the jobs at the Bombardier plant here in Thunder Bay?
Shane Judge: The Mayor of Thunder Bay cannot ensure the future of jobs at the Bombardier plant. That’s the simple fact. I would certainly be prepared to lobby the company to make certain that it continues to invest in the local plant.
The latest reports about production at the plant suggests the company has turned a corner on its most problematic contract with the Toronto Transit Commission. This is good news.
As mayor, I will be part of any campaign to spread that good news to the world that we make some of the finest vehicles anywhere. I will also press the provincial government to make certain that any taxpayer-subsidized rail car purchases contain a significant amount of made-in-Ontario content. This is a role a municipal politician can take on in support of local manufacturing.
On the other hand, it is specifically my job as mayor to plan and prepare for the impact of potential job losses and the erosion of the municipal tax base if the Bombardier plant fails. That’s why we must get our municipal house in order.
We have $220 million in debt, a record. We make $13 million in interest payments each year on that debt. This is money that could be spent on roads and other important basic infrastructure. Our own city manager considers our reserve funds to be in the “risky” category because the current council has been sucking them dry to pay for consultants and tourism-related projects of dubious value.
So, bottom line, I’m hoping for the best. I will roll up my sleeves and lobby for the interests of local manufacturing. However, my primary job is to prepare for the worst and to make sure the municipality survives blows to the local economy.
NetNewsLedger: What specifically can done to change the paradigm in Thunder Bay and make our community safer?
Shane Judge: If there was a silver bullet to change the paradigm in Thunder Bay, someone would have already pulled the trigger. There’s no silver bullet. It’s going to be a slog. The municipality can take the lead co-ordinating the work ahead of us. But our tax base is simply too small to attack addictions and the resulting crime and social dysfunction on its own dime.
As mayor, I will be pressing much more forcefully the board of the Northwest Local Health Integration Network to adjust its priorities. As you’ve pointed out in your question, many of our social ills seem to be based on inadequate, front-line public and mental health spending. In my view, we’ve let the health problems fester and only address them once they’ve become so acute we’re treating them at far greater expense….in hospitals. The LHIN has a budget from the province that is vastly bigger than any municipal budget.
(If I was to provide one silver bullet, it would be that the board of the LHIN should be elected so it was more responsive to public pressure.)
The crime side of the equation is more squarely in the municipality’s purview. My personal take on addressing crime comes after many conversations with Ontario Provincial Police officers and members of our municipal police department.
I believe we need better co-ordination between the OPP and our city police on dealing with the gang and drugs issue. The OPP have the intelligence gathering capabilities to help local enforcement get the bad guys.
The OPP also have the budgets and capacity to provide the specialized services, such as an Emergency Task Unit, that we currently duplicate at great expense in our municipal police service. My take is that far too many of our municipal officers are tied up in training for these specialized units and unavailable for regular policing duties. The training and equipment for these specialized services is also very expensive.
I believe we pay local taxes to make sure we are safe in our homes and walking our neighbourhoods. We pay provincial taxes for the higher-level services provided by the OPP.
We do not need duplication.
Instead, we need more officers doing foot and other patrols in neighbourhoods. We need to catch those with addictions who are breaking into our homes and garages looking for stuff to sell for their next fix.
NetNewsLedger: As Mayor what will you do to make Thunder Bay a truly inclusive community?
Shane Judge: Four years ago I organized one of the city’s earliest efforts at reconciliation with our Indigenous community.
I was and am the chair of the outreach committee of Trinity United Church. I started a well-received speakers’ series I called “Right Relations with First Nations”. I invited an anthropologist, an historian, a lawyer associated with the Ipperwash Inquiry and Professor Peggy Smith from Lakehead University to talk about pre-contact life, early relations during the fur trade, why we have treaties and how we might share the land going forward.
I acknowledge the city’s excellent efforts to demonstrate leadership in how we fairly share the land. However, when it comes to racism itself I believe that making real progress has to be organic and come from civil society not the state.
As mayor, I will encourage grassroots efforts from the community to reach across the divide. Thunder Bay is the epicentre of one of the largest movements of people inside Ontario in 50 years. People from remote northern communities are voting with their feet to look for a better life here. The chiefs of some of those communities have told us that 50 per cent of their people have now moved to Thunder Bay, often with very little but a desire for a new start.
As a municipal government, Thunder Bay does not have the tax base to do all the things that need to be done to bring integration and harmony back to our community. Here we need help from the federal government. I will be pressing our MP’s to focus their efforts on this vital project. Racism is certainly alive in Thunder Bay. But I think most people are not racist. They are reacting viscerally to the social dysfunction they see on our streets. This has heightened tensions. We need the federal and provincial governments to fully acknowledge that Thunder Bay is a special case and that funding for housing, poverty reduction, mental health services must follow. We can fix this. It may take two to three generations, but with good will, it can be done.
NetNewsLedger: How as Mayor will you work with the Ford Government to make sure Thunder Bay’s needs are heard, and addressed?
Shane Judge: If politics is the art of the personal, Thunder Bay is at a disadvantage. We do not have a sitting Tory member of the provincial legislature, let alone a minister. However, there are members of the Conservative party who do live here and keep a watch for Queen’s Park. I am not a member of the Conservative party, so I bring no particular advantage to the task. However, I believe my platform is one that the current government would look upon favourably. I was calling for Thunder Bay to reduce the size of its city council long before the Premier raised it as an issue for the city of Toronto.
The provincial Conservative party’s mantra is mostly about making sure taxpayers are getting value for their tax dollars. I believe a municipal government that actively works to create greater efficiencies in the delivery of services will be looked upon favourably.
I would certainly make all efforts to point out to the province that Thunder Bay is taking a new direction, one focussed on delivering value for money, decent infrastructure and stable levels of taxation that will allow the private sector to flourish.
I would begin with attempts to reach out to the local Conservative riding associations to act as brokers with the corridors of power in Toronto.