SUDBURY – Mayor Marianne Matichuk from Sudbury delivered the “State of the City” address recently:
Ladies and gentlemen, Mesdames et messieurs,
Merci pour votre invitation. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today.
Since my election, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with many people and groups. I have to tell you that I have been inspired by how many of you are truly dedicated to making our city better. I want to sincerely thank you for that.
I have also met with many politicians at all levels of government who also share that desire to make our city, our province and our country better.
Today, I want to talk to you about my vision for a city where business and local government work together to enhance the quality of life for all of our residents.
I sincerely believe that commerce is a cornerstone of community development … and that one of the roles of municipal government is to help businesses to better serve their clients. And sometimes the best way for us to help you is by simply getting out of your way. But working together, in whatever fashion, is important because, let’s face it, you and your clients are the taxpayers.
As you know, Real Change Now is very much based on making Sudbury more business friendly. During the election campaign, I unveiled many initiatives that I think will help businesses develop and prosper.
We talked about cutting unnecessary and expensive red tape at City Hall so that when you require something from the City, you get quick and reasoned answers. Yes, ‘reasoned”. That may sound impossible in a bureaucracy, but reasoned risks and decisions is what business is based on and that’s what we need.
We’ve already started working on that goal. We have put in place a few small changes that we hope will reduce red tape. We have streamlined the application system for permits and other City approvals. Once you come in for such approvals, your file will be assigned to one employee and that person will follow up with you all, the way through the process. That person will understand your case and will navigate the bureaucracy with you. Our goal is to make it easier for the applicants and to shorten the wait time.
We are also planning an ‘Open for Business Forum” to be held this fall. We are inviting new and existing businesses to come to City Hall for one evening to speak with staff from different levels of government, people who can assist with government funding. Senior government officials tell us that the business sector in Sudbury doesn’t get its fair share of funding because we don’t apply. Well, with this Forum, we’re hoping to create relationships that will allow you to get the help you need to grow your business, to grow our city.
I hope that these types of initiatives will eventually lead to a more permanent liaison structure between City Hall and Greater Sudbury’s business sector. For example, I recently spoke to the Sudbury and District Home Builders Association. I was impressed with their work as a founding member of the Development Liaison Advisory Committee, a group that advises City Hall on residential construction. That committee has recently developed protocols and evaluation methods that will help us at City Hall become more efficient and transparent in our service delivery. That’s the kind of development I want to press for, in the next 4 years.
Although they are very useful, forums and committees are not all we’re doing. At our next Council meeting for example, we will be adopting plans to develop existing and new industrial lands. We have to be ready, when you need to expand. We have to prepare if we want to attract new businesses to our city.
I see the development of our industrial lands as a key component to the growth of our City and of our future.
Attracting new business will allow us to grow our tax base and become a competitive commercial and industrial rallying point in Northeastern Ontario. To do that, we have to aggressively market Sudbury as an economic engine and as a great place to live. I know all of you agree that we live and work in a great city. Now you and I have to work together to let the rest of the world know.
And, by the way, I have heard you and that is why I am directing City Hall to lead the way by completely revamping our website to meet world standards!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the successes that we’re already having by being ‘open for business”. As most of you know, Greater Sudbury will soon be home to the new Canadian Financial Support Services Centre of TSYS, a global leader in the financial services sector. Based in the US, TSYS has centres in the UK, the Netherlands, Jamaica and the Philippines. The Sudbury operation will create 450 jobs but, more than the jobs, it will position Sudbury on the leading edge of the financial sector. And I want you to know that Sudbury beat out cities like Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and Windsor in attracting TSYS. That’s something we should be proud of and, better still; it’s something we can build on.
During the Real Change Now campaign, I also talked about making Greater Sudbury a healthy and safe place to live, work and play. With my background as a safety professional, I’m sure you understand my focus on health and safety. And I know that, as business people, you are also concerned with this issue.
Sudbury has come a long way in the safety field. Our community and our workplaces are safer. That has taken dedication from our business owners, managers and workers. I congratulate you for that but, a recent tragedy has shown that we have to do even more.
I dream of the day when Sudbury can become a world leader in the health and safety field. I feel so strongly about the importance of health and safety that I have assembled a small group of professionals to begin exploring the possibility of creating a full-fledged School of Occupational Health, Safety and the Environment; that can be attended by students from around the world.
Remember, the School of Architecture was once only a concept … today, it’s a reality.
Other priorities in my campaign were of a more general nature – things like stopping the ‘spend and then tax” mentality at City Hall and introducing more political accountability for council and for senior management. These objectives may be of a general nature but I’m sure you agree that they affect business and are woefully needed in our city.
That is why we have already started the budget process for the next fiscal year. This spring, we worked hard to try and keep taxes down. I wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions of senior managers, but I think you will agree with me that it’s difficult for a new council to cut expenses that have already been committed by previous politicians and staff.
I can tell you however that things will be different next year. Council has already held preliminary discussions aimed at reducing spending at the City. And senior managers have been put on notice. The idea that, at the beginning of the budget process, they can bring us estimates that include 2-digit tax hikes is not going to cut it anymore. When I say I want an estimate that is no higher than the rate of inflation, I expect that is what the managers will present to Council. Just like business people, they will manage within a tight budget. They have been asked to identify savings in their departments. And I believe that process has already started.
As part of their review of their departments, senior managers have also been asked to review their operations so that they can empower front line workers to better serve you. As many of you know, I have worked with many people at City Hall during my career. One of the things I have learned is that city workers care about our city and they’re willing to find ways to make things better for all citizens. That’s why I strongly believe that we can improve our customer service while reducing costs.
Senior managers at City Hall will work with union employees and with taxpayers to identify savings. We have already launched a citizen feedback process and people have made recommendations that Council and staff will look at. I have no doubt that, with the pool of talent and expertise that we have at City Hall, we can reach our goal of serving you better, at a better price.
But bringing Real Change to a political environment sometimes takes a bit of time. In municipal politics, you quickly learn that you have to deal with other councillors and with staff. And even though I was elected by a majority of ALL residents of Greater Sudbury, on a very public platform, not all of them agree with me, or with the voters. We saw that with the issue of store hours.
On that issue, the people have spoken. By voting for Real Change Now, our citizens obviously supported the deregulation of store hours which was a very central issue in my campaign. Two polls recently conducted by your very own Chamber have also shown a majority support for deregulated hours. But, as you know, some councillors stuck to their old ideologies and did not support it.
However, this issue is not dead. I expect it will be back. And the City of Greater Sudbury will stop dictating to its business people. Business people know what’s good for them and, I for one, will not tell you how to run your businesses.
The next time, however, I will need your help. And wherever you stand on the issue, you need to let your councillor know. Make your case to all of Council. It’s the only way we can make Greater Sudbury more business friendly.
As you all know, being business friendly doesn’t ONLY mean saving money. Sometimes it means thinking differently, creating new possibilities. That’s what I want you and I to do in the next few years.
I say the next few years because we don’t have as much time. Recent population projections released by the Ontario Ministry of Finance suggest that the population of Northeastern Ontario will keep declining. As a matter of fact, in 25 years, in twenty-thirty-six (20-36), the population of the Northeast is expected to account for only 3.2 percent of the total population of Ontario. That compares to 6.2 percent 25 years ago, in nineteen-eighty-six (1986).
There are a few bright spots in the Northeast – those being Nipissing, Parry Sound and Greater Sudbury. Demographic experts predict that these cities will experience the largest population growth in the North, going from last year’s 240-thousand to 278-thousand in twenty-thirty-six (2036). Of those, Sudbury is slated for the most important growth.
I say we need to spur that growth, so that we can reach higher population numbers, because, in the end, it takes people to drive an economy. And the only way to attract more people to our great city is for us to have a common vision for our future, and to be ready to compete.
We are in a better position than Nipissing or Parry Sound to attract the southern urban sprawl that will create jobs in this community. All we need to do is to show our great position. We need to pressure the federal and provincial governments to speed up the completion of highway 400 all the way to Sudbury, as it is imperative to our future growth. And we have to start making our case with the senior levels of government that there’s a need to improve transportation links between Sudbury and the other Northern cities. If we are to serve the whole Northeast – as we already do in many fields – we need better roads, better air and rail service between Sudbury and North Bay, between Sudbury and Timmins and between Sudbury and Sault-Ste-Marie.
As an example, I would like to recognize the fact that Porter Airlines has added a new early morning flight to Toronto. This enables people from both Toronto and Sudbury to commute and conduct business within the same day. I want to thank the entrepreneurial spirit of Robert Deluce for bringing this service to our City.
Forty years ago our leaders came up with a plan to diversify our economy and they enlisted the help all of the major players in our region. Politicians, business people, union leaders, workers and young people, they all shared in a blueprint for the future, anchored on two important economic sectors, health and education.
So, today, we’re home to a top-notch Regional Hospital and a state-of-the-art Cancer Treatment and Research Centre. They attract medical specialists and researchers from around the world. They provide life-saving treatments to more than half a million people from the Northeast. And they create wealth in our city.
In the last 40 years, we’ve also seen the establishment of the successful and growing Collège Boréal, the launching of new and innovative programs at our Cambrian College and the creation of new schools and facilities at Laurentian University. I know you’re all proud of our Northern Ontario School of Medicine and of the recently announced School of Architecture. And you should be proud, because all of these developments create wealth for our families.
We’re also very proud of the way our mining sector has developed during the last decades. We have gone from a two-company town with a few local suppliers to the most dynamic mining cluster in the world. We only have to look at the dramatic developments by the members of the Sudbury and Area Mining Services Association to understand that our future is still linked to mining.
And that brings me to The Ring of Fire and the role it can play in our development. Or maybe I should say ‘the role Greater Sudbury can play in the development of the Ring of Fire”.
As you all know, Cliff’s is looking at places to establish its smelting operations. To me, there’s only one place…and that’s right here! So we have to be ready!
I talked earlier about the City’s plans to enhance our industrial lands and to develop new ones. Well, that’s only the beginning. I invite you to work with us at City Hall to create the environment that will make Greater Sudbury the number one choice for all Ring of Fire entrepreneurs. I want Sudbury to be the only choice for all of them.
Another win-win sector for development here is the environment.
Sudbury already benefits from quite an expertise in the so-called Green Economy. Think about the Neutrino Lab, Science North and the new Living with Lakes Centre, to name just a few. These organizations have already created a new international environmental profile for Sudbury. But I believe we can go further.
Let me give you an example.
I recently met with the Ambassador from Azerbaijan. Now, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, is one of the most environmentally distressed cities in the world. It is littered with abandoned, rusty and leaking oil refineries. There are huge ponds of old crude oil dotting the landscape. They, like Sudbury before our re-greening, need a serious clean-up.
The Ambassador, Mister Shafiyev had heard about Sudbury’s environmental rehabilitation successes and wanted to see it firsthand. He was very interested in our expertise and I truly believe that this expertise can become a business opportunity. Imagine this: we could become known as the cleaners of the planet. Isn’t that something to be proud of? I encourage the entrepreneurs among you to start thinking about that. We know there’s a market out there. It’s by working together on these major projects of the future that we will create a better place to live.
Eight months ago, I was asking for your vote … and I thank all of you who voted for Real Change Now.
Today, I’m asking for your continued support and assistance in creating a better future.
Our future starts by making sure that we not only talk about the Wolves’ last winning streak but also about our 330 pristine lakes. That we boast not only about our Big Nickel but also about our world class Science Centre.
Our future starts with thinking proudly of our city as Number One. Not number one in potholes, but Number One in Mining, Health, Safety, Education, the Environment, and in Economic Development.
We are the largest city in the North, let’s start shouting it to the rest of the world.
It’s by working together for the betterment of our community that we can achieve Real Change Now.
Thank you. Merci.