THUNDER BAY – Civic Politics – A report recently released by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce shows city wide inefficiencies in comparison with other cities in Ontario with a comparable size. We ranked in 9th place out of nine cities, or we are considered to be in the bottom third according to the study depending on what data they use. Either way, the report doesn’t give a glowing report on the city’s spending habits. The study was conducted Dr. Bahram Dadgostar and Dr. Camillo Lento on behalf of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.
The report is quite extensive and there is a lot of information given. While at the meeting I found a few things in the report quite alarming. Aside from the obvious forecast of our taxes going up by about 7%, out of 27 categories we only scored better than average in 7 of them in terms of efficiency.
I understand that things crop up and capital dollars may need to be spent on infrastructure but 20 out of 27 are shown as inefficient spending compared to other Ontario cities our size. I will not claim that I know everything about each department and why their costs are so high comparatively, but this seems like too high a number for them all to be one off capital investments. For example, waste removal costs us more on average than it does in other cities in Ontario of a similar size. Why is this? The report isn’t intended to showcase how inefficient we are but rather to serve as a bench mark and a red flag to City Council. Hopefully, this report could be done on a bi-annual basis to help guide and plan for the future while helping to decrease risk to the city.
The other piece that stood out to me in the presentation was the reliance on TBayTel as a source of income. TBayTel has done wonderful things in our community. They create jobs, fund different events and employ many people in Thunder Bay. My concern is that TBayTel has had historical highs in recent years, which has contributed greatly to keeping our tax base lower. Since the data on this report was collected, the cell phone market in Thunder Bay has opened. Telus, Bell and Virgin are all now operating in Thunder Bay. What has happened to that revenue that we have come to depend on? It may even be too late to sell TBayTel. Then we can take the money we get from selling TBayTel and re-invest in to a diversified but lower risk portfolio. Sure the big gains will not be there but big gains will never last especially with new business to give them a run for their money. It will beat the alternative, which is to wait it out and watch our beloved TBaytel and all its’ worth take a nosedive and not have that source of income or an investor to purchase it. I am thinking of a long term possible solution to a problem that the city will encounter.
Not all were happy with the report. Not necessarily because of the report itself but the age of the data that was collected. The numbers were gathered from 2011, which in all fairness was three years ago. This report did take a while to compile and analyse. I like to view it as a tool, one that City Council can use to make good decisions for our future investments.
The report has a lot more to say than what I took away from it but I encourage all to read through it and view it as a guiding tool rather than an apocalyptic-end-of-the-world message. It has given me a few things to research and think about.
Written by Shelby Ch’ng H.B.A. Politics – Northwood City Council Candidate 2014
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