THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Some significant milestones have been realized related to the Thunder Bay Event and Convention Centre project over the last few months. The City remains committed to the project, and will continue to do our homework to make sure it is right for Thunder Bay, and if so, to see it built.
The proposed Event and Convention Centre has prompted a great deal of discussion in the community, and this being an election year, the idea of putting a question on the ballot (informally referred to as a “plebiscite”) has come up frequently.
It’s something I publicly supported four years ago during my campaign for Mayor of Thunder Bay.
Since being elected Mayor, I have developed an in-depth understanding of the proposed Event and Convention Centre. I have personally come to the conclusion that a ballot question is simply not the right tool for this project.
There are several limitations to a question on the 2014 election ballot. One important one is inherent and unavoidable – a question on the ballot must be answerable by a simple yes or a no. Multiple choice questions are not permitted.
The proposed Event and Convention Centre is a very complicated project. A ballot question doesn’t lend itself to clear answers to complex questions.
A question on the ballot also captures responses at a specific point in time. The proposed Event and Convention Centre project is continually evolving. Myself, other City Councillors and City administration have said repeatedly that we will not go ahead with the project if funding from other levels of government is not in place. There is no guarantee that funding will be in place this year.
Related to Federal and Provincial funding, one thing is important to note: although we recently received $1.2 million in Federal and Provincial funding for the schematic design of the facility, unless the proposed Event and Convention Centre is brought to a “project ready” state, it will definitely not be eligible for capital construction funding from the other levels of government.
The Event and Convention Centre is still very much a proposal. We are moving ahead with Phase Three, which includes a more in-depth study of the project, including a schematic design, a revised capital cost update, a detailed business plan, and an updated economic impact study including the expected number of new jobs to be created.
We now have a solid private sector partner in Thunder Bay Live!, a consortium of companies with experience in designing, developing and operating large venues such as the proposed Event Centre. This partnership is still subject to Council’s approval of a Letter of Intent by April 14, 2014.
Let me be clear: we have not agreed to build anything yet. We are still investigating. This is important, because we remain committed to garnering public input and opinions. We have done so already through our 2013 Citizen Satisfaction Survey, which shows the majority of residents have a positive attitude towards the project.
The City will also undertake a random, scientific and statistically valid survey of taxpayers, which will focus specifically on the proposed Event and Convention Centre. It will provide all the necessary and factual information, and allow for a variety of questions. A scientific survey will allow us to develop a better understanding of the opinions of the voters than would a yes/no question on the ballot.
We remain dedicated to performing our due diligence and making sure this project is right for Thunder Bay. The proposed Event and Convention Centre may become a reality. If that happens, you can rest assured that it will not move forward until after your views have been heard and considered carefully.
Mayor Keith Hobbs