THUNDER BAY – A full house came out to Councilor Frank Pullia’s Town Hall meeting at the Italian Hall on Wednesday night. Just under seventy people attended the meeting in person which also attracted a number of people tuning in live on Facebook with over 800 added people reached.
The meeting opened with an overview from Councilor Pullia who shared that there are issues facing the city on the economic side.
The population, Pullia stated has for the most part stabilized. Overall the population has experienced a slow decline but it is very small.
On the good news side, Pulia states that the Youth Employment rate is strong. As well the housing prices in the city are affordable.
Confronting one of the issues that hit at Thunder Bay is the Municipal Tax levy, which has been growing with a net rate of 2.6% on average as the annual increase.
“If we can keep our growth rate going, and maintain the level of taxation, we should be alright,” stated Pullia. “Thunder Bay has experienced a $23 million loss in tax revenues from re-assessment, Resolute, Grain Elevators, and Canadian Tire as examples”.
There has been a significant increase in the investment in technology and infrastructure. The goal at the City is to position for smart growth and to review the cost of urban sprawl.
One of the concerns that Pullia raised is the Industrial tax base and revenues for the city have flat-lined. We lost a massive amount of industrial business which has in its decline, put the greater burden on homeowners.
Tim Heney from the Thunder Bay Port Authority stated that there is increased optimism in the port for the future.
“Thunder Bay comes in at a 0.84 as a diverse economy”, stated Doug Murray, the CEO of the Community Economic Development Corporation. “Thunder Bay is five years older than many other cities,” added Murray. “This is presenting an opportunity for the future”.
Madge Richardson, from the North Superior Workforce Planning Board, stated that the overall outlook is positive. The area where the greatest concern is the aging population Richardson stated.
“By 2035 there will be 78 dependents for each 100 people working in the region,” said Richardson.
Brian Davey from Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund says that they are very positive, and have supported over 600 businesses getting started. The NADF works in an area as large as France as it covers the entire north.
The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer period which was sought to remain on a high level to focus on the area of economic development.
Overall the audience expressed a wide range of issues and concerns.
The issues of healthcare were brought up by a number of people.
The diverse nature of the discussion has likely fueled the need for more town halls, and it is very likely that other Councillors at Large are likely to start holding similar meetings.
This article will be updated with video reports including the full presentations from Councillor Pullia, the Panel Members, and the question and answer period.