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 Iain Angus:
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?
Iain Angus: Bombardier is the cornerstone of our manufacturing base and we must do everything we can to secure its future – as we have done as a community in the past.
I have already had discussions with Dominic Pasqualino, President of Unifor Local 1075 about the steps we need to take after the election. First and foremost, as Mayor, I will seek a meeting with the Bombardier Transportation Division President to discuss Bombardier’s plans for the plant and to encourage Bombardier to maximize the work here in Thunder Bay.
Secondly, I and Dominic will meet with as many of the members of Toronto City Council as can be arranged, especially with those returning Councillors who were supportive of Bombardier in the past. That series of meetings will be designed to update them on recent progress in meeting the production, quality, and delivery schedule and in emphasizing the benefits to Toronto of securing future contracts with the Thunder Bay plant.
I will look at visiting other municipalities in Ontario which would likely need some of Bombardier’s products and to promote the benefits of our plant such as improved quality and quick production time. In other words, I will be a salesperson representing what our plant has to offer.
I will also seek meetings with key Ontario Cabinet Ministers to garner their support in sustaining a range of contracts for the plant.
Similarly, I will seek the support of Federal Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu and MP Don Rusnak in assuring the continued viability of the Thunder Bay facility. It may be recalled that in past, Federal work was key to maintaining the plant’s viability e.g. VIA Rail refurbishment, and the manufacture of tree farming equipment.
I have also asked Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Judith Monteith Farrell to explore advancing a private members bill to increase the percentage of Ontario content required for any provincially funded (in whole or in part) mass transit system and its components. The new USAMC Agreement may have an impact on this option so it must be proceeded with carefully.
These are short to medium term steps. In the longer term, a joint approach, including the City of Thunder Bay, the provincial and federal governments, Bombardier and Unifor are needed to formulate viable strategies going forward. In this variety of conversation I am very experienced.
NETNEWSLEDGER: What specifically can done to change the paradigm in Thunder Bay and make our community safer?
Iain Angus: There is no question that criminal activity is of concern to the residents of this community. Although the overall crime rate has been declining for several years, citizens want more done than they perceive is already being done by the police. We all want a forward-looking policy that substantially reduces the primary cause of criminal activity – addictions and poverty.
City Council shares these concerns. Provincial law does prohibit Council and the Police Services Board from setting day-to-day direction. However as Mayor, I intend to take a seat on the Police Services Board and have a direct hand in establishing objectives and priorities and the annual police budget.
What can Council do to deal with the concerns of the community?
City Council can decide to offer additional funding to the Police Service Board on the condition that it is used for a specific service. It is my understanding that this is how the Community Policing program came into being some years ago.
We can also learn from an approach that the Thunder Bay Housing Corporation took when it had an out of control situation at one of its family public housing projects. The place was overrun by criminal elements. The Housing Corporation installed a Community Policing Office within the project, installed security cameras throughout and most importantly hired off-duty police officers to patrol the area during critical times. In short order the problem tenants moved out and order was restored. Currently, TBDSSAB is replacing its dated video monitoring system in the Windsor Street Housing complex with a more advanced system which will allow for real-time monitoring by the police. This is designed to both protect the tenants while providing police with one more tool in their fight against illegal activity.
The Mayor’s Role
As Mayor I will propose that City Council establish a separate fund to be used for enhanced policing in key areas of the City with a focus on specific criminal activity (i.e. gangs). Those areas, identified by police statistics, with high instances of criminal activity, will be allocated human resources to provide extremely visible patrols designed to ‘clean up’ the area. The two cores – the Victoria-May area and the Waterfront District would be priority areas for this approach as they have already been publicly identified as problem areas.
We have a responsibility to our citizens to not only ensure that they are safe but to ensure that they can feel safe being in any part of our community.
In the longer term, we must continue to advocate for the approval of the temporary safe injection site and the approval of the two permanent sites. These facilities, while seeking to reduce the number of overdoses and overdose deaths also provide an opportunity to encourage addicts to seek a better path and to move them into treatment programs.
The recent zoning decision to enable St. Joseph’s Foundation to convert an existing 30-bed motel into a transition facility for addicts seeking to shed their addictions is an example of the type of steps that Council can take. Add to that the decision by Council to donate a vacant parcel of land to the partnership of the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and Aboriginal Housing Services where they will create a 20-bed supportive housing facility aimed at young adults is another example of how seriously Council takes the situation.
Housing First is the new concept in dealing with addictions and other social impairments to healthy living. TBDSSAB has been able to create several new housing units aimed at the single person. Over 56 such units have already been created with more to come as federal and provincial funding becomes available. TBDSSAB procedures now allocate every third vacancy is to a marginalized person, with over 80 people housed so far.
But more needs to be done. As Mayor I will ensure that Council provides strong leadership in working closely with community partners to approach these very complex issues in a planned and strategic way. We need results.
We must also work to ensure that the Province accepts its responsibilities for the health of our residents and that it provides the funding and resources required to meet this ongoing challenge.
NETNEWSLEDGER: As Mayor what will you do to make Thunder Bay a truly inclusive community?
Iain Angus: It is essential that any community must be an inclusive, equitable community that is free of racism and discrimination of any kind. Unfortunately, Thunder Bay and most of Northwestern Ontario is not there yet. The challenges will only increase as the Indigenous, refugee and immigrant population of Thunder Bay increases to fill the significant job vacancies being left by retiring workers. To attract newcomers and ensure they remain we must address the issues of racism and discrimination head-on. That will take leadership, education and enforcement.
I will start by not only supporting the work of Diversity Thunder Bay but by providing the resources required to tackle racism and discrimination head-on. That would include a major education campaign that ensures that the existing community understands that Thunder Bay as we know it today, will not survive without the influx of people who are new to this country and who are likely to look, sound and pray differently than we do. We need to take the advice of David Paul Achneepiineskum, CEO of Matawa, who recently said with regards to welcoming newcomers to the city “it’s not enough to ask us to the party, you have to ask us to dance too.”
We are not the first city to experience this level of racism and discrimination. I want to learn from other communities which have dealt with these issues in the past and have found solutions that may be transferable to Thunder Bay.
I want to do this in cooperation with the leadership of organizations representing newcomers as well as current residents and to seek their input on not only the extent and specifics of the problem but the solutions that they can put forward for us to implement. This is a priority for me!
NETNEWSLEDGER: How as Mayor will you work with the Ford Government to make sure Thunder Bay’s needs are heard, and addressed?
Iain Angus: I bring several strengths to any future discussion with the Ford Government. I have already met with 13 separate Cabinet Ministers, presenting to them issues relative to Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. In addition, I have presented on energy issues to the full Cabinet on behalf of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association. I did so in a non-partisan manner, designed to impart a willingness to work together with the Ontario Government to meet the needs of our area. I had a respectful one-on-one one with the Premier during the NOMA AGM in Kenora just prior to the election. I asked the soon to be Premier about his proposed cuts to the Provincial Budget and sought his commitment to ensuring that any cuts would not result in downloads to the municipal sector. He made a commitment that they would not affect municipalities.
For the past 15 years, I have had ongoing discussions with members of the PC Caucus at Queens Park in their roles as critics of the Government. Many of those MPPs are now in Cabinet, and that includes Finance Minister Vic Fideli.
I have already laid the groundwork for a solution from the Ontario Government on the challenge we face immediately – the replacement of the many people retiring every year. I have raised the issue of the barriers to attracting refugees to Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario and have received assurances that the Government will work with us to find relief.