Creating a Culture of Accountability at 500 Donald Street East

500 Donald Street East - Thunder Bay City Hall
500 Donald Street East - Thunder Bay City Hall

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – One of the tasks that face what will be Thunder Bay’s next City Council, and new Mayor will be ensuring accountability at 500 Donald Street East.

The task of accountability for city administration should be almost atop the agenda.

Another major task for the new member of council will be making sure that things accomplished.

A number of Councillors along with Managers have stated that the issue has been getting things done during COVID-19.

Thunder Bay taxpayers have seen the past council focus on a legacy project, the indoor Turf Facility, while some of the key issues concerning citizens have seemingly lagged.


There are two major instances this year where an apparent lack of accountability has reigned supreme at 500 Donald Street East.

James Whalen Tug on May 1
James Whalen at Kam River Park – Image Facebook

First was the sinking of the James Whalen, and second was the draining of Boulevard Lake.

Lake is drained... no swimming today
Lake is drained… no swimming today

Citizens have not received any real answers to either of these incidents.

At Kam River Park, the sinking of the James Whalen is just the latest example of how that park, like other south-side parks are not seemingly considered as important as other parks and facilities in other parts of Thunder Bay.

Let’s just say Dease Pool which was allowed to degrade to a point where a historic facility was demolished. I digress.

In the case of the James Whalen tugboat at Kam River Park. This historic tugboat was purchased and brought to Kam River Park as a part of showcasing the history of our city.

Over the past decades, and since the City of Thunder Bay took over responsibility for the James Whalen the tugboat has experienced problems.

At Riverfest, in 2013, the last time the James Whalen was to be open to the public, no one bothered to check on the historic tugboat. The day of the event it was discovered that people had been living in the James Whalen for some time, and the inside was littered with fecal matter, broken glass, used needles and garbage.

In 2013, on Boxing Day, the James Whalen fell away from the dock.

Over the years, the James Whalen has taken on water and started to list a few times. It has never, since the city took it on received the attention it should.

James Whalen Sunk
James Whalen Sunk

This spring when the James Whalen sunk into the river, the pumps had not been installed. City crews were, reportedly there on Friday night and all was apparently well.

But then, overnight, the James Whalen sunk.

Thunder Bay taxpayers have been given a bill of almost a million dollars to lift the James Whalen out of the Kam River and transport it to a location on dry land. It is estimated to take two years now for a decision to be made.

This summer just as the new dam at Boulevard Lake was opened, somehow one night someone opened the gates and drained the lake.

Reportedly, no one thought to put locks on the gates the would allow anyone to open the dam. Additionally, the security cameras at Boulevard Lake were not operational.

Fortunately the massive surge of water didn’t cause any environmental damage or cause a massive fish die off.

Again, like the James Whalen, there has been no one taken to task for this major lack of task completion.

Accountability? That appears to be missing.

Imagine if at your job, you were to make a mistake that cost your employer a million dollars? Do you think you would still be working at the company?

Likely not.

However at 500 Donald Street East, in what looks again like “business as usual”, no one has stepped up to accept responsibility for the failures that led to the James Whalen sinking.

Same game with the dam at Boulevard Lake.

Its more than Tugboats and Dams

Across Thunder Bay our roads have through the course of this year really started to show their age. Sinkholes on Edward Street, River Street, Court Street, and all over the city have spent the summer with orange cones but not repairs.

On Court Street a sinkhole on the northbound lane is about five feet deep, and is currently protected by a road sign and an orange cone. Well, it was, as of today, all that is there is a street sign laying over the hole.

At Bruce and Theresa - large hole
At Bruce and Theresa – large hole

One wonders how much liability there would be if a child fell in or a vehicle had an accident? I digress.

Experts in road construction tell NetNewsLedger that the biggest issue here is insufficient compaction of the road base. This is especially evident around storm sewers where many sinkholes are located.

Compacting the road base around storm sewers is more difficult that road bases. Usually the process is a small one person compactor/vibrator that obviously does not do the job.

One city councillor has told NetNewsLedger the issue isn’t Administration but lies with Council.

Perhaps that is a fact.

Perhaps the issue is City Council has become too content in recent years with letting Administration carry the ball.

You may note in this article, we have not talked about the major issues with the Police Services Board. That is likely for another column.

For Thunder Bay voters, now getting candidates at their doors, having incumbents explain the need for experienced voices around the council chamber, and some new candidates promising jobs, a new economy, and sunshine and roses, it is time for voters in our city to start hitting prospective elected representatives hard with the questions on where they stand on making sure accountability is a top priority.

That of course is just, to borrow from Thunder Bay’s beacon of Radio Voice, “Just One Man’s Opinion”.

James Murray

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