Honourable John Rodriguez – Mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury – State of the City – 2009

Building a Greater Community

[Check Against Delivery]

June 23, 2009

Mister Chair-elect, Madame President, Chamber Members and Fellow Citizens,

C’est pour moi un honneur et un privilège d’être ici cet après-midi pour prononcer le discours du maire sur l’état de la Ville de 2009. Je tiens à exprimer ma reconnaissance à la Chambre – à son président élu Steve Irwin et à sa présidente Debbi Nicholson.

I want to also thank our sponsors at OLG – Todd Hilton, Manager of the Slots at Sudbury Downs and Kelly McDougald, CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming – for helping to provide this opportunity.  It is a challenge to condense the happenings of this dynamic city into a six hour speech, but I will do my best.

Let me begin by acknowledging the presence of our local MPP and Minister of Community Safety, Rick Bartolucci and his wife Maureen.  Also with us this afternoon is former Mayor David Courtemanche, as well another former Mayor and a personal friend, Jim Gordon and his wife Donna. I am also pleased to welcome back my friend from the City of North Bay, Mayor Vic Fedeli and wife Patty.

Several of my fellow councilors are here today.  Although the Mayor is often seen as the face of Council, I am just one voice amongst 13 and the success we have had has been a result of the willingness of all individual members to work as a team.

Also integral to our city’s accomplishments is our municipal staff, led by our new Chief Administrative Officer, Doug Nadorozny. These people provide dedicated, professional service to Council and to the citizens of Greater Sudbury and I am pleased to publicly thank them for their efforts.

Je prononce aujourd’hui mon troisième discours annuel sur l’état de la Ville. Le thème que j’ai choisi cette année est « Bâtir une plus grande communauté ».

This is the third such speech that I have made and I chose the theme of this year’s address as ‘Building a Greater Community,” because I wanted to remind the people of Greater Sudbury that even in tough times, it is important that we keep our eyes on the horizon, to look for ways to move forward.  This is how this city has grown and how we will continue to improve.

It is clear that the last year has brought unexpected challenges for our city, our country and indeed, our entire world.  I am reminded of the opening lines of the Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities.  We do indeed find ourselves in both the ‘best of times” and the ‘worst of times.”

Just as global forces pushed up the price of Nickel, starting in the fall of 2005, creating an unprecedented boom for Greater Sudbury, these same forces have pushed prices down over the past ten months.  The result has been significant at our mining giants, with Xstrata reduced to a single mining operation in the Sudbury Basin and Vale Inco implementing an extended shutdown, wide-scale restructuring and the postponement of large capital investment projects. I will continue to be engaged with these companies, to make the case that Sudbury is the best place for their investments and their jobs at all levels.

The ripple effects of these changes are coursing through the mining supply and services sector and will have a negative impact on retail sales and service industries.  A recent forecast by the Conference Board of Canada predicted that Greater Sudbury’s GDP will shrink by 4% in 2009.  These are difficult times indeed.

Our community has responded: Through the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, with the help of the provincial government, we have established a Community Adjustment Committee and the Greater Sudbury Employment Linkage Initiative, both ably led by Chair Gisèle Chrétien and Vice-Chair John Caruso.  These initiatives will deliver services immediately to those who have lost their jobs in this economic downturn and will also take a long term view as to how our city can be better positioned to withstand these challenges in the future.

At the municipal level, we have taken steps to position the city for the times that we face.  Council reduced the tax increase for 2009 by 1.1% with no reduction in service levels, and we have committed to finding our share for stimulus projects from existing resources.  In addition, we have committed to take steps to ensure that we do not end up with a deficit at the end of 2009.  We know that 2010 will be a very challenging year and we cannot afford to be behind from the start.

Though nickel prices are showing some signs of improvement in recent days, global uncertainty continues and the prospect of a labour dispute at Vale Inco remains a possibility.  We will remain vigilant and ready to take appropriate actions to protect the financial health of the municipality.

And yet, as difficult as these economic times are, our community is weathering them better than we ever have before.  In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Sudbury was completely at the mercy of every recession and economic downturn. Our economy was based almost exclusively on the mining industry and we often led the country in double-digit unemployment.

Those difficult times encouraged people to work together to diversify our local economy and to innovate in order to develop new business opportunities.  As a result, our post-secondary institutions expanded, we developed a truly regional healthcare system, our tourism and retail service sector grew to match our position as the Northeast’s leading city, and our mining supply and services companies identified and pursued business in all corners of the globe.

Aujourd’hui, nous pouvons constater les résultats bénéfiques de ces efforts : notre taux de chômage, même s’il a grimpé jusqu’à 8,4 % cette année, demeure sous la moyenne provinciale de 9,4 % et il est beaucoup moins élevé que celui d’autres villes comme London, Windsor et même Toronto.

Construction, though down slightly from last year, remains strong in Greater Sudbury.  As of June 1, we had issued 750 permits totaling $103.9 million.  For the same period last year, Building Services issued 791 permits, totaling $106.5 million.  While single family home starts are down by 30%, there is increased activity in the multi-unit residential sector and the Industrial/Commercial/Institutional sector which has helped to compensate for this decline.  In addition, the value of residential renovation permits is up by 56%, no doubt stimulated by the Federal Home Renovation Tax Credit.

Major projects under construction this season include two, much-needed, affordable housing projects – the 80 unit Raiffeisen Co-op off Mountain Street in the city core and a 20 unit addition to Capreol Non-Profit Seniors Housing.  In addition, Dalron has started on 15-unit condominium project on Paris Street.

In the commercial sector, two big projects with a value of more than $31 million are strengthening this city’s position as the shopping hub of the Northeast.  In our south end, Smart Centres are developing more than 200,000 square feet for a Wal-Mart and related stores, while behind Silver City, ARG Devco Interpaving is creating a new ‘city within a city,” a remarkable feat of engineering.  The first occupant for this development is a 153,000 square foot Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse that will open this fall.

On the institutional side, our city eagerly anticipates the start of construction for two leading-edge environmental building projects.  At Cambrian College, they are building the $6.3 million Xstrata Sustainable Energy Centre to be an innovative teaching and applied research facility.

At Laurentian University, the Vale Inco Living with Lakes Centre is a $15 million research facility that has already won a Bronze medal in the 2009 Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction.

Collège Boréal is also poised to move forward with a significant building project – A 70 unit, three-storey extension to their existing student residence valued at $4.18 million.

Tout au autour de nous, la construction progresse dans notre ville.   As we look at Greater Sudbury today, we can understand and appreciate the time and effort put forward by our city’s leaders over the past four decades. This city has been blessed by visionaries who understood the need to set out goals and work hard to build a greater community.

I am reminded of the words of Cesar Chavez, the inspirational labour leader who organized the Mexican farm workers in California.  He said, ‘We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

This tradition of constantly striving to build a greater community has taken hold in Greater Sudbury.  And since this Council has declared that we are, in fact, a community of communities, we can see this principle operating at many levels.

In 2009, I committed to get out and explore some of our smaller communities in depth.  I wanted to spend a full day in each community to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people and to communicate their value to our city as a whole.

In Capreol, I met Stu Thomas and the volunteer board of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre.  This group has developed a unique and valuable attraction in the old Station Master’s house that tells the story of the importance of the railroad to Sudbury and Northern Ontario.  If you haven’t visited, make this the summer that you take your family to Capreol to see this fascinating heritage site.

In Levack, I discovered one of the most energetic and dynamic individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Chantelle Gorham runs the Northwest Fudge Factory on Levack’s Main Street.  This young lady not only runs a full-time business, she holds the Guinness World Record for the Largest Slab of Fudge, and has also created the Onaping Hill Soap Box Derby and the Cardboard Toboggan Race.

The Lively community continues to grow and thrive.  During my visit in May, I was toured through the impressive Meadowbrook Retirement Village by Elena Tovey and Dorothy McLandress from the residents’ association.  I also had the opportunity to meet with one of our city’s most successful Community Action Networks.  The members of the Walden CAN, chaired by Karen Tait-Peacock, are providing outstanding leadership within their own community, as evidenced by their recent weekend workshop titled, Together – Walden CAN.

I must admit that I have a soft spot for Coniston, the community that was my first home in this area when I came from St. Catherine’s in 1961.  Quand je suis allé passer une journée à Coniston il y a quelques semaines, j’ai été très touché par l’accueil enthousiaste des élèves de l’école Notre-Dame de la Merci et de son directeur Dany Minor.  I was exhilarated to meet the two young mothers who are spearheading the effort to renew Coniston’s Central Park.  Nikki Dubreuil and Alisa Bray are two of the most determined individuals I have ever met.  They are literally building their community one spaghetti dinner at a time.  In the past 12 months they have raised more than $32,000 to renovate the Central Park Playground by purchasing new equipment that meets today’s safety standards.  This equipment is on order and will be installed by the end of July.  What an outstanding effort for our community!

I will continue to make these sojourns across this vast city in the months to come.  It is a rare privilege to be welcomed into our constituent communities, to be able to meet the people that truly turn our city into a hometown, and to be able to share their successes and their concerns with people like you.

Of course communities don’t have to be based on geography.  They can be simply a group of people united to make a difference.

Our strong and vibrant Francophone community continues to flourish and consistently brings some of the most interesting and exciting cultural activities to this city.  Le salon du livre was a tremendous success again last year and I can hardly wait for 2010.  I have committed to encouraging more Anglophones to participate in the fun, so be forewarned, I will be talking to you.

Greater Sudbury’s First Nations community is the fastest growing segment of our population and we are working together to find ways to acknowledge their presence and contributions to this city.  Once again, I encourage you to join us at next year’s Northern Aboriginal Festival to share in the richness of the culture that surrounds us and build a connection to this valuable community.

Just recently, I was able to visit another community within our city: a community that is becoming greater every year and that is setting a shining example for other cities to follow.  Pioneer Manor, though still perceived by some as our ‘old folks home,” has grown and matured into a Centre of Excellence for Geriatric Care that has no equal in Northern Ontario and few equals in Canada.  More than 420 individuals call the Manor ‘home,” and the new wing now under construction after the devastating fire in 2007, will provide state-of-the-art facilities for those living with dementia when it opens just one year from now.

This centre of excellence also houses the day programs delivered by the Alzheimer’s Association as well as Greater Sudbury’s first City of Lakes Family Health Team site.  This innovative primary care team, coordinated by former Mayor, David Courtemanche, has developed another location in Val Caron and we are assisting their potential expansion to other parts of the city.

The crown jewel in this suite of geriatric services is Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke and the Northeastern Ontario Regional Geriatrician Program.  Dr. Clarke is one of a handful of Geriatricians in all of Ontario.  These are physicians who specialize in the holistic care of seniors, taking the time to understand the complexities of multiple diagnoses and coordinate complex prescriptions.  She began to practice here in March and she has just moved into the new permanent clinic space at Pioneer Manor.  Our community is immensely strengthened by her presence here in Greater Sudbury and I am so pleased that Jo-Anne could join us here this afternoon.

Cependant, les soins de santé pour les personnes âgées ne se limitent pas au Manoir des pionniers. Pour bâtir une plus grande communauté, il faut répondre au défi démographique du Grand Sudbury et y appliquer des solutions que nous aurons trouvées ici même dans le Grand Sudbury.  Our city is the poster child for Ontario’s aging population and we are modeling this scenario for other Ontario centres.

The situation of Alternate Level of Care patients taking up active care beds in our hospital was the first issue that arose when I took office in 2006 and it remains a vexing problem to this day.  Although our municipal government is not responsible for health care, the health of our citizens and their access to care is of critical importance to our success as a community.  Late last year I asked former Mayor, Jim Gordon, as Chair of the Advisory Panel on Health Cluster Development, to investigate this issue and determine what recommendations could be made.  Jim brought together all the agencies and stakeholders involved, both directly and indirectly, to discuss this issue and propose solutions.  In some cases, it was the first time these parties had been in the same room.

From this work, the Greater Sudbury ALC Community Steering Group, led by Dr. Peter Zalan, moved forward to examine all aspects of the issue and recommend a ‘Made in Sudbury” solution.  Their recommendations now have the support of the Northeast Local Health Integration Network and our community eagerly awaits the response from the Ministry of Health.
Jim Gordon’s experience and depth of knowledge, especially in the health care sector, has resulted in many long term benefits to this community.  Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the inaugural graduation from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, an institution for which we owe Jim a great deal.

I deeply appreciate his efforts in chairing the Advisory Panel on Health Cluster Development.  Once again in this forum he has brought disparate players together and marshaled their expertise for the benefit of the community.  He has successfully proposed that the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation place a heightened emphasis on health-related economic development and he has placed a number of best bets before them.  In a few weeks, Jim will deliver the final report for this advisory panel and so today, I would like to publically acknowledge and thank Jim for his consistent efforts to build a greater community.

The GSDC plays a critical role in building a greater community.  Through this Board, we are able to support projects that will make our city stronger and more diverse and we are able to attract new industries.  In April, Crossworks Manufacturing, a diamond cutting and polishing firm, announced its intention to bring a new facility to Greater Sudbury. I congratulate our economic development staff and the GSDC Board for their work in attracting this company.

Last week, we held the Annual Meeting for the GSDC and I was extremely pleased that Guy Labine will continue on as Chair for another year.  Guy brings a steady hand, a wealth of experience and immense credibility to this position.

Depuis quelques mois, la SDGS a révisé notre plan stratégique pour le développement économique et son conseil d’administration va bientôt proposer un nouveau cadre amélioré pour le développement future.  As part of this review they have determined that the city and the GSDC should play a more active role in encouraging well-planned development in the central core of our city.  I welcome this interest and encourage the community to work closely with efforts to renew the heart of the city and to push forward with critical projects like the Northern Ontario School of Architecture, a possible convention centre and a performing arts centre.

I remain committed to the vision of a performing arts centre for Greater Sudbury.  Although one specific proposal did not go forward in October, several other options have come forward from the community and much support for the concept has been communicated to me.  Our city needs to have facilities that allow us to meet the needs of our citizens to work, live and play.  At the moment, changed economic circumstances mean we are more focused on the immediate challenges of roads but I am determined that we will not lose the long term vision.  The lessons learned through the work of the advisory panel, led so well by Diane Salo, will not be wasted.  The GSDC identified the need for a PAC, as well as a convention facility, many years ago and I am confident that they will continue to work with community supporters to develop a workable plan for the future.

Twenty-five years ago, this community took exactly this path to create both an iconic tourism attraction and a local industry that provides jobs, educational opportunities and technological advantages for Greater Sudbury.  This initiative has grown into an institution that supports 600 jobs and injects $25 million into our local economy each year.  Soon this impact will expand dramatically because of the Province’s commitment to more than double its annual operating grant from $3.4 to $7.0 million annually.

It was a truly magical moment when the idea for Science North was generated, but it has been the vision of individuals like David Pearson, Risto Laamanen and Jim Marchbank that have kept the magic happening.

The people of Sudbury can take a great deal of pride in the fact that they have consistently made the initial investments for capital enhancements at both Science North and Dynamic Earth, that have triggered support from private sector partners and other levels of government.  Science North’s new digital planetarium attraction, which will open this summer, is just one example.  In this case, a $75,000 commitment from city taxpayers through the GSDC, was used to lever more than $1.1 million in private and public dollars to make this concept a reality.  This support amount includes $595,000 from the Province, as announced by Minister Bartolucci.

There is no one more committed to building a greater community or delivering more to meet that goal, than Rick Bartolucci.  I have been involved in the political arena – – for just a few years now – – and I can say that I have never met any politician who could deliver for his community the way Rick does for Sudbury. He has brought us enormous support for initiatives in healthcare, in public transit, in education, in childcare, in industrial development, in roads and highways, in research and innovation, in tourism and more.  The list is too long to recite but let me highlight just one – Highway 69.

Rick has been on a mission to four-lane this highway since he became our MPP in 1995.  In 2005, as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Rick laid out a long term strategy and a firm commitment to widen this highway by 2017.  Since then, ten construction projects have been awarded on this corridor at a cost of more than $500 million.  Later this year, two sections, totaling 20 kilometres will open south of Sudbury and in just a couple of years, we will have less than 100 kilometres left to twin.  By the time this highway is completely finished in 2017 the total cost will exceed $1.5 billion and will result in an economic development corridor for this community that is safe for all of us and our families.  That’s what I call delivering for your people and building a greater community.

L’influence que Rick a exercée s’est aussi fait sentir dans le succès de la demande que la Ville a présenté au Fonds de stimulation de l’infrastructure.   At last year’s State of the City, I committed to bringing forward an Arterial Roads Rehabilitation Program to try to get ahead of the potholes on our most heavily-used, most visible roads.  Aujourd’hui, avec le soutien du gouvernement du Canada et du gouvernement de l’Ontario, nous sommes en mesure de réaliser ce programme. Over the next few months, you will see grinders and pavers at work on Lasalle, Paris and Notre Dame, and Falconbridge Road.  In all, we will spend more than $39 million on these three roads over the next two years.

On top of these projects, our city will invest almost $33 million on roads capital projects in 2009 and we anticipate a similar amount for 2010.  We are determined to continue our efforts to catch up to the needs and wrestle our roads problem until it us under control.  Of course we will continue to wage war on potholes. This past winter – one of the most challenging in recent memory, with 81 snow and ice control events and 20% above average snowfall – we declared war on potholes by filling more than 100,000 of their number and laying more than 7,000 square meters of asphalt during March Break.

Over the next two summers there will be a great deal of construction, all around the city.  I know you will agree that it is long overdue and although we will work to reduce delays, you will be inconvenienced.  But I am letting you know now that I will not be listening to complaints about traffic problems – Not this time!

The final project approved under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund is the rebuilding of the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre at Bell Park.  Though not a road, this was an opportunity that I believed we should not miss and I was proud to champion this at Council.  I look forward to the construction next year that will bring back this jewel on the lake.

Council has also submitted an application to the Build Canada Program for more than $75 million in Federal and Provincial support to build the Maley Drive extension, and we have applied for several projects under the Recreation Infrastructure Canada Program.  While large projects like the MURC were not eligible for this fund, I know that its time will come and that the excellent work completed by Darren Stinson and his panel will be brought forward in the context of an overall plan for facilities renewal.

Notre municipalité bâtit une communauté plus grande – Our municipality is building a greater community – by implementing new and innovative services for our citizens such as:

Diverting more waste from landfills with the new Green Bin organic waste collection program that will roll out across the city this year

Increasing support for arts and culture groups by 18% in 2009, for we are more than a city of bricks, mortar and asphalt

Lancer un registre informatique des garderies pour que les parents puissent accéder facilement à tous les programmes de garde d’enfants du Grand Sudbury

Investing $2 million in the 128-bed Long Term Care facility in Chelmsford, which will be named Villa San Gabriel in honour of Gabe Bélanger

Continuing our efforts to reduce homelessness by implementing the Housing First Strategy and creating a report card to monitor progress

Creating the Office of Municipal Auditor General, and hiring Brian Bigger to lead this effort to provide a third set of eyes on city books and assist Council to deliver the best value for your money

Investing $10 million over ten years to advance the Northern Ontario School of Architecture

Voilà donc une série de progrès stimulants et fort souhaitables pour notre communauté. Combined with the new and innovative changes coming from private and non-profit sectors, they result in a city that has become more and more attractive to relocating professionals and entrepreneurial investors.  Recently, a wonderful young family moved up from Toronto into a big house on John Street.  Dominic Giroux, le dynamique nouveau recteur de l’Université Laurentienne et sa femme Barbara ont déjà assumé des responsabilités bénévoles et ont beaucoup de plaisir dans leur nouvelle communauté.

Dominic and Barbara are not alone.  Everywhere I go in this city, newcomers approach me to say how happy they are and how much they love this city. These Sudburians have played a vital role in making them feel truly welcome in a City where they were once total strangers.

There is no doubt that our community faces great challenges.  But with these challenges come opportunities – opportunities to re-create our community, to adapt to current circumstances and find ways to grow and thrive in the new economy.  There will always be those who propose simpler solutions; who will tell us that local government should not involve itself with initiatives to innovate outside of our areas of direct responsibility or to build community, to invest in the arts or improve economic development.

But this community would not be where it is today if we were content to simply plow the roads and pick up the garbage.  Si Tom Davies et Spike Hennessy n’avaient pas cru à la possibilité de créer chez nous un centre des sciences pour stimuler le tourisme, Science Nord n’existerait pas aujourd’hui.

As U.S. President Obama has said – ‘We know that government can’t solve all our problems – and we don’t want it to. But we also know that there are some things we can’t do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together.”  I would add that building a greater community is one of those things.

Ladies and gentlemen we are engaged in building our greater community through partnerships.

Partnerships with our Members of Parliament Rick Bartolucci, Glenn Thibeault, France Gélinas and Claude Gravelle

Les partenariats avec plusieurs ministres fédéraux et provinciaux et leur personnel qui travaillent de concert avec notre communauté

Partnerships with our leaders in community safety, former Chief Ian Davidson and our new Chief of the Greater Sudbury Police Service, Frank Elsner

Partnerships with our local CUPE members, led by new President, Steve Speck, and the broader labour community

Partnerships with community leaders, non-profit organizations, formal groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Community Action Networks, and informal groups like the Friends of Adanac, Club Richelieu and the Sudbury Multicultural Association

Partnerships with our sister municipalities through groups like FONOM and NOLUM, and directly through relationships like those with North Bay Mayor, Vic Fedeli.  It is especially satisfying to me when these relationships become friendships

We know that a single thread is easily broken, but many threads woven together make an unbreakable cord.  So, because of the many partnerships we are creating, we are also building a strong, resilient, and greater community.

Notre communauté, le Grand Sudbury, est assez forte pour traverser la période d’incertitude économique que nous connaissons.

Our Greater Sudbury community is strong enough to weather the current economic turmoil – to reach out and help those who have been personally affected and to position ourselves for the turnaround and a successful future.

There is much more that I could say.  It has been a busy and a challenging year – much has been accomplished and there is much, much more to do.

Let me conclude my friends by saying simply this: Nous avons le privilège de vivre dans une grande ville peuplée de citoyennes et de citoyens extrêmement chaleureux et talentueux.

We are privileged to live in a great city, filled with tremendously warm and gifted citizens.

We – you and I together, in partnership – are embarked on a most exciting adventure – that of building an exciting, successful, and inclusive community, as reflected by the 68 flags on our Bridge of Nations (with ten more to come next week) – here in the Sudbury Basin – The World’s Greatest Mineral Wonder!

Merci – Meegwetch – Thank you