THUNDER BAY – THUNDER BAY VOICES – In our ongoing coverage of the general election, NetNewsLedger sent questions to all candidates running for mayor.
The following was sent:
The economy influences all aspects of our city’s potential.
Thunder Bay has fewer manufacturing jobs. The largest employer is the TBRHSC with 2,824 employees. It is followed by the Lakehead Board of Education, Lakehead University and the City of Thunder Bay.
Resolute is 419 at the Paper Mill and 223 at the Sawmill.
Thunder Bay in perhaps one of the more telling statements from outgoing Mayor Bill Mauro was found by the national media.
Between scandals involving the former police chief and former mayor in court, and the ongoing situation involving the Thunder Bay Police Service and Police Services Board, statewide coverage of Thunder Bay is often not the brightest picture our city would want.
- As Mayor of Thunder Bay, what would you do to create solid, well-paying jobs in our city?
- As mayor, how would you market our city to corporations to lure them to Thunder Bay? What experience do you bring with you in this area?
- Do you think “old” projects like an events center and indoor lawn are important factors needed to bring new businesses to Thunder Bay? If yes why?
- Our city’s reputation has suffered due to national media coverage as what many believe to be the truth about the state of our city has been shared around the world. Being the “murder capital” and the “overdose capital”.
- Thunder Bay’s motto: “Superior by Nature”. In a world where diversity matters, some are suggesting that this motto – based on some of Thunder Bay’s racist actions in the media – could read “We’re better than you”… Should it be changed?
- As mayor, how would you strengthen our economy?
Here are Gary Mack’s answers
Local businesses are the heart of the community and a critical part of our economy. Small businesses employ almost ⅔ of all workers and over 95% of all businesses are small businesses. In Thunder Bay, three out of four local businesses have fewer than 5 employees, indicating an urgent need to support local businesses.
Local businesses had a rough few years as the pandemic pushed many entrepreneurs to the brink of bankruptcy and rising interest rates made it harder to fund growth. Our local government needs to step up and provide the right business supports and infrastructure for our community to thrive.
We need to stop relying on federal and state handouts and handouts. We must stop waiting to be rescued by a multinational settling in the city. We need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on consultants and vanity projects and focus on real investments that will pay off for years.
We can invest in and rely on our own entrepreneurs and business people and make Thunder Bay a hub for growth and innovation in Canada.
- Rebuild our infrastructure—roads business can count on
- Implement service standards for all city departments and build a “yes” culture
- Respond to core service review findings and reduce bureaucracy
- Invest in downtown revitalization and punish seedy landlords
- Promotion of businesses in the neighborhood and financing of local procurement
- Make attracting Indigenous businesses a cornerstone of the city’s economic plan
Rebuild our infrastructure
Local businesses depend on quality public infrastructure to function. You can’t reach your customers on potholed roads. Basic city interactions still can’t be done online. Crime keeps shoppers away from downtown stores and homelessness keeps people from shopping at their local retail outlets. We need the physical and social infrastructure that supports local businesses so our entrepreneurs can compete with Amazon and Walmart and keep our money here.
Implement service standards and build a “yes” culture
For years, our Chamber of Commerce has been calling for building a culture of “yes” among city employees. Too often when you need help or are looking for information the answer is no, obstacles are thrown in your way or you are shown what to jump through. We need leadership that forces change and creates a yes culture in the city. Like any private company, city workers need service standards to work toward. Every department should implement policies that make it easier for citizens and businesses to get things done and make our economy grow.
Respond to core service review findings and reduce bureaucracy
It’s been over 2 years and the city has had little response to the Core Services Review. We paid for the review, hired the consultants, and received a roadmap on how the city could save money and become more efficient. Our political leaders, however, have largely sat on their hands and placed this report in a deep, obscure drawer.
We need real cost saving strategies in the city. Things like investing in automated water readings, better managing our fleet of vehicles, and a comprehensive IT and software strategy are the unsexy but effective ways we can reduce costs over the long term and generate a strong return on our taxpayer dollars.
Invest in downtown revitalization and punish seedy landlords
Our inner cities are a unique selling point of our municipality. They serve as vibrant cultural spaces, incubators for local businesses, tourist attractions and places where we meet as a city. While the north core is undergoing revitalization and a series of planned city investments, our south core is crumbling.
We must continue to invest in the northern core to anchor it along with the waterfront as a premier business and tourist location. We also need a comprehensive strategy to revitalize the southern core. We should look to inspiring examples like Youngstown, Ohio’s Neighborhood Development Corporation, to use both public and private funds to invest in our neighborhoods and transform them into affordable, vibrant centers.
At the same time, we must crack down on those who would perpetuate crumbling, vacant properties in hopes of speculative gain. Owners who allow their properties to become a nuisance in their neighborhoods, or who hoard cultivable vacant land, should pay the price. Our community needs affordable housing, business start-up space, and clean, safe neighborhoods. We have no patience for wealthy elites who allow their properties to become havens for disease, pests and pollution.
Promotion of businesses in the neighborhood and financing of local procurement
Our inner cities are destinations where we shop, eat, and enjoy the city, but our local neighborhoods also need small businesses. We need more corner shops, hair salons, coffee shops and other types of small, neighborhood retail. These types of micro-enterprises are the lifeblood of everyday life – where we can buy a carton of milk, meet neighbors for coffee, and befriend business owners. Neighborhood-based business has been shown to reduce crime, decrease loneliness, improve our health through the ability to walk, and generally improve the fabric of our lives.
We must continue the work on zoning reform, and actively encourage and promote micro-scale, neighborhood-friendly enterprises. We should fight business deserts and food deserts so that every neighborhood has places within walking distance for citizens to buy healthy food and to serve as a focal point for neighborhood socializing.
We need to support our city’s local procurement processes. The city of Thunder Bay is a big consumer of all kinds of goods and services – from groceries for its retirement homes to paper for its offices. We know the return on investment that local purchases can have and we need to model this at the community level. Supporting our local businesses and entrepreneurs reaps dividends in the form of more hiring, increased tax revenue, and keeping our dollars local.
Make attracting Indigenous businesses a cornerstone of the city’s economic plan
We are failing the indigenous people on several levels, but one underestimated aspect is the tremendous loss we are suffering from a business and economic growth perspective. The indigenous people of northern Ontario represent the largest untapped business opportunity our region has ever seen.
Indigenous people are the fastest growing segment of our community and the future of our workforce. Indigenous entrepreneurs, creators, cultural innovators and political leaders could set up businesses in Thunder Bay. We should be the hub for training Indigenous workers, hosting Indigenous schools for youth, hosting urban Indigenous communities, and nurturing Indigenous talent at all levels.
Thunder Bay needs a dual strategy, not just fighting racism and discrimination, but also an active approach to make Thunder Bay the most indigenous-friendly city in Canada. We must build relationships with indigenous peoples as if the future of our city depends on it. Our tax base, population base, workforce, cultural relevance, social importance and political potential all depend on becoming the leading center for Indigenous people in Canada.