City of Timmins – State of the City 2017

MAYOR STEVEN BLACK TO TIMMINS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE – SMALL BUSINESS/LOCAL GOVERNMENT WEEK

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2017 at the SENATOR HOTEL, TIMMINS, ONTARIO – 12:00 PM

Welcome, Bienvenue, Wachay!

Thank you, Mike Baker, for the kind introduction. I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of Mattagami First Nation.

My colleagues on council, members of the Chamber of Commerce, members of the media, invited guests; it gives me great pleasure to be here today, to share with you the State of our City. I want to thank you all for being here today, especially members of the City of Timmins Administration for their hard work and contributions to the details contained in this speech.

I’d also like to acknowledge and thank the Chamber of Commerce and Northern College for hosting today’s event, and providing me the opportunity to highlight our successes over the past year, as well as speak to some of our challenges.

It gives me great pride to stand before you all today and discuss the great things we have accomplished this year and term. While some decisions will always be met with a level of controversy, we must remind ourselves that where there is no struggle, there is no strength. I believe that through our struggles, we learn to work better as a team, and as a team we have taken some large steps toward re-affirming that Timmins is a great place to live, work and play!

Through the execution of various projects, including the first annual Stars & Thunder Festival, many of us also discovered new strengths, and I am so proud of the entire City of Timmins team and what we were able to accomplish.

 

This year’s Small Business Week theme – “Future-proof your business: Adapting to technology and demographic trends” is also applicable to the City of Timmins as a corporation. In order to keep residents happy and draw visitors into our great city, we must also look ahead and adapt.

 

Our Community & Development Services Department has been busy this year, which indicates we are on the right track for the future of our community.

Building activity in the City remains strong with 398 permits being processed so far in 2017, just 19 permits less than processed last year at this time. Despite this, the value of construction is substantially higher this year as compared to last, with almost $49.2 Million being recorded in 2017, versus $27.1 Million in 2016. The difference can be attributed to more substantial investments in non-residential development sector, such as the industrial and institutional sectors. Some of the more significant developments over the past year included continued work on the Best Western Premier Hotel, the Bucket Shop, the Integrated Services Building located on the Northern College campus, the Pope Francis School Addition and office, as well as planned construction at both Tahoe Resources and Calabrian.

 

The City’s Property Assessment Review Project continues with some impressive results. To date, 8,592 residential properties have been reviewed with 11,164 remaining. The review completed so far has yielded an additional $15.4 Million in new assessment, and a corresponding $255,627 in new and ongoing property taxes to the City of Timmins.

 

The Museum Renovation Project has now been completed, and the Grand Opening of the site was held on October 17, 2017. The project involved creating a substantial addition to the current Museum space, allowing for a new program room, larger galleries, more collection storage and a new community arts studio. The renovation also permits the co-location of the Timmins Economic Development Corporation and Tourism Timmins in the same building while continuing to accommodate HGS operations. This move is anticipated to encourage better use of available space and resources, and to realize synergies between the Museum and Tourism operations. The Museum portion of the project was also the beneficiary of a grant from “Cultural Spaces,” a Federal government program. The grant amount exceeded $500,000, significantly contributing to the project, budgeted at just under $1.1 Million.

The City continues to work on updating its Official Plan and Zoning By-law to ensure that it is reflecting the needs of the community as well as new provincial requirements. A Pre-consultation meeting has already been held with affected Ministries as well as the hosting of two public input sessions. Approval of Council is anticipated early in 2018.

 

The City is also working on expanding upon its current Downtown Community Improvement Plan program to include brownfield sites. The enhanced program will help to create incentives for property owners and investors to redevelop existing brownfield sites to encourage significant non-residential development investments including large mining projects in our community. Such an expanded Community Improvement Plan would be expected to afford the City with a competitive advantage for attracting new development within the community.

 

Significant efforts have gone into enhancing the City’s regional parks, including the Hollinger and White Water Parks.

  1. Hollinger Park Recent Improvements:

– Upgrading to Hollinger Grandstands

– Grinding/leveling of main entrance and parking lot

– Lot grading plan completed by AMEC

– Park redesign underway by AMEC and Dillon Consulting (based on input received from open house and radio survey – total of 255 responses)

– Commencement of soil capping project (southern portion of park – ballfield)

Future Improvements (2018/19) – Almost $1.2 M committed in reserved funding for:

– 5 year implementation plan for various capital improvements to be determined through the redesign project to be completed in 2017

– Capping of the North side of the park

–  Improvements to the splash pad

– Continued improvements to the Hollinger Grandstands

– Replacement of the entrance and parking lot

– Removal of old sanitary lift station and replacement of maintenance shed

 

  1. White Water Park Recent Improvements

– Planting of 90 trees

– Drainage Improvements – replacement of cattails and weeds with cloth filter and river rocks

– Repaired/straightened light standards in the park

– Refurbished Gazebo, addition of picnic tables and flowers

– Addition of decorative posts and boulders at key locations to restrict access of motorized vehicles into the park

– Introduction of an outdoor fountain for drinking water

Future Improvements

– Introduction of flower pots

– Additional benches/Picnic tables

– Ongoing removal of weeds in the swimming area

– More trees

– Improvements to the splash pad

– New fountain in the lake

In addition to these larger regional parks, the City has also conducted public input sessions with residents concerning enhancements to a number of neighbourhood open space areas.

 

Council has recently approved proceeding with the detailed design component of the Aquatic Recreation Centre. The architectural firm of Perkins and Will was selected as the firm to undertake this component of the project at a cost of just over $1.2 Million. The design is expected to include an estimated 68,000 square feet for the following key components: an eight-lane/25m competitive pool along with spectator viewing space, a leisure pool, therapy/warm pool, a field house with multi-use courts, racket ball/squash courts and other programming space. The new facility will be accessed and connected to the existing Archie Dillon Sportsplex Arena via a welcoming atrium space. This work follows from recommendations brought forward from the City’s Recreation Master Plan (2014) and Aquatic Conceptual Design (2016/17).

 

We know that a city’s quality of life is an important factor in attracting and retaining businesses, so the Timmins Economic Development (now located in the Museum building) has been working on projects that make our city a better place to be.

For example, they partnered with the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Social Planning Council to establish Timmins’ first emergency Homeless Shelter and Service Hub, which will be opening this year.

They demonstrated regional leadership by partnering with the North Bay and Timmins Multicultural Centres to develop a regional portal to attract immigrants to northeastern Ontario. And they provided support to more than 100 non-profit groups that are working to improve our social, cultural, environmental and recreational amenities.

The TEDC also continues to work on projects to attract new business and help grow existing businesses within our community and our region.

The Productivity and Innovation Centre or “PIC” delivers programming that enhances our businesses’ operations and competitiveness, and increases their capacity for exporting and diversification. Since its inception in 2014, the PIC has assisted over 150 business clients to grow, export and innovate. Other achievements include collaboration with the Northern Ontario Angels network to increase business investment and increase regional capacities for applied research and commercialization. The PIC recently secured funding for a new two-year project that will enable it to continue its innovative programming and develop further initiatives to assist our businesses.

 

The TEDC also ran the Starter Company Program. The Program was part of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy and was delivered to our catchment areas by The Business Enterprise Centre. It was aimed at young entrepreneurs (ages 18 to 29) who are not returning to school and are interested in starting, purchasing, or expanding a business. The Program consisted of business workshops on topics such as writing a business plan, budgeting, and executing a marketing campaign; one-on-one counseling from a Business Enterprise Centre consultant; and mentoring with a local successful entrepreneur.

Starter Company was a three-year project ending Marth 31st of this year. The program resulted in 38 businesses being started, 55 jobs being created and 20 jobs being maintained.

We are happy to say that due to the success of the program, the Province has provided The Business Enterprise Centre with additional funding to run a Starter Company Plus, two-year program. The main difference with this program is there is no age restrictions, allowing future entrepreneurs of all ages to access the training and funding.

 

Another agency that significantly contributes to the quality of life in Timmins is the Mattagami Region Conservation Authority.

From the time it was established in 1962, the Authority has put in place a water and land management program that includes the construction of flood control works, the development of a flood forecast and warning system and the implementation of regulations and policies to restrict the use of hazardous lands. This program also includes water quality and quantity monitoring and the development and implementation of the Drinking Water Source Protection program. The Authority also plays a key role in providing recreational open space, trails and conservation information and education.

With over 260 hectares of land, most of which has been acquired under its flood management program, the Conservation Authority is able to provide a variety of recreational facilities including trails, beach and picnic areas, parkland and open space. These holdings include conservation areas at Gillies Lake, Hersey Lake, Mountjoy Historical (Mattagami River) and White Waterfront (Porcupine Lake).

 

We are fortunate that the MRCA’s summer student compliment ensures that the Authority’s 55km of trails are kept clear, pristine and safe. The trail network has evolved since 1979 into a community-wide, non-motorized, recreational trail system.

 

In order to be able to continue enjoying these benefits in our community, we must also work to upgrade and maintain our current infrastructure.

Our Water Distribution Department carried out flow testing on over 1,400 City-owned fire hydrants, each being identified with a colour-coded ring to identify its flow range. These are used to help the Fire Department, by indicating the respective flow ranges of each hydrant, and was mandated by National Fire Protection Association

The department also invested $110,000 for a water valve exerciser trailer and combo vacuum unit to enhance maintenance on water valves with the goal of extending the life of water valves and reducing maintenance and replacement costs. The new equipment allows crews to better control water breaks within the city, and vastly improves on its emergency-based services. The trailer is also equipped with GPS technology, being used to update outdated maps of our underground infrastructure.

Having the right tools for the job allows the Water Distribution and Sewage Collection Department to look after the maintenance of 6,500 storm and sanitary structures, and hundreds of kilometers of sanitary and water lines.

 

With the completion of the Secondary Treatment Wastewater Treatment Plant located at 551 Airport Road, we were able to reduce the use of chlorine in the disinfection process by approximately 50 per cent. The Secondary Treatment Plant also started producing bio-solids in 2016 and will be able to be used for a variety of applications, including mine reclamation projects.

We are also proud to announce that the Water Treatment Plant scored very high on the 2016 Annual MOECC annual inspection with a score of 95.69 per cent.

 

Other areas of service improvement include an upgrade in the hardware we use to deliver free public wireless Internet access in the public spaces of our facilities such as arenas, the pool, halls, the airport, Timmins Transit depot, and meeting rooms.

We also have a committee working on a complete redevelopment of our website. We are aiming to launch the new site in January 2018 with the goal of increasing access to information, and creating a more user-friendly design. The new site will include a wide variety of citizen-focused modules and a mobile-friendly solutions – giving our end-users seamless access to information and services on-the-go.

 

In keeping with making our services more accessible to our residents and businesses, the purchasing department has implemented the first phase of its electronic bids and tendering system. This will greatly streamline administration of tenders and eliminate any bid irregularities and the need to reject non-compliant bids. It simplifies and automates the bid and addendum notification process. It also improves the tracking of contracts. Phase two, where we will start accepting the bids electronically, will be occurring shortly.

 

Supplemental taxes also appear to be greater than budgeted by over $200,000, and snow removal costs are in a much better position than the previous two years as we are projecting a $400,000 surplus if we have an average last quarter.

 

Under the direction of Council, our Finance department has also implemented the Elderly Property Tax Assistance Credit for low income seniors in 2017. The response has been positive with 120 households taking advantage of the rebate so far, which is in line with the budget.

 

Another great advantage for seniors in our community is the Golden Manor, which continues to provide high quality care to residents. Throughout 2017, 41 new residents were welcomed into our home. The current age range of residents is 49 to 103 years of age, demonstrating the need, and the important role that the Golden Manor plays in our community.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has identified a number of long-term care facilities across the province that are eligible for redevelopment, the Golden Manor being one of these homes. The goal of redevelopment is to bring long-term care facilities up to 2015 design standards through renovation, expansion or new build. We look forward to engaging with our stakeholders, partners and the community as a whole as we plan for the future of Long-Term Care in the City of Timmins.

 

Also adapting to technology and demographic trends is our Timmins Public Library. The Library Board is working toward developing a new strategic plan and will soon be asking residents to fill out a community survey to help plan for the future.

This year, the library increased e-content such as free e-magazines and a wider selection of e-books as more and more folks are reading digitally. iPads and Samsung tablets are also available for loan.

They really have all the bases covered;

  • Looking for a quiet study pace or meeting rooms? The library can accommodate you!
  • Researching your family tree? Your library card provides in-house access to Ancestry.ca, and a large collection of genealogical resources including marriage indexes, a local history collection, archived newspapers and more.
  • All this, in addition to a growing print collection designed to meet the needs of our community!

We want to make sure all of this is available to everyone in our community, and thus, the Main Library has recently added four accessible parking spaces directly in front of the building to assist those with mobility issues thanks to a Canada 150 CIP Grant.

We also want people to remember we have a library in the East End of the City. The C.M Shields Branch in South Porcupine recently celebrated 50 years in its current location, as it was built as a centennial project in 1967.

 

We are extremely proud to live in a community where we work hard and also get to play hard. From urban experiences to quality outdoor experiences, Tourism Timmins is proud to share our rich culture and rich natural landscapes with the thousands of visitors that come here each year during every season.

Tourism Timmins is hard at work to increase overnight tourist visits and spending in Timmins by enhancing the total year-round tourism experience through product development, marketing, investments and partnerships.

The tourism strategy focusses on four tourism pillars and is governed by one overarching principle of enhancing the range of products, experiences and services currently available.

The four pillars are:

  • Recreational Motorsports and Outdoor Adventure (snowmobiling, ATVing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing and hunting)
  • Festivals, Events, Attractions, Arts and Culture opportunities (Stars & Thunder Festival, Summer Concert Series, Great Canadian Kayak Challenge & Festival, Snowcross, Rock on the River, Fall Fair, Mine Tour Asset Relocation, etc.)
  • Sport Tourism (Mushkegowuk Cup, NOSSA Nordic, Gold Rush Run, tournaments, high school sporting events, the Timmins Rock, and more)
  • Meetings and Conferences (FONOM, NEORA, OFSC, Tourism Northern Ontario Board of Directors, Attractions Ontario Board of Directors, Northeastern Ontario Tourism Board of Directors)

Building on the successful relationships and tools already in place, Tourism Timmins will continue to work with industry by aligning marketing efforts and leveraging the regional tourism approach. And we are in a good place to achieve this. Recently, our Tourism Manager was appointed as Chair of Northeastern Ontario Tourism, Vice President of Attractions Ontario and appointed to be on the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership’s Northern Committee. These appointments will ensure that communities such as ours have a voice at the table when strategies and policies are structured.

Tourism Timmins will continue to give targeted media the opportunity to experience our seasons, festivals and attractions, first hand. Take for example the recent visit from the Travelling Foodie Raymond Cua. Raymond enjoyed a number of tourism experiences combined with a sampling of unique food experiences. The end result of his visit here is thousands of dollars’ worth of earned media that he shared with a huge audience as an influencer and blogger. His overall experience put a different spotlight on the City of Timmins and our growing culinary industry.

Council has also approved a relocation of the Tourism Department. The department will be sharing space with the Timmins Museum: NEC, where the synergies are hugely beneficial to both organizations. The department is leaving a prime location, however, I believe that their new location in the heart of downtown, cohabiting with the museum and footsteps from the transit terminal, will provide unique public access opportunities as well. Tourism Timmins is in market, and they have put our City back on the travel destination map and on the buying radar of many tourists looking for the next adventure.

The Victor M. Power Airport offers six Air Canada Jazz, three Porter, Air Creebec and Thunder Airlines flights to the North each day, and sees in excess of 180,000 passengers a year (including chartered flights). And as this is the first thing people see when flying into our community, we are in the process of finishing up some renovations and maintenance such as waterplant upgrades, and new terminal doors. A terminal roof replacement is also in the books in the near future.

 

All this and more makes our City a great place to live, work and play, but we also have to ensure these assets and our residents and visitors are well-protected. We are fortunate in Timmins to have several dedicated groups of brave individuals who do just that.

 

Our firefighters have ordered and received new Bunker Gear for all firefighters in the City to replace the gear that has expired.

We received confirmation that we were successful in gaining Compliance in NFPA training from the Ontario Fire Marshal after they performed audits on a select number of departments. We are only one of 23 to complete the audit successfully.

Council also reached an agreement this year with Northern College to relocate the Whitney Station into the new Integrated Emergency Services Center. This state-of-the-art facility will be complete in the fall of 2018.

Firefighters will see another big change in the next couple of weeks as we bid farewell to our current Chief Mike Pintar, and welcome in our new Chief Normand Beauchamp.

 

The Timmins Police Service has had a busy, eventful year.

The Timmins Police service continues to keep abreast of technological advances to assist with investigations that are growing ever more complex. New equipment includes software for the Electronic Crimes Unit, tools for creating safer roads such as the traffic trailer that displays and records drivers’ speeds, and new ways to streamline processes such as an electronic fingerprinting system. The Timmins Police Service is committed to exploring and acquiring new equipment and technology to remain in line with a rapidly-changing, electronically-based world.

One aspect of policing that will not change is the fact that community safety remains the Timmins Police Service’s top priority. Annual initiatives continue to ensure that education and prevention are always at top of mind. Traffic safety continues to be a focus with a number of annual initiatives including RIDE programs, Operation Impact, and Canada Road Safety Week. These focus on raising awareness of safe driving practices and increased enforcement to ensure safer roads, and ultimately a safer community.

The Timmins Police Service is also a part of the Timmins Anti-Drug Strategy, and continues to work toward a goal of educating the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and illicit drug use. This year, the annual Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day saw almost 50 pounds of unwanted medication handed over to police to be safely disposed of. Those medications included opiates such as morphine, oxycodone and Fentanyl which are all extremely dangerous when placed in the wrong hands. Educational programs such as DARE (Grade 6) and Keepin’ it Real (Grade 8) continue to ensure that students are armed with the decision-making skills to lead to safe and responsible teen years and into adulthood.

In 2016, Timmins Police officers responded to 25,939 calls – which works out to about 71 calls for service per day. Those calls continue to become more demanding, including calls involving mental health, wildlife, and even utilities malfunctions.

The Service continues change, with 11 new officers coming on board in 2016/2017 due to retirements and resignations. Officers continue to expand their knowledge with both in-house training and external continuous learning opportunities. Our members continue to be dedicated to the safety and well-being of our community because, after all, they live here too.

The 2017-2019 Timmins Police Service Business Plan outlines the key issues we will continue to focus on in order to continue to provide the great quality of policing services that the men and women serving our community are capable of providing.

Throughout the creation of this plan, Timmins Police Service staff and board members took part in community consultations to ensure our priorities captured the priorities of the people we serve.

Continuing to improve our relationship with the community is an important aspect throughout all our city services.

That about sums up the staff feedback portion of the State of the City.  Now I would like to take the time to address some of the key moments and accomplishments of council over the last three years, as we head into our final year of this term.

I want to go through 10 items as a resident recently asked me to list the 10 accomplishments I feel proud of as mayor. Although, at times, there has been much strain between members of council, I believe is has been one of the most progressive councils in the history of Timmins.

The first of 10 items I will discuss this afternoon is one that council supported very shortly after the election, which was conducting a core service review and implementing many aspects of it. Despite comments from some organizations, individuals or councilors, many aspects of this report have been implemented.  As of the final report card submitted by former CAO Joe Torlone, 22 of 43 recommendations have been implemented and 10 were still pending.  Only 11 had been turned down by council.  That means 74% of the recommendations have either been implemented or are still being worked on for decision by council.  Some may say nothing was done from it because they didn’t get the big items they wanted but that just isn’t true.

The second item is not a financial item at all but an item of inclusiveness. Very early in this term I was approached and told that it was desired to have the Franco-Ontarian flag flown at city hall. I said ok.  The person I was having the conversation with then said I don’t think you understand, we want to have the flag flown permanently.   I said ok.  The response – well that was easier than I thought.  For me and council, who also subsequently supported this initiative, it only made sense.  The flag is provincially recognized for our region. There is legislation that supports it, and we live in a city that is over 40% Francophone.  Whether we are Francophone or not, it only makes sense that we support our diversity, and the pride of the Francophone community in Timmins, and do what most communities around us have done for many years and give the Franco-Ontarian flag a permanent home at City Hall.

 

The third item I would like to discuss is the Timmins Rock returning to play junior hockey in the City of Timmins. Very early in this term, members from the executive of the Abitibi Eskimos asked for a meeting with the city CAO and myself to discuss how they no longer felt the team was sustainable in Iroquois Falls and wanted to know if we would have interest in bringing the team home to Timmins.

Over the next couple months we discussed the framework of an agreement and improvements to the McIntyre arena that would satisfy their requirements to relocate the team. Once we had a template we could support and felt council could support we took the agreement to city council whom also supported it.   The result has been great for the community.  The Timmins Rock have not only filled a void in the hockey community in Timmins, they have been a tremendous community partner and given added life to one of the crown jewels of our community the McIntyre Arena.

 

Next I would like to discuss the industrial rail park. This is a great initiative by the City, TEDC, government partners and a key development supported by council to enhance our competitive advantage when seeking to attract new industrial partners.  Calabrian has successfully built and developed their SO2 plant and become the first anchor tenant.  The second potential anchor tenant in the Chinese Basalt insulation partner is now at a critical stage.  The city will meet with the developer late this month or early next month to discuss entering into a land purchase agreement and proceeding with the development or moving on to pursue other investors.  The project has seen some delays but we are hopeful this meeting will be fruitful and there will be some concrete steps in the development in the coming months.

The fifth item I would like to discuss is the connecting link. In the last two years, City Council has done more work along the connecting link than the previous decade combined. This includes receiving more provincial funding than that same period as well.  Although the city had to move forward without a provincial partner for year two of the project, we are optimistic the province still understands the critical nature of the project and will be back to support future phases.  The reconstructed section of the highway stands out as you transition from the sections prior to the new highway, and the addition of the streetlights have made it much safer to drive these sections at night.  With lots of work ahead, continued lobbying by the City and our partners will be needed.  I thank the Chamber for their continued efforts in lobbying for enhancements to Connecting Link programs.

 

The sixth topic I would like to discuss is the Aquatic Center, which I briefly spoke to earlier. This initiative will lead to the development of a state-of-the-art recreation center. The city has gone through a strategic plan, a master recreation, culture and tourism plan, a feasibility study, geotechnical reports, and is now taking the final pre-construction step of completing the detailed engineering.  This topic has been met with much scrutiny from members of council and the public alike.  However, when you look at the fact that the last major investment in recreation by the City of Timmins was done around the same time I was born, I would say we are due.  When you look all around us at communities like Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and smaller ones like Cochrane and Kirkland Lake, among others, you will see communities that understand the benefits of investing in recreation and quality of life.  If the new facility goes ahead, it will see an enhanced competition pool, allowing us to attract more and higher level competitions to Timmins as well as enhancing the spectator experience.  It will also dramatically enhance the leisure side of the pool with amenities such as indoor play structures and slides, a lazy river, and leisure pool.  It will enhance the accessibility of swimming in Timmins for seniors, toddlers, and those who may have limited physical ability. The facility will also include multi-use areas for indoor activities, racket sports and more which will re-establish a true multi-use recreation facility in Timmins.  This preparation and work towards a facility comes at a key time as the federal government is supposed to be unveiling new recreational funding in the coming year.  Should this funding become available it could be the key to moving the project forward and being shovel ready Having the detailed design done will be key to improving our chance of accessing funding.  As I have stated many times, if the funding is not available or we are not successful in obtaining the partners needed I will not support moving the project forward to construction until they are there.

The next item I would like to discuss is the integrated training facility at Northern College. Although this is largely a Northern College-led initiative, there was key involvement from the City both through the DSSAB and City Hall.  This project was in the concept stage for over a decade and the time had come where it either needed to bring all the partners on board or the opportunity would be lost as the EMS were going to go forward on their own with a new facility.  Fred Gibbons, president of Northern College, had approached me and asked if I could help lobby ministers to move ahead with the project and provide funding.  During the next conference, we used our meetings with some key Ministers to discuss how the project was at a key do-or-die stage, and how the province, including the Finance Minister, had previously spoke highly of the conceptual project.  We asked them to strongly consider finding a way to provide the financial support needed to move the project forward before partners walked away and the opportunity was lost.  Soon after, and with continued lobbying from the college, the project was awarded with $11 Million dollars in upper-level government funding. After a decade of staling and the inability to secure funding and get past a concept, the project was now ready to move forward if the partners were all on board.  Despite some heated discussions and debate, the majority of council recognized the benefit this facility would have to the community and agreed to move forward with a maximum commitment of $2 Million for a new Whitney Volunteer Firehall to be part of the integrated training facility. The new facility will greatly enhance training opportunities, collaboration and be a beautiful addition to the east end of the community.

Issue number 8 is the 2017 budget. Despite still upsetting segments of the population and perhaps some of you in attendance today, the 2017 budget was a significant accomplishment.  Looking at the budget from an expenditure standpoint, the 2017 budget was the second lowest expenditure budget going back over the last 16 years and likely longer (as that is as far as I went back with the finance department).  Only one year (2012) had a lower expenditure increase at 1.37%

Being able to take such a progressive approach for the city, moving key projects forward, while approving the 2nd lowest net expenditure increase in almost 2 decades is impressive in my opinion.  During this process Council was also able to keep the residential tax increase to just 2.14%.  When the budget process started it was very likely we would be facing a double digit increase on the residential side due to significant changes from MPAC on the large industrial assessment that saw decreases ranging from 30 to 50%.  However after many months of negotiations, we were able to come to agreements with our three largest industrial companies for taxation.  Glencore, Tahoe, and Goldcorp all came to the table understanding they too wanted the best for Timmins, and the future of the city their employees call home.  I thank all of them for their role in helping us come to four-year tax agreements.  We were able to work together and achieve an agreement we could all support.  An agreement that avoided a disastrous residential tax hike, and an agreement that avoided industrial tax rates that would put projects like the Ring of Fire or Dome Century into jeopardy of having Timmins even considered as sites for future development.

The ninth item is Stars and Thunder Festival. Where to start.  There has not been another initiative that has caused more scrutiny, created more discussion on social media, positive and negative, resulted in more personal and political disagreements, and yet resulted in more community pride and brought such a profound impact on the community.   Stars and Thunder was no doubt a risky undertaking and I was aware of that when I brought it forward.  But there are a few good sayings in life with regards to risk

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go” T.S. Elliot

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first” Fredrick Wilcox

“You will always miss 100% of the shots you never take” Wayne Gretzky

“Remember even a dead fish can float downstream….it takes a live one to swim upstream” W.C. Fields

Stars and Thunder brought the largest Canada Day gathering in Timmins in modern times. It reunited families with members from all over the world who made a point to come home to Timmins that week.  It brought over 4,200 tourists to Timmins and that number is conservative as it doesn’t include anyone that came from out of town but had family in Timmins buy their tickets.  It helped Science Timmins raise over $200,000, which greatly contributed to the continuation of their programming.   It brought outside community dollars to community businesses.  It brought the largest fireworks shows Timmins has seen, and had many more tourists coming to Timmins to watch from outside the festival grounds.  It brought eight days of free family activities to the community at Gilles Lake.  It brought world-caliber music artists to Timmins.  However more importantly, it accomplished one of the main objectives in the 2020 strategic plan:  It brought community pride to The City with the Heart of Gold.  It was inspiring to see the pride and positivity in the community throughout the week and the months that followed.  The event gave residents, whom may not be able to travel to see such acts in Toronto or other big cities, the chance to take part in the event.  It gave parents the chance to bring kids to a high-caliber music and fireworks event without having to take the week off work, or travel eight hours and spend money on fuel, hotels etc. It gave northern Ontario residents the chance to see fireworks shows they may never have had the chance to see elsewhere.  It put Timmins on the map, as residents from more than 280 communities, 10 provinces and territories, seven states in the USA, and four countries bought tickets.  However, most importantly, it instilled a sense of community pride in Timmins that I have not seen since being involved in politics or residing here.

 

And on to item 10. The last item I wish to discuss has also caused political strain. While this strain is not with residents of Timmins, it has created some tension with our neighboring communities.  I want to talk now about the DSSAB funding formula and changes made to it.

Many times, the discussion has been heated and neighbouring mayors have tried to portray that we are asking them to pay more than their fair share. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the reality is that some mayors along the Highway 11 corridor only want to remain strong regional partners if Timmins is willing to continue to pay over $2 Million more than the services we use. They want the residents of Timmins to continue to be taxed for services provided to Cochrane, Kap or Hearst, while at the same time they discuss passing budgets with 0% increases or having the lowest taxes in the region.

They have advertised on our local media outlets that residents should consider relocating to their communities – while we are at a time when Timmins residents and businesses feel taxed to the limit.

They want to see reductions, and while we continue to look for efficiencies and saving internally, we must also ask the fundamental question of WHY SHOULD BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS OF TIMMINS PAY FOR $2 MILLION OF SERVICES OUTSIDE THE MUNICIPALITY. That is over 3% of your annual municipal tax bill being spent outside of Timmins. Municipal taxation was created to cover municipal services.

 

Ironically, it was one of the largest critics of the new funding formula, who first led me to investigate the fairness of payments at the CDSSAB.

For four years last term I sat on the DSSAB and listened to this member discuss how assessment wasn’t a fair model to split the CDSSAB apportionments. Then early this term in 2015 a DSSAB member asked how closely our apportionments reflect the levels of service in our communities.  To my surprise, this member very quickly answered “I’ve looked into it and it is very close and very fair.”  This was a complete 180 from his approach the previous term and raised some concern to me so I asked CDSSAB staff to provide a breakdown of service levels and municipal payments.

Again, to my surprise, I could see why he had so quickly changed his tune after looking at the numbers – as the City of Timmins was paying more than $2 Million more than services we were using, and his community and others were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars less than their service levels.

So from that point began the almost impossible task of changing the CDSSAB funding formula. You see, in order to change the model you need a double majority approval which means you need a majority of the board to support the change as well as a majority of the 12 communities that are part of the CDSSAB.  Over two years I took several attempts to the board.  The first was a very fair approach of a per capita model.

In fact the entire board supported that this sounded like a fair model and we should look at it. As such, staff put the numbers together. When it was tabled, those communities that would have had to pay more decided fairness to neighbouring communities and working together was not as important as protecting their own contributions and costs (the same thing they attack us for now).  As such they lobbied municipalities to vote against the model and despite passing the board the per capita model was defeated at the municipality-level vote.  I then worked on two other models which were voted down at the board level.  At this time I was feeling like it was not going to change despite how unreasonable and unfair it was to Timmins taxpayers.

However, some small municipalities encouraged me to keep going as they too felt it was unfair and wanted to see change and we tabled the final model. The newest model still sees Timmins overpaying by almost $1 Million in order to help our small community neighbours provide services. This model passed the board with a 10-4 vote.  It also passed the municipality vote and received the double majority approval.  Despite it being portrayed in the media by some mayors that it is Timmins versus everyone else, the reality is this model has been approved by a majority of the municipalities in the CDSSAB district.

The funding model has since been approved and will be implemented in 2018.

However there is still work to be done as the province has asked us to go through mediation and the province is conducting a review of the legislation which may once again change funding formulas.  It is critical for Timmins and other municipalities to participate in this process to advocate we do not return to our previous funding model.  We have lobbied hard for this change, and we have worked with our regional partners. We have changed a model that was unfair to large centers and small centers alike, to one that has medium and large cities pay their own services while helping the smallest towns ensure they have adequate services as well.  A model that the majority of communities have endorsed.

In the last two years not one other community has proposed an alternative funding model or approach to try and help us come to a resolution. What is critical as we go for this review is that we unite and hold our MPP and the provincial government accountable for putting us in the position that has caused so much strain in the region.  No other province in Canada forces municipal taxpayers to pay for EMS services.  Instead of lobbying against us, our MPP should be helping us lobby to have the province change their stance that service provision is off the table, and encouraging them to upload EMS costs back to the province where they belong.

This is an approach that would benefit every single municipality in the CDSSAB district and every municipality in Ontario without negatively impacting any of us. This is an issue that has put Ontario municipalities at a competitive disadvantage with other provinces when comparing municipal tax rates and ability to attract businesses to our communities or allow our seniors to retire affordably.  This is an issue that represents millions of dollars to the City of Timmins and almost 5% of your tax bill.  As we enter mediation, this is the one area we should all be pushing for and would benefit all of us. Some may find it shocking that the CDSSAB funding model is one of the items I am most proud of, given the strain it has created on the region. However, our greatest accomplishments are the ones that are so tough and so hard to achieve that even we ourselves doubt we will get there.  And despite DSSAB staff telling me they expected Timmins to push for this for many years it was never done because either no one did the research to see how unfair the funding scenario had become since it was first implemented, or no one wanted to ruffle any feathers in the region to support our local taxpayers from having to continue drastic and unfair overpayments.

That wraps up some of the issues I feel most proud of over the first three years. There is still work to be done in many areas such as the Living Space – a partnership that will work on alleviating chronic homelessness and providing resources to help the less fortunate get back on their feet.  A project I hope Council supports so we can have a warming shelter in place before the severe weather sets in again. Issues like the work of a new Violence Against Women Advisory Committee which Council has recently approved.  Watching the #metoo movement over the last few days has been both disheartening and inspiring.  Disheartening to see so many lives impacted, but inspiring to see so many willing to discuss it or speak up on a topic that was once taboo.  I am also happy to announce that as a result of discussions with VAW advocates, and the Chief of Police and his staff, Timmins Police Service will also take part in a pilot project modeled after the Philadelphia model with case reviews to be done on sexual assault cases.  This is in the preliminary stages but is a project that I feel passionate about and am looking forward to see it progress.  And yes, work on Stars and Thunder 2 progresses as well, but no we won’t be unveiling the lineup today.

With that, I would like to thank each and every member of City of Timmins team, both the administrative team and the political team, who work so hard in an often thankless environment, for their dedication in future-proofing our business – our home.

And thank you all for the time to showcase some of the wonderful things our teams have accomplished this year.

On a final note I would like to ask Chief Pintar to stand. Chief Pintar, I want to thank you for your years of service to the Timmins Fire Department and to the city as a whole.  You worked each day with a smile on your face, compassion for those around you, and a commitment to doing your best to make Timmins a positive place to live.  You went over and above volunteering to help organize events like Hometown Hockey, Stars and Thunder, as well as coaching minor hockey and many other great community roles.  I know there is still a couple more weeks before you are officially retired but I wanted to let you know today that you will be missed and I am truly grateful for the leadership and dedication you have shown throughout your career.  I would like to ask everyone in the room to give him a round of applause.

 

Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, Meegwetch