Silver Ribbon Gala in support of the Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Committee

It was good to see a strong turnout at last night’s Silver Ribbon Gala. The gala was the first ever fundraising event for the Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Committee. The work of committee members in support of front line staff is important, and in turn it is important for the community to show support for the staff who are offering help and hope to people who need it most.

The gala was also a chance for attendees to wear a silver ribbon in an effort to combat the stigma unfortunately still associated with mental health and addictions, which is something that touches all of us. No matter our job, or social circle, or personal means, we have all dealt with, or we all deal with, mental health and addiction challenges; whether they are our own, or those of people that we love, or people that are in proximity to us on a day-to-day basis, these challenges are present in each of our lives and each of us contends with them to varying degrees.

In this respect, it is critical for our local leaders to send a message to people suffering from and fighting through mental health and addiction challenges. In this blog post, I want to reiterate the message I delivered last night: You are important. You are important to your community. You are important to its future. We acknowledge your challenge. We care about your challenges, and we are working to provide you the support that you deserve.

For my part, I recognize that we certainly have much more work to do. I commit to continue to work with our community partners at the Algoma Leadership Table, Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, Sault Area Hospital, Group Health Centre, Algoma Public Health and the Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Strategy Committee to develop the systems and supports our community needs to more effectively address our challenges.

In closing, I want to recognize and thank all of our front line workers, in particular those who received award last night:

The Extra Mile Award (Kristy Jones from Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services)

Community Advocate (Desiree Beck and George Wright)

Trailblazer Award (Lisa Case)

Humanitarian Award (Erin Thomas – Ontario Works)

The Hidden Gem Award (Kathy Berdux – John Howard Society)

Seeking commitments regarding a successful restructuring of Algoma

There is no overstating the importance to our community of a successful and timely conclusion to Algoma’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act proceeding.

The Government of Ontario has an important role in Algoma’s CCAA proceeding, and with the provincial election campaign underway, I have sent letters to the leaders of the Ontario Green Party, the Ontario Liberal Party, the Ontario New Democratic Party and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party seeking commitments related to Algoma’s CCAA proceeding should the party they lead form government or hold the balance of power in a minority legislature. I have also sent letters to the respective local candidates.

Copies of the letters (Party leaders and Local candidates) are attached, along with a link to the news release.

Ontario utility costs, a comparison

I have been serving on the PUC Boards (PUC Inc., PUC Services and PUC Distribution) and the water commission (PUC) since shortly after I was elected in 2014.  I want to recognize the hard work of rest of the directors who sit on the Boards with me, along the management team and staff at the PUC group of companies.  We have done a lot of good work over the past few years and we have been mindful of and focused on the cost of water and power to our consumers.  We recognize that with the rising cost of electricity, it is becoming more and more difficult to pay your PUC bill.  We have, where we can and with the help of City Council, tried to reduce the burden as best we can.  While we still recognize that it is challenging for many, I think these two graphs highlight our hard work:

Residential 200m3750kwh

In the first graph you will see that our water/waste water costs were the 11th lowest in the province in 2017 (see the first black arrow) of 98 comparators.  The data in the top left corner data box compares our 2017 costs to North Bay, Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay specifically.  You can see the that water/waste water costs are quite a bit lower here than in those communities.

In the second graph you will see our monthly electricity costs compared to the remainder of the local distribution companies (LDCs) in Ontario.  The data we have compares a residential user at 750 kWh per month across the province.  Sault Ste. Marie is the 4th lowest of 81 comparators.

I don’t offer you this information to suggest that your monthly water/waste water and electricity costs are low or affordable.  I appreciate that to and for many they are not.  I offer this information to you so that you can see we are trying our best to make these essential services as affordable as possible and that, comparatively, we are making progress.  We will keep at it.  It is important to me, City Council and the PUC boards that Sault Ste. Marie is an affordable community to live in.

– CP

A Smart Cities strategy focused on Sault Ste. Marie’s youth

The City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Smart Cities challenge application has been submitted and it is focused on youth.

This competition is an exciting opportunity to address some challenging socio-demographic issues. The City believes we are the best suited to develop and implement a smart cities strategy to address them. Sault Ste. Marie has a history of being a maker-community; we are a trailhead community at the heart of the Great Lakes and we have some important community assets that we are ready to build upon.

The challenge calls on communities to identify a challenge and develop a measurable, ambitious, and achievable plan to address it.

Our challenge statement certainly reflects this:  We are going to reverse population decline and youth outmigration by building the Country’s most advanced youth engagement and data analytics platform which will connect our youth to their community and its opportunities and will encourage them to develop the skill sets that are required by the new economy.

As the lead of the City’s Smart Cities taskforce, I am confident we produced a compelling submission. It was informed by the Community Adjustment Committee’s final report and recommendations (which featured community engagement activities involving nearly 5,000 people), feedback from youth forums held by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, feedback from open houses held for the Smart Cities challenge, meetings and conference calls with private sector companies and attendance at the Microsoft Smart Cities event in Toronto.

The next step in the process is the announcement of finalists, which is expected to take place in the summer of 2018. Finalists will receive a $250,000 grant to develop a proposal, which is due in the winter of 2019. If the City is selected to move forward, further engagement with the community is planned for the development of the City’s proposal.

It is clear our City has to focus on, engage with and invest in our youth, and this challenge is an opportunity to work with them and build our community together.

Humboldt Strong

30531156_2011181049131379_8295038065827643392_oI want to take a moment to recognize the incredible kindness and generosity our community has demonstrated all week, but really emphasized at Friday night’s Soo Greyhounds game in response to the Humboldt Bronco tragedy.

City staff and Arthur Funeral Home organized a condolence book that Saultites from across our community have signed and we will be sending that to Humboldt next week.

The Soo Greyhounds organization is donating $20,000.00 to the fundraising effort, and a group of our citizens has organized a #HumboldtStrong t-shirt fundraiser which I think raised approximately $15,000.00 at Friday night’s game. 

It is really touching to see and it makes me proud of our community. I hope many of you feel the same way.

Well done, Sault Ste. Marie.

Addressing Ontario’s immigration imbalance

An important Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) meeting was held in Sault Ste. Marie this week.

NOLUM is calling for remedial action from the Federal and Provincial Governments to address Ontario’s immigration imbalance

Provincial population projections released by the Ontario Ministry of Finance in 2017 indicate Ontario’s population is expected to grow during the period of 2016 to 2041, but Northern Ontario is projected to see an overall decrease from 797,000 to 782,000. In terms of provincial population share, the Northeast is expected to drop from 4.3% to 3% and Northwest from 1.8% to 1.3%.

According to the report, Ontario Population Projections Update, 2016-2041, migration is the most important factor contributing to population growth for Ontario as a whole and the North receives only a small share of international migration. Census results (25% sample data) indicate Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins combined received 2,285 immigrants between 2011 to 2016, while Ontario received 472,170 immigrants during the same period.

Large urban areas currently receive most of the international migration to Ontario, precipitating the need for a policy change. NOLUM recommends the Federal and Provincial Governments partner to implement a similar program to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. The program sees the Federal Government and four Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) help employers in the region hire job candidates who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents by expediting the immigration process. The candidates fill jobs employers have had trouble filling locally.

During the NOLUM meeting on Thursday, I made a presentation about demographic challenges related to age structure, the pace of natural increase and immigration to the North. Northern Ontario faces similar and in some cases even more precarious demographic issues as the Atlantic provinces partnering with the Federal Government for the pilot program. For example, in terms of immigration, census results (25% sample data) indicate the four Atlantic provinces received 12,075 more immigrants between 2011 and 2016 in comparison to the 2006 to 2010 period, while Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins experienced a net increase of 205 immigrants during the same period.

NOLUM members (myself), Mayor Steve Black, Mayor Brian Bigger, Mayor Al McDonald and Mayor Keith Hobbs have committed to seeking the support of their respective City Councils regarding the implementation of a program similar to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

Additionally, as a result of the meeting, NOLUM members highlighted northern priorities ahead of the upcoming provincial election.