Staying focused on Sault Ste. Marie’s future

Keep up with City Council

The withdrawal of NOHFC support for FutureSSM is a disappointing decision from the Provincial government, but it will not keep the project from moving forward and it should not overshadow the great work that is going on.

FutureSSM is a community development project that was developed through extensive consultation with the community.

We have come to accept and recognize that economic growth and development does not happen in isolation, rather it happens when you create a place people want to live in, when opportunity is more fairly shared and accessible and when there are vibrant spaces, places and experiences people can enjoy and share with one another. Simply put, we have to do more than just maintain the community we have, we need to build the community we want to become.

Growth in the film industry

As outlined in reports to City Council at recent meetings, a post-production company (Company Rolling Pictures) has announced plans to open a location in the city that will employ 20 people and filming is currently taking place for the film “Tainted”. FutureSSM is pursuing growth in the film industry through a Film, Television and Digital Media Coordinator. This is a City staff position funded through FutureSSM that is focused on identifying opportunities for productions to come to Sault Ste. Marie and supporting them when they do come here.

Building our local labour force

We need more skilled professionals to fill the job vacancies that exist now and will exist in the near future. The population projections presented to City Council outlined that our community has the job opportunities required to strengthen our economy and grow our population, provided we find the talent to fill the current and projected job opportunities. As recently highlighted in the national media, FutureSSM is working to address our labour force challenges. For example, the Labour Force Development Coordinator has reached out to GM workers in Oshawa, organized a local delegation that will attend two job fairs in the GTA this spring and is working to facilitate training and re-training opportunities locally. The FutureSSM team also helped develop the community’s application to the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

Quality of life investments

If we want to ensure our youth see a future for themselves here and if we want to attract more people to our community, we need to make quality of life investments in our community. The recently approved municipal budget includes several of these investments such as financial support for the Clergue Park Skating Trail, an extension of the Hub Trail, dock replacements for the Bondar Marina and improved public transportation. Through FutureSSM, we are focused making more of these investments by improving our downtown through a wayfinding strategy, a community art project, interactive equipment in the waterfront area and the potential creation of a multi-use, four season event space that would be central to the downtown business area.

FutureSSM is a great project that is already producing positive results. With support from the City and FedNor, the Provincial government’s decision will not deter or frustrate our efforts to continue to find alignment in our community, develop ambitious projects and collectively work for the betterment of Sault Ste. Marie

Recognizing our fantastic Special Olympians and the people who support them

Sault Ste. Marie has a long history with the Special Olympics and our community is very proud of the many Saultites who have been involved over the years – whether as athletes, coaches, organizers or supporters.

With the 2019 Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games kicking off tonight, I want to send a message to all of the people involved with the games.

To all of the athletes: I wish you the very best. It takes an incredible amount of training to get ready to compete in the games. Your participation is a testament to your hard work and your positive attitudes.

To all of the supporters, organizers and coaches: thank you for helping the games and the athletes. Your guidance, assistance and support has made and will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of the athletes.

It takes an incredible amount of work to organize an event of this magnitude, and I understand that about 600 volunteers have signed up to help out; which is really a great example of the caring community we have here in Sault Ste. Marie. It is always heartening to see Saultites come together to offer help when it is needed, time-after-time.

The local media have been profiling some of the local athletes, volunteers and supporters, and included below are links to these stories. If we missed any links, comment on social media and they will be added.

Special Olympics Profile Section: http://postmediakiosk.milibris.com/reader/79417f8e-b525-48dc-9823-e63cec75e098?origin=/catalog/special-olympics/special-olympics/2019-01-24

Kristen Bonenfant: https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/local-special-olympian-has-too-many-awards-to-display-1144773

Miguel Bedard: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/meet-miguel-hes-looking-forward-to-world-class-snowshoeing-1113948

Carter Simpson: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/carter-loves-skiing-and-elvis-1140990

Brandon Fortin: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/busy-brandon-battles-back-after-surgery-looks-forward-to-athletic-competition-1122901

Shevy and Nathan Harman: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/the-harman-boys-are-ready-to-curl-1166743

Quinn Pleau MacWilliam: https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/the-games-will-be-amazing-quinn-says-1197830

Rob Lewis: https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/rob-skis-35-kilometres-a-day-all-set-for-olympics-1194309

Jason Lemcke: https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/jason-likes-getting-his-arms-and-legs-moving-ready-to-compete-1177878

Vince Coccimiglio: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/vince-cant-wait-to-show-off-curling-skills-in-february-1161713

Josh Chartrand: https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/josh-and-the-team-ready-to-throw-rocks-1174518

Special Olympics – Meet the Athletes (Curling): https://saultonline.com/2019/01/special-olympics-meet-the-athletes-curling/

Special Olympics – Meet the Athletes (Snowshoeing): https://saultonline.com/2019/01/special-olympics-meet-the-athletes-snowshoeing/

Kids help Special Olympians achieve their dreams: https://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/kids-help-special-olympians-achieve-their-dreams-1.4207744

Volunteers travel from Switzerland to volunteer with the
Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games: https://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/video?playlistId=1.4277287

Rejuvenating our downtown

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City Council approved six Financial Incentive Grant applications at Monday’s meeting that will help move forward positive changes in the downtown area.

The funding is made available through the City’s Community Improvement Plan approved by Council in May 2017. The plan allow for five classes of building improvement grants for smaller businesses and commercial buildings, and tax rebates for major new development in the downtown area.

The classes are as follows:

Tax Increment Equivalent Grant – financial incentive program that provides the opportunity to redevelop buildings or lands)

Façade Improvement Grant – incentivizes property and business owners to address external design projects, which are often not prioritized

Building Activation Grant for Vacant Spaces – provides developers and property owners with financial support to convert and/or rehabilitate vacant commercial properties into viable commercial uses

Upper Floor Residential Conversion Grant – assists property owners with the cost of improvements related to the conversion of vacant, upper-floor commercial space to residential dwelling units

Patio Conversion Grant – encourages businesses to capitalize on underutilized privately owned space by establishing permanent patio infrastructure

As the staff report to Council explains (pages 71-77), grant programs are a proven tool in attracting private sector investment into the downtown area and the applications approved by Council represent $500,000 in new investment.

The City is committed to rejuvenating our downtown area, and the results of this commitment are starting to become easier to see for the community at large; from the new patios constructed at several businesses this past summer to beautification efforts featuring new sidewalks, landscaping and street furniture. These type of quality of life investments from the City play a part in ensuring our youth, young professionals and tradespeople see a life for themselves here.

Building off of this and with the support of the Downtown Association, a cluster of fresh and exciting businesses has brought new dining and shopping options to satisfy a variety of different tastes, and from our Community Tree Lighting Ceremony, to Moonlight Magic and the summer/fall Downtown Street Parties, there is plenty of activity in the downtown area year-round.

Pursuing growth in the film and TV industry

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City Council received an update at Monday evening’s meeting about FutureSSM, and in particular there is an important element of the report focused on the film and television industry that is reflective of the opportunities the City is hoping to address through FutureSSM.

This past summer filming for the movie, Hammer, took place in our community. Over a two-week period, activity related to the filming generated the following:

  • $1,000,000 in direct and indirect spending in Sault Ste. Marie
  • 29 Full-Time Equivalent and 20 Part Time Equivalent jobs to locals
  • Three job training opportunities to Sault College Digital Film Production students and one job training opportunity in partnership with Employment Solutions
  • 450 hotel nights were booked between August 6 to September 26.

The benefits associated with the film and television industry are significant and through FutureSSM the City is working to further development of our community as a destination for film and television production. In a recent story broadcast on Shaw Television, one of the Hammer producers discussed the attributes that made Sault Ste. Marie the ideal location for filming of the movie.

From experienced and knowledgeable crew members, to infrastructure and environmental related resources, the Sault possess many assets related to this industry, but yet we have been lagging behind Sudbury (hosted 38 film, television and web series productions, with a direct spend of almost $40 million in 2016/17) and North Bay (hosted 21 film and television productions, with a direct spend of $32 million in 2016/17).

With the significant potential for growth in this sector, FutureSSM is focused on attracting more productions by working with producers and industry experts to identify opportunities, along with supporting productions by streamlining municipal processes and acting as a ‘one stop shop’for all production needs.

Jennifer Mathewson, FutureSSM’s Film, Television and Digital Media Coordinator, is leading these efforts. To give you an example, during the filming of Hammer she served as the liaison for all City services and assisted in the following ways:

  • Coordinated internal City department notifications of permits and filming, including road closures and filming on municipal property
  • Participated in locating scouting
  • Assisted in connecting producers with local labour force

The film and television industry represents just one of the opportunities the City is working to address with our community development efforts. Through FutureSSM, we have in place a team of dedicated professionals working hard every day to help build a stronger, more resilient community.  

City coat of arms colour

November 30, 2018

An open letter to Sault Ste. Marie

The conclusion of Algoma’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act proceeding is good news for the company and our community.  We have been involved in this process for 3 years and it has been challenging.  It has been challenging for the employees and pensioners, the contractors and suppliers, and the community – at – large.  Many of us are, in one way or another, connected to Algoma and many of our household incomes are either directly or indirectly dependent on its continued operation.

The end of this process brings with it some stability, consumer and community confidence and, with a big impending capital investment, a boost to our local economy.  That is all good news and we should take a moment to recognize and appreciate that we came together as a community, met this challenge and overcame it.  However, we have to make sure we do not take more than a moment or assume that the end of this process represents the end of our challenge.  It is not.  There is much more work to do to make sure the stability that comes with today’s announcement isn’t temporary.

Our community has talked about economic growth and diversity for decades but we have not made any real or substantial progress in actually realizing it.  Over the past Council term, we did two things that are necessary to moving forward: we completed a very thorough assessment of our communities’ challenges and we developed a community – based plan to begin to address them.  You can read about both at www.futuressm.com.  The City, for its part, made structural adjustments to its own organization and the way it approaches economic development to align with the broader community plan.

We have a team of dedicated people focused on and working on our community’s future and many community leaders, from post-secondary institutions to Sault Area Hospital to the school boards to our social service agencies, are collaborating and working together to maximize our opportunity for success. However, to truly be successful, we need you.  We need you, as citizens who care about our community and who are invested in its future, to help us drive it forward.

Speaking broadly, we need to do a number of things to become a more vibrant and resilient community.  We have to ensure that we are an inclusive community that welcomes immigrants and migrants, that makes investments in quality of life infrastructure and that supports those of its members who need help and assistance.  We have to be mindful of the fact that our labour force and economy will not improve, and grow, unless we invest in our youth and build a community that gives them social and cultural stimulation.  We have to continue to work on and develop our First Nation relationships and work with our First Nation neighbours and community members as respected partners.

Simply put, we cannot be complacent and we cannot depend on Algoma’s operation as singularly as we have historically.  We need to challenge ourselves and each other to build our community together, a community that is proudly home to a Canadian steel maker as one of its many defining attributes.

There is much hard work to do in this respect but I am confident that we have the capacity to do that hard work so long as we remain positive, work together and keep looking forward.

Sincerely,

CP Signature

Christian C. Provenzano, B.A., LL.B., LL.M

Sault Ste. Marie Budget 2019: have your say

With the public feedback window for the City’s 2019 budget now open, I want to encourage residents to submit feedback.

This chart includes the numbers behind the property tax increases over the last four budgets:Tax chartThe first column (City) represents the City’s budget and any increase related to it.

The second column (External) is the operational funding the City is obligated to provide to external boards and agencies. Some examples include the Police Service Board, the Library Board and Algoma Public Health.

The third column (Surplus/Reserve) occurs when surplus funds are used for operations or a tax increase is deferred in a previous year.

An additional outside factor that plays a significant part of the budgetary process is the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) grant, which is annually provided by the Provincial Government. The City’s share for the past year was $15,455,200. The year-to-year fluctuation of this grant is out of the City’s control, but dealing with the fallout remains our responsibility. For example, if the City’s OMPF grant is reduced by $1 million for the coming year, this is $1 million we need to account for.

So, taking into consideration the factors that are outside of Council’s budgeting (like the OMPF grant and board/agency funding) I want to get to the most significant impact Council has on the budgetary process: City spending.

City spending is an issue the past term of Council worked hard to address. For example, of the course of the past four-year term, the City’s budgeted expenditures declined by $2 million. To give you an example of some of the measures that led to the decline, this includes: freezing the honorariums of Mayor and City Council, freezing the salary of non-union employees and the implementation of a vacancy management plan and a job-gapping policy to reduce labour costs.

Public spending of your tax dollars needs to be reflective of the economic reality facing tax payers. However, there is a balance we need to maintain. There are services our City provides; from snow removal, to garbage collection, to the maintenance of local roads and public transportation. We want to ensure we are providing an appropriate level of service to residents, while keeping taxation manageable. For a lot of people, any tax increase is difficult to deal with, and this is something I appreciate and understand.

As a means to ensure a responsible balance between taxation and services, Council analyzes the preliminary budget, discusses areas of concern and identifies opportunities to save money. I feel Council is now able to perform this task more effectively because of important budgetary changes made during the past term. We have changed the start of the City’s budgetary process from the first quarter (spring) to the fourth (fall); with this schedule adjusted in an election year to allow the newly elected Council to make budgetary decisions. The primary goal of this change was to finalize the budget before the start of the first quarter, which allows Council to have more of an impact because we aren’t attempting to make changes on the fly with the first quarter already well underway.

I hope the aforementioned information helps further residents’ understanding of the City’s budget and assists with providing feedback for the upcoming budget. On that note, I want to highlight the options to submit feedback.

There will be an open house budget session on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at the Civic Centre. Staff will be available to discuss and answer questions on a one-on-one basis.

Through email (budgetinput@cityssm.on.ca) and on social media (@CitySSM #saultbudget) people can provide feedback. Additionally, the City’s online budget input tool enables taxpayers to indicate the areas where they would like to see tax dollars utilized and provide feedback. It is displayed below.input

With the way people communicate changing and less-and-less people attending open houses, this past term of Council made considerable efforts to shift to a more digitally focused approach. The budget input tool is a product of this approach, and the work of the Finance Committee. It allows people to distribute their property taxes to different departments/services as they see fit, and it shows users the impact on the potential taxes they would pay as a result. It is a great way for the City to not only obtain feedback, but to further residents understanding of how our budgetary process works.

The importance of remembering

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November 11th is about remembrance, and the act of remembering, and the importance of memory. On November 11th, we remember the men and women from our community, our region and our country who have served our nation in times of peace, and in times of war, and we also recognize the loved ones of those who have served or are serving.

Reflection is a significant and important aspect of Remembrance Day, and this year marks an important milestone to reflect upon. 100 years ago on this day at 11 am the guns fell silent in recognition of the signing of the armistice that would lead to the end of World War I. It marked a victory for the allies, and a defeat for the Germans. It was a result achieved through the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers, who had an outsized impact on the Great War.

For a nation of eight million people Canada’s war effort was remarkable. Over 650,000 Canadian men and women served in uniform, with over 172,000 wounded and more than 66,000 lives lost. Nearly one of every ten Canadians who fought in the war did not return.

As the great conflicts of the past recede into history, the importance of memory becomes all the more important. With each passing year, there are fewer veterans left from whom we can draw on first-hand for recollections of past wars and their horrors.

I want to encourage all members of our community to ensure these memories are not forgotten. It is up to us to carry forward the past, its stories and its lessons. It is up to us to preserve these memories.

Let us reflect, and choose to renew our commitments—as individuals, as a community, and as a society. Let us commit again to ending war and to seeing peace on earth for all its peoples. Let us commit again to using the freedoms and privileges afforded to us as Canadians to help build a better world. Let us commit again to keeping this day—Remembrance Day—a sacred one, and in doing so, let this be our pledge: we will remember.

-CP