The importance of remembering

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.

Showing solidarity in the face of hate

I had the opportunity to attend a vigil at Beth Jacob Synagogue on Thursday evening in honour of the victims of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was a moving experience and I was touched by the show of solidarity demonstrated by our community.

In particular, I want to recognize and thank the members of our local Jewish community. The leadership they showed in organizing the vigil is incredibly important. In the wake of hateful crimes such as the shooting in Pittsburgh, people need to come together in solidary against the forces of hatred. In that spirit, I want to re-iterate what I mentioned in my comments.My Post (4)In her comments, Beth Jacob Synagogue President Ginny Cymbalist spoke about togetherness and she summed it up well in saying, “In Judaism, no one mourns alone.”

In the spirit of her comments, no one in Sault Ste. Marie mourns alone.  Our community remains united.

Honouring our veterans

41450083_2131032263812923_3532185678370570240_oIt has been a busy week so far and several of the events I have been involved in were related to a similar theme, our veterans, and I wanted to draw attention to this as a means of showing support and appreciation for some great organizations in our community doing important work for our veterans.

On Monday, I attended a kick-off event for Veteran Families Week in our community at Superior Nissan. Thanks to the leadership of people like Greg Lefave and Frank Iezzi, along with support from the Algoma Veterans Association and the Veteran Family Program and business such as Superior Nissan, Algoma Water Tower Inn, Beyoutiful Esthetics and Lavish Salon, there are a variety of activities going on this week. I encourage people to visit for a full schedule of events.

On Tuesday, I attended a street renaming ceremony for a portion of the roadway between Pine Street and Upton Road. As a tribute to the 49th Field Regiment, the area where the Armoury is located is now known as “Garrison Way”. I understand that Garrison, in the military context, is used to acknowledge a group of units that have come together. It is a fitting name for the street where our Armoury is located because the people who come together there come together to advance security at home and abroad; they come together to demonstrate pride for our community and country; they come together to support our citizens through programming and activities.

Thanks to the efforts of Lieutenant Colonel Lance Knox and the assistance of Councillors Susan Myers and Sandra Hollingsworth, the renaming request was unanimously approved City Council earlier this year. I want to recognize City staff as well, who worked diligently to facilitate the renaming.

The renaming ceremony provided me with the opportunity to serve as the reviewing officer inspecting the troops. I have enjoyed developing a close relationship with the 49th Field Regiment and 33 Service Battalion during my mayoralty and I was honoured to receive a commanding officer’s coin on Tuesday as a recognition of the City’s efforts to support and promote the Regiment and Battalion

On Wednesday, I attended a renaming ceremony for the GFL Memorial Gardens. It is fantastic to see the “Memorial Gardens” name return to our community. The original arena was built as a memorial and it is important to continue the legacy of paying tribute to our veterans. It would not have happened without a great community partner in GFL Environmental, who recognized the importance of the name, and the support of City Council, who directed staff to include the Memorial Gardens name in the RFP.

There is no overstating the importance of veterans to our community, and it is important for our community to demonstrate this support. We have fantastic organizations such as the 49th Field Regiment, 33 Service Battalion, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 and the Algoma Veterans Association, and I encourage to people these organizations and their members.

Growing our community

A recent article in the Sault Star highlighted a key point that was discussed during a local roundtable meeting held by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen with industry representatives, union officials, post-secondary staff, service providers and sector experts landed on a key issue: the need for more immigration to Sault Ste. Marie as a means to address our community’s shortage of skilled workers, the effects of which are being felt locally.

It is an issue I spoke about with Minister Hussen and it is an issue the Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors feel can be helped by a policy change. As outlined in a letter to Minister Hussen, the NOLUM feels Northern Ontario is a fit for a program similar 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.

The Sault’s largest employer, Algoma, provides an example of the local need for immigration. The steelmaker has about 700 workers eligible for retirement and there is a shortage of skilled workers ready to fill these positions. Part of the issue is a lack of younger people obtaining an education related to the skilled trades, and this is certainly something that can be addressed through community development (and our community development roundtable’s sub-group focused on education), but in the near-term expedited immigration to our community would help local employers like Algoma fill positions and it would benefit the community as a whole.

Another great example of the need for labour in our community is JD Aero. JD Aero is a dynamic and growing company that employs approximately 150 people and operates from hangars on the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation property. JD Aero does aircraft maintenance for a number of different companies and airlines. I met with its executive this month and they were clear: there is more business to be had and if they could find the people, they can employ those people and grow their business. As a company, they were supportive of the NOLUM request for an immigration pilot in Northern Ontario. I committed to work with JD Aero to support their business and we will do so.

Newcomers moving to Sault Ste. Marie for well-playing, middle class jobs will provide a boost to our local economy. These people will buy homes, vehicles and recreational options, resulting in an increased consumer confidence that can lead to new businesses starting and existing businesses expanding.

Aside from a need for immigration, Sault Ste. Marie possess the capacity needed to help newcomers adjust to life in our community. We have fantastic organizations such as the Local Immigration Partnership, Sault Community Career Centre, Refugee 705 and Global Friends.

While remedial efforts to address the province’s immigration imbalance would provide much needed assistance, there are steps the City can take. For example, the development of a community brand can help attract people to our area. Sault Ste. Marie offers numerous quality of life benefits in community with modern amenities. Our location is a defining strength. We are a stone’s throw from Canada’s largest trading partner, a short flight to Toronto, at the heart of the greatest fresh water resource in the world, surrounded by natural power generation, and in the midst of some of the best mountain biking, skiing, hiking, sailing, camping, and cottage country in North America. Unlike many major urban centres, buying a home in Sault Ste. Marie is a reasonable prospect. Telling this story through the development of a community brand and advertising campaigns will help attract people to our community, and we are working on a community branding project that will come before City Council this fall or early winter.

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall and sharing the truth of the residential school system

I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of a residential school exhibition, called Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall, at Algoma University last week. It is a survivor-driven exhibition, and I want to recognize and thank the survivors who contributed to it, along with Algoma University and in particular the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre for helping facilitate the establishment of this important addition to our community.

For far too long we did not as a country, a province or a city, acknowledge, tell or share the story of the residential school system. I did not learn of the residential school system as a child in elementary school, a teen in high school or a university student who completed two degrees at two different institutions in two different parts of our country. I was not told the story of how children were often taken from their parents, how parents and grandparents would resist, how siblings were separated, how the children were unwillingly divorced from their language, their culture, their history, how they were told what they knew and loved and believed in was wrong and how children were mistreated. It affected tens of thousands of children and tens of thousands of families; and the social and cultural consequences are still very much a part of today. This is the truth and it is a truth we must acknowledge. Most importantly, it is a truth we must share.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work, final report and calls to action show us a path forward, but I suggest that it is critical we keep one simple idea constantly in mind: Truth comes before Reconciliation. Truth comes first.

I strongly believe, and have said for years, that Sault Ste. Marie has all of the elements to lead. We have tremendous First Nation and Métis leadership, we live in an important place, Bawating: the heart of Turtle Island, and we are home to a residential school which is now a place of higher learning.

The establishment of a permanent Survivor-driven exhibition in a former residential school demonstrates this leadership and represents an important step for Algoma University and for our community. I commend the leadership and staff at the university for making this project a reality, and I encourage people to visit it. It is open to the public and guided tours are available. To book a tour, you can email or call 705-949-2301, Ext. 4623.

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall will advance our community’s efforts to share the truth of the residential school system. It will help ensure our community at large learns about what happened and it will help ensure the experiences of survivors are never forgotten.

Recognizing our fantastic local volunteers

I was asked to say a few words last week at ARCH’s annual butterfly release last week and I spoke about how, as Mayor, I am included in or invited to events across the community and I am always impressed by the care and kindness people in our community show for one another. I was in two parades this past weekend and I found myself reflecting on those comments during both and I want to thank and recognize all of the community leaders and citizens who made both events happen.

The first was our annual Rotaryfest parade on Saturday. What the Rotarians do for our community is nothing short of tremendous and to think that Rotaryfest is largely volunteer driven is incredible. It is a great weekend every year and it would not happen without the exceptional commitment and community service of our Rotarians.  If you have the time, you should check out the exhibit at the Museum celebrating Rotary’s 100-year anniversary in our community. And if you see a Rotarian, thank them. Thank them for their time and their effort and the care they show for our community. It is, really, remarkable.

The second happened on Sunday morning. We raised the Pride flag in front of City Hall and then walked as a group over to the Bushplane to start the Pride celebrations. Pride has really grown in our community and I think Sunday was the biggest group we have had for a Pride flag raising. It was great to see people from across our community celebrating Pride and really nice to see representation from our elected officials, Canada Border Services, the RCMP, the OPP and Sault Ste. Marie Police Services, including Chief Stevenson.

It is important to recognize that these events would not have happened but for the engaged people in our community that make them happen. Volunteerism and participation are essential to an active and vibrant community. We are fortunate to have so many people who care enough about each other, and our community at large, to make these events happen. They make this a better place to live and I thankful for their efforts.

A city-wide Smart Grid for Sault Ste. Marie

City Council has unanimously supported the Sault Ste. Marie Smart Grid proposal approved by the Board of Directors of PUC Inc. This was an important step for a project that will help our community upgrade its electrical infrastructure, be more innovative and encourage economic growth and diversity.

I wanted to use a blog post to break down the project for those who may have missed Monday night’s meeting.

The Smart Grid concept has been discussed both by Council and the PUC for a number of years. As a PUC board member since 2015, I can confirm that the time and effort it took us to get to this point was important. It is time and effort that was required to ensure the appropriate due diligence was completed and the entire project thoroughly assessed.  This is a big infrastructure spend and we needed to spend the time and make the effort to ensure it was a sound and beneficial project. We have done that.

The project will result in a grid that is ready to meet new and growing demands for reliable and improved power quality. Recent media articles offer a summary of how a Smart Grid functions. To provide you with an example: the smart grid optimizes voltage for the purpose of minimizing the customer’s energy consumption; leading to lower bills. In addition to the improved efficiency the self-healing feature of the smart grid will see a reduction in the frequency and duration of power outages. Other benefits also include; a reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions, enhanced cyber-security, and economic growth.

As a result of receiving Council’s approval, the PUC will move forward with this project and efforts to secure funding from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. The PUC and the board are looking for a commitment of around $14 million in federal and provincial support for the construction of the Smart Grid. The project will not move ahead if we do not receive the necessary funding because if we do not receive the funding, the cost of the project will exceed the efficiencies in the project. Therefore, project would not be bill neutral. It was critical to both the PUC board of directors and city council that the project is bill neutral.

As this project moves forward, there is also a plan to construct a Centre of Energy Excellence for Northern Environments (CENEX) in our downtown. Infrastructure Energy (IE), the company the PUC is working with on this project, intends to establish a corporate presence in Sault Ste. Marie, and the plan is for CENEX to be that presence for IE and other partner companies.

A city-wide Smart Grid would provide electricity cost benefits to residents and business, job creation for our local economy, benefits to the environment (reduction in carbon dioxide emissions) and growth in our downtown core. This project is a great project for Sault Ste. Marie, and I was proud to cast the shareholder’s vote on behalf of council. I want to recognize my fellow PUC board members, the PUC management and staff and reiterate my commitment to helping move this project forward.