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 colourNovember 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.

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 www.veteranfamilyprogram.ca 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.