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City Government

Mayor Delivers 2009 State of the City Address

December 14, 2009 - Each year, Mayor Peterson reports on the State of the City to Council and all interested citizens. The following 2009 State of the City was delivered this evening at City Hall.

2009 State of the City Address
Mayor Lynn Peterson

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, honoured colleagues. Thank you for the opportunity to share my 6th Annual State of the City Address.

I’m sure that you’ll all agree with me that Thunder Bay is a welcoming place to call home. As northerners we have seen a great deal of what our distinct part of the world can do for the human spirit, what good things can happen when every citizen gets involved in the shared vision of nurturing an outstanding City. This is never truer than during the tough times many of our citizens continue to face, particularly our displaced workers from the natural resource sector. When we work together, time and time again, we achieve tremendous accomplishments to make our quality of life better. It’s very exciting to be able to say that there is so much going on in Thunder Bay that it’s impossible to cover everything.

Through the efforts of many, we are in a state of renewal from one end of our community to the other. We are witnessing transformation within our natural resource based sectors. Confederation College, Lakehead University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine are continuing an approach to education which prepares students for successful careers as well as helps them develop the skills and awareness to be engaged citizens. We’re seeing our growing knowledge-based economy provide good jobs and academic opportunities in Canada’s newest molecular imaging and advanced diagnostics research institute, the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. A successful campaign secured the largest light rail vehicle contract in Canada for Bombardier. Our City Council, Senior Management Team, staff, community partners and citizens are part of the collaborative team of visionaries and action takers. I am so thrilled to be a part of this marvelous and well-deserved momentum.

Our award-winning city is recognized for many innovations that demonstrate creativity in balancing our community’s social, economic, environmental and cultural needs. Infrastructure development, careful financial management, environmental stewardship, traffic control, public safety, parks, recreation, planning and more are all part of the big picture. With the progress of Prince Arthur’s Landing, the growth of a research enterprise and the development of new perspectives, this is an exciting time for the renewal and evolution of our City.

The City’s commitment to its citizens is strengthened by the corporate-wide 2007-2010 Strategic Plan that consolidates our efforts through four priority areas: Economy, Environment, Lifestyle and Governance. The goals of the Strategic Plan are succinct and achievable - we’ve been working collaboratively and consistently to demonstrate that life and business really are better in Thunder Bay.

The City is building a stronger and more diversified economy. We are fostering a managed growth of our urban community with a strong focus towards retaining and attracting residents and visitors to Thunder Bay.

By investing in economic development through core funding to the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, we are realizing a powerful, viable local economy. The CEDC is working in confidence with many companies and organizations across a variety of sectors to meet the objectives of its Strategic Action Plan. To use just one example, since CEDC’s 2007 partnership with Superior Propane, new employment opportunities have been created in the emerging information, communications and technology sector. The company has over 100 employees and is planning to establish a centre to offer training opportunities for the local workforce.

In 2009, the fourth of five installments on a $5 million commitment was provided to the Research Institute to leverage $50 million in funding support from regional, provincial, federal government and industry partners. With 50 professional jobs created, the Institute is on target for creating 200 direct and 400 to 500 indirect jobs by 2013. It’s thrilling to witness a growing passion for patient-centred research as our healthcare and academic sectors, and the community of Thunder Bay, see the great promise and potential of this compelling research enterprise. We are building a powerful cluster that will expedite innovation in patient care in Thunder Bay and, eventually, internationally.

In October 2009, Tornado Medical Systems chose Thunder Bay as the new location for its headquarters. This was because of the facilities and vision of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, their recruitment of highly respected scientists, our manufacturing capacity, and the high level of community support for innovation and promising new ventures. Together, they provide an innovative model: research that can be tested at the bedside, resulting in new products to take to market. Tornado will attract local employment within a variety of sectors and create more than 200 jobs by the end of 2013.

We have the boreal forest and it’s a blessing – it has given us our traditional strengths and, on the horizon, new opportunities and products. Lumber, pulp and paper and Kraft paper are only the tip of the iceberg. Companies are looking toward value-added products such as engineered wood, specialty papers, and pre-fabricated buildings and components. Our forests also offer significant opportunities for specialized products derived from non-timber forest resources and producers will benefit from the advantages of locating in our region.

Ontario’s bio-economy is taking root – right here in Thunder Bay. The Province of Ontario has invested $25 million in the new Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy. We are also home to Lakehead University’s Biorefining Research Initiative. Together, they will attract world-class researchers and industry leaders to develop the next generation of renewable forestry bio-products. These new products will actually expand our forest industry.
That may not sound encouraging to our currently displaced forestry workers. But, whatever the end product – lumber, biofuel, or something new we don’t even know about now – it will still require careful management of the forest, harvesting, hauling and all the many supportive spinoff jobs.

Forestry in Thunder Bay and Northern Ontario has an extraordinary future - we just have to get from here to there…and we will.

Our Citizen Survey, conducted every two years, gathers citizen’s views on services and issues. This September we found out that residents expressed a high satisfaction with municipal services and that they felt they were getting good value for their tax dollars. The top concern of residents - jobs and economy - aligns with Council’s decision to invest in diversifying the economy as the number one strategic priority. We’re pleased that our citizens are taking time to be engaged members of our community and helping us track priority areas as well as areas to maintain or enhance.  We heard the message loud and clear: roads, roads, roads.

Cracks and potholes are a fact of life in Northern Ontario where extreme weather breeds ideal conditions for road damage. The budget has increased from $7 million in 2006 to $10 million in 2010. We’re catching up but, unfortunately, we’re not going to catch up overnight even as municipal crews work throughout the year to make our roads better.

The province has selected the Fort William Neighbourhood as the home to the new consolidated courthouse. Construction will begin in the fall of 2010. The location is crucial to advance the development strategies designed to grow the City and its economy. As well, the District Social Services Administration Board will be moving into a new building beside the Brodie Street Library and City Hall.

A focus on increased brand equity and enhanced travel media marketing is demonstrating to our citizens and to the rest of the world that Thunder Bay is the place to visit. Tourism generates over $183 million a year and we want to make sure that people from around the world discover that we are a place to spark imaginations and deliver distinctive experiences. But then, our over 650,000 visitors a year already know that.

The City is committed to lead and inspire actions to conserve, protect and enhance the community for present and future generations. We are determined to be a cleaner, greener, more beautiful and proud Thunder Bay.

The EarthWise Community Environmental Action Plan is the City’s first integrated community sustainability plan and builds on existing foundations and initiatives of the City as well as those of local groups and individuals. Presently, Thunder Bay is one of only 10 communities in Ontario to have achieved the 3rd milestone in a five-milestone process focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the development of this plan, which was a three-year undertaking by some 400 people. I encourage you to read this document and find out how every one of our citizens and businesses can be active participants in environmental stewardship.

We all have a role to play to make Thunder Bay more sustainable through the 6 Rs.  Everyone knows the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle. There are three other Rs that can make an even bigger difference – Rethink your behaviour. Avoid disposable products in the first place and use local products whenever possible. Refuse unnecessary packaging. Repair items instead of replacing them. You will reduce the amount of waste your home puts on the curb and contribute to a cleaner, greener Thunder Bay. 

The City of Thunder Bay is committed to reducing energy use. A focus on energy management, capital investment and conservation initiatives in City facilities and fleet are a priority. Thunder Bay is the first municipality in Northern Ontario to use more energy efficient lights on streets, in parking lots and in City facilities. The Municipal Green Fleet Plan is focused on reducing greenhouse gases produced by the City’s fleet. And this past year we added highly successful bike racks to all of our buses with over 7000 uses.

This fall we opened the new state-of-the-art Solid Waste & Recycling Facility that is designed to optimize the management of solid waste and emphasize waste diversion and recycling. Visit this new site and you will find out why it’s worth $11 million. You’re sure to be impressed by the customer-friendly facility built with an energy-saving solar wall. The City is also working with Thunder Bay Hydro to build a power generating station and heat recovery system that uses methane gas produced from decaying organic materials as fuel.

Even before Council approved work on an Urban Forest Master Plan we started planting more trees and preserving mature trees to enhance community stewardship, beautify our neighbourhoods and promote the value of urban trees. Today, we have 20,000 street trees – and more to come. We will keep improving our public space and add more colour to Thunder Bay.

Public art has the power to transform the places where we live, work and play into richer environments that invite interaction. We haven’t had new public art for some time. Our fabulous Skateboard/BMX Park at Prince Arthur’s Landing is now home to two new sculptural pieces. And a nine-metre bronze relief sculpture now graces the north face of City Hall adding to the vitality of the new civic space that was part of the recent improvements to the functionality of the building. Please come and visit our City Hall and see how it showcases the strength of our community. We now have a revitalized place for every one of our citizens.
We are designing and creating four gateways to welcome people to our city. Of course, the Sleeping Giant will be in every single one of them and they’ll all be beautiful. And why not, our 50 million ton City mascot is a marvelous and dramatic landmark and we all know it.

A high quality of life depends on a vibrant, inclusive, healthy and safe community with a broad range of recreational, cultural, fitness and sports opportunities. It also requires access to affordable and barrier-free facilities and programs as well as community-based social and health promotion services. These are the very things that we can achieve together to make Thunder Bay a great place to live, to raise a family, to work, to play and to enjoy a quality of life second to none.

Thunder Bay ranks 2nd for affordable housing among 227 markets around the world and is recognized as an affordable housing market.

As our citizens are seeing and experiencing, we’ve moved forward with the public elements of our gathering place for the community, Prince Arthur’s Landing. With a $109 million investment, we have the foundation for a spectacular public space and a catalyst for revitalization that incorporates recreational, historical cultural, commercial and residential uses that contribute to a healthy urban area. Our Master Plan and Urban Design Guidelines, which guide our actions, are the result of an extensive public engagement process that is creating a space where people want to be. It’s been thrilling to see our young people enjoying the Skateboard/BMX Plaza and watching our improved opportunities for recreation come to fruition. Here we have a place which is the first part of a 52-kilometre vision. One day, our waterfront will be connected from Current River to Chippewa Park. That’s the dream! That’s the vision! So, keep informed about this remarkable development - there’s no shortage of ways to find out what’s going on - check out the Master Plan on the City’s website, check out the Waterfront Development Facebook group, or visit City Hall.

Work is also underway to develop a new Westfort branch library to replace Mary J. L. Black Library. The new facility will be built for 2011 and will be fully accessible.

Eliminating barriers and making sure that every individual regardless of age and ability can get around the community has been part of the City’s practices for many years. Through our ongoing capital program, when we build or rebuild a street, we make sure that it’s accessible from the ground up. We are encouraging the businesses in our community to get on side and see how they can grow and thrive through inclusion.

Earlier this month, the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors Services took another step closer to reality with two groundbreakings – one for a new long-term care facility and another for new affordable housing for seniors living on low income. Thunder Bay will soon be home to an innovative new centre that addresses the full continuum of services and health care for seniors. This is a model that should exist everywhere quite frankly.
Safe neighbourhoods are key to attracting and retaining people. Our Police work hard and we have many programs, services, initiatives and investments that contribute toward public safety. After the economy and jobs, social issues – such as poverty, homelessness, drugs, crime and safety – are a top concern for the residents of Thunder Bay. We are developing a Council to engage the community in crime prevention and the broader social issues that contribute to crime and disorder. The Community Safety Council will involve the community in developing community solutions for community problems.

Our commitment to public safety extends to other proactive measures. Thunder Bay Fire and Rescue has been systematically promoting smoke alarm compliance by inspecting residential homes and helping citizens to adhere to the fire safety bylaw. Superior North EMS is investing in new patient care equipment and is improving the technological capabilities of paramedics to improve patient care. We’re taking pride in developing and maintaining an equitable community, a safe place to call home.

With a population of over 109,000 people, diversity is a fundamental characteristic of our City. Our Aboriginal Liaison aims to facilitate equitable access to services and employment through dialogue with the City’s Aboriginal population. Through a partnership with Fort William First Nation and the urban Aboriginal community, work is progressing on an Aboriginal Action Plan.

As well, Council has established an Advisory Committee on Racism to develop a plan of action to combat racism in the community of Thunder Bay. We are working together to build a community that values, celebrates and respects differences.

Speaking of celebration, the 2010 Olympic Torch is coming to Thunder Bay! Our citizens will have the opportunity to see the Olympic Torch Relay on January 3rd as it travels across the country leading up to the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver. With our long and strong history of sport it will be very moving when Thunder Bay’s Olympic Cauldron is lit by our own Olympic gold medalist, Katie Weatherston. Please join us for the day’s festivities and celebrate Canada’s Olympic spirit.

To be one of the best-run cities in Canada is completely attainable. City Council is continually working to improve its ability to achieve the strategic goals of the City and maximize citizen engagement in Council decisions and policy development – and we have the plans to prove it. More importantly, we have the track record of putting those plans into action. We are not only on the right track, we are on the fast track.

We’re extremely proud to have maintained our City’s A+ stable credit rating. We’re working hard to pursue employment opportunities, affordable housing, a sound infrastructure, environmental stewardship and quality healthcare. These factors all contribute toward our financial and civic performance. It doesn’t hurt that we own our own telecommunications company. In 2009 alone, TBayTel contributed $17 million toward providing the level of municipal services that our citizens want, expect and enjoy!
How fortunate we are to own Canada’s largest independent telecommunications company. When we choose TBayTel we actually benefit twice. We get their competitively priced communications solutions and reduce taxes (by 12 per cent on the average homeowners’ bill a year). As we improve efficiencies and effectiveness within the corporation, we are improving our accountability as leaders and as citizens. We are strengthening our might as people whose distinctive geographical location integrally links us to the pulse of the north and the opportunities that can be realized globally.

This year we launched a new City website with a focus on the user. It provides residents with a one-stop source for City news and information. Through the interconnectivity of the World Wide Web we gave people the opportunity to see what a dynamic and vibrant community we live in. In fact, our new website saw a 19 per cent increase in visits this year! We’re delighted to provide this window to our community and our world.
Renew Thunder Bay is a five-year incremental plan to enhance our quality of life and grow our economy through targeted and highly leveraged strategic investments. It’s a concept and framework of undertaking large capital projects by leveraging City dollars and funding from other levels of government and industry partners. We are positioning our City to make sure that we have the resources for our biggest dreams. We are putting in place the resources for the important capital projects that will make the biggest difference in our community. As well, Renew Thunder Bay positions our community to be ready when the Northern Growth Plan takes effect.

I’m proud to live in Thunder Bay. Our City has powerful elements that benefit the residents living at the geographical centre of North America and gives them reason to be proud. Together, we are building. Building on a dream and a vision. I can’t think of a better place to be.

Thank you. On behalf of City Council, best wishes to all citizens for a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year.