Mayor's State of the City Address
"All Roads Lead to Thunder Bay"
March 11, 2024

Mayor Ken Boshcoff -

Good evening, Bonsoir, Boozhoo and welcome to the Annual State of the City Address.

Let me start by acknowledging that Thunder Bay sits on the traditional lands of the Anishnawbe people of Fort William First Nation, signatory to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.

We acknowledge the many contributions made to our community by First Nations, the Métis and Inuit Peoples, as well as those made by New Canadians today.

They join the many diverse cultures that continue to help shape our community as a welcoming place for everyone.

This acknowledgment is important. Not just because it shaped who we are today, but because it will also shape our future.

The relationship of this municipality with all Indigenous people has always been a priority for City Councils and is indeed an important part of the fabric of Thunder Bay.

I’m proud to acknowledge the progress we have made in continually listening, learning, sharing, and partnering with First Nations, Indigenous, and Métis communities, organizations, and citizens.

Of course, we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go.

But tonight, I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who has come to the table with an attitude of open communication, and conscientious trust.

We recognize the importance of fostering positive relationships, and will build on this trust through some key initiatives and strategies.

Guided by the Indigenous Advisory Council, the Indigenous Relations and Inclusion Strategy is comprehensive.

The goal is to improve relationships with Indigenous communities using a “whole-of-government” approach.

It recognizes the timely opportunity presented to us by the growing Indigenous population in Canada, particularly here in Thunder Bay.

Through the City’s Anti-Racism and Inclusion Accord, we also commit to directly addressing racism and advancing inclusion.

Thunder Bay’s first City Council, led by Mayor Saul Laskin, was tasked with many of the same responsibilities that our current Council has.

These responsibilities include:

  • Working hand-in-hand with our neighbours at Fort William First Nation and in surrounding municipalities
  • uniting our city through a common vision, and
  • building a city where everyone has the opportunity to be successful and fulfilled.

With that in mind, and in the spirit of Maamawe All Together, we will demonstrate our commitment to collaboration, inclusion, and positive change.

By working collectively, and respecting Indigenous knowledge, we can create a more welcoming and prosperous community for all.

It is undeniably true that “When the tide rises, all ships sail higher”.


We have been a gathering place for thousands of years.

And I often reflect on the fact that both figuratively, and literally, “All Roads Lead to Thunder Bay’.

In an historical marker at Prince Arthur's Landing titled “The First Highway to the West”, the following is inscribed:

Continents and oceans, geography and history, the Great Lakes and the inland waterways: they all meet here, on this waterfront, at the mouth of a river called the Kaministiquia - translated from the Anishinabek language as "meandering river."

Its upriver route was the first "highway" to the North American west.

The First Nations of this region paddled it in canoes for thousands of years, and in the 1700s the fur traders began using the route too. In 1868, work began here on a new highway. With a patchwork of portages, it linked rivers and lakes into a road at the heart of Canadian history: the Red River Road.

Our location in the centre of our great country, along with access to primary resources, combined with the strength of our public institutions and educational facilities, has and will continue to present us with tremendous opportunities.

Geographically we are massive. We serve an area larger than many countries.

We are a place of inspiring beauty and the service hub for Northwestern Ontario.


We are a natural gateway, by water, road, rail and air. Our geography is dominated by the lakes, forests and rocks of the Canadian Shield.

We are one of the world’s top mining exploration areas, and the latest frontier for developments in energy, infrastructure, transportation, research and health sciences.

I truly believe that Thunder Bay and our entire region are in a resurgence.


Mining is real.

Population growth and new citizens are real.

The economic opportunities are real.

We are poised to become a mining powerhouse, positioned as a rising force in the mining industry.

Our Community Economic Development Commission is actively working with companies to bring them to Thunder Bay.

They are also helping existing companies capitalize on opportunities for growth.

New discoveries of critical minerals, and a strong shift towards a Canadian and Ontario made battery supply chain, have fueled interest worldwide.

We must continue diversifying our economy, growing economic opportunities, and promoting the health and wellness of everyone living in our city.

People need to see a future here, and we need to provide them with the right things for them to stay.

Over the last 54 years, our city has seen a remarkable transformation.

Prosperity fueled by the forestry industry, the grain elevators, mining, the railroad, and the shipyards laid a strong foundation for success.

All this, as we have also embarked on a journey of innovation, with healthcare and knowledge-based industries.

As a community, we are always changing. Not without challenges, and not without work.

But by capitalizing on our determination, we are working through our challenges and turning them into opportunities.

I see how incredibly strong people are, and how determined they are to make Thunder Bay an even better place.

We are positioned well for future growth and development, with greater vitality, more jobs, more residents, and more visitors.


Last year, the Port of Thunder Bay experienced significant activity and growth.

Record-breaking shipping seasons continued, with potash exports leading the way.

Cargo volumes are expected to increase by over a million tonnes this year. That’s a remarkable 20 per cent rise!

Last year’s cruise season hosted 14 cruise ship visits, nearly double the number of calls compared to the previous year.

And 2024 is slated to be the best year yet.


We plan to welcome more ships and more visits than ever before.

Five different ships will visit our port a total of 17 times.

This means that thousands of passengers will be spending more time, and more money, in our city.

And local suppliers will service and re-supply these vessels when they’re in port.


As the former chair of the Airport Authority, I’m pleased to say that the Thunder Bay International Airport experienced significant developments and improvements this past year.

Additionally, our strong partnerships with Confederation College and Lakehead University continue to drive economic growth.

For decades, these institutions have been producing graduates that make significant impacts here, and around the world.

With the addition of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, students from Northern Ontario are able to study closer to home, and stay in the region after they graduate. These graduates are helping us address the critical needs of our residents by building much needed capacity in our region.

In more recent years, we have also welcomed thousands of international students to study in Thunder Bay.

These people enrich our community and our educational landscape with global perspectives and diversity.

And they help prepare local students to thrive in an increasingly, interconnected world.

Our Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre continues to rank among the leading health research institutions in the country.

They are increasing access to important services, and continue to reduce wait times for people in the North.

We know, like many other municipalities in Canada, that homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues present significant challenges.

We invite all orders of government to come to the table to help us find solutions to help alleviate pressure on public health and social services.

As decision-makers, we must prioritize our collaborative efforts to tackle these crises effectively.

We face complex issues, but evidence-based strategy and community collaboration can pave the way to positive change.


We have made considerable progress as elected officials- as have the dedicated professionals in our municipal civil services.

It is inspiring to witness the strengthened relationships also with our Provincial and Federal representatives.

And I see so many groups in the city doing incredible work.

Like the cooperation of organizations such as:

  • the Northern Ontario Municipal Association
  • the DSSAB
  • the Chamber of Commerce
  • the sports leagues
  • the spiritual communities, and
  • numerous other community organizations and charities.

The list is quite long indeed!

I strongly believe that the potential for all to prosper is mighty!

I say watch out Canada! Watch out world!


And if all roads lead to Thunder Bay, then we need to be ready to accommodate the people that come with that.

Our recent provincial recognition as one of the first cities to achieve its Housing Target is something we should all be immensely proud of.

It’s a significant achievement, and we look forward to receiving the Provincial Building Faster Funds.

Just a few days ago, Prime Minister Trudeau was here to announce that Thunder Bay will receive almost 21 million dollars from the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund.

The target is sixteen hundred and ninety-one housing units in three years. This target is aggressive.

And we will meet it.

Work is well underway, including preparing an incentive framework, hiring two Housing Accelerator Coordinators, and establishing the Mayor’s Task Force on Building More Homes.

 From updating our zoning bylaw, to expanding our online building permit applications, we have been laying the groundwork for system changes well before this type of funding was even available.

Now this funding will allow us to do more, faster!

This is a TOP priority for our Council.


Our message to the world is this:

Thunder Bay is growing.

Thunder Bay has growth capacity,

and Thunder Bay is ambitious and unified.

In a time of fiscal restraint, we also know that investing money produces results.

I believe that time is now.


We are also so fortunate to have the art, music and cultural richness rarely seen in communities our size.

From Magnus Theatre, to the Symphony Orchestra, from the Art Gallery to the Live on the Waterfront series-
we have something for everyone when it comes to the arts.

We are developing a new culture plan that aims to nurture, enhance, and celebrate the cultural vibrancy of our community.

I strongly believe that culture plays an important role in defining and enhancing our quality of life, and I look forward to seeing this new plan come into action.


No matter where you’re from or who you love, we want you to know that you are welcome here in Thunder Bay.  

This is regularly on display at many festivals and events that take place here throughout the year.

These gatherings expose us to new cultures and traditions, and play a pivotal role in uniting us as a community.

They illustrate that our diversity, which is our collective strength.

The partnerships and support from the local community, at all levels, is so critical to our success, and Thunder Bay never disappoints!


We are also a city with incredible recreational and sporting opportunities.

Our reputation as one of the Country’s best sports and event hosting cities continues to be enhanced by investments made in our community through the Tourism Development Fund.


The Ontario Winter Games wrapped up last month after two very exciting weekends here in Thunder Bay.

Over 1300 young athletes from all across the province competed in 13 different sports ranging from cross-country skiing to wrestling to futsal.

It was amazing to witness.

I believe that if we continue to move forward together, anything is possible.


There is so much positive economic activity taking place.

As we start fresh and look forward to the year ahead, it’s clear that there are exciting and challenging times awaiting us.

With change comes trepidation. But with hard work, great improvements have been made, and there are many more to come.


I would like to thank our Federal and Provincial representatives:

  • Minister Patty Hadju
  • MP Marcus Powlowski
  • MPP Kevin Holland
  • and MPP Lise Vaugeois

We are grateful for their exceptional cooperation, advocacy for programs and financial assistance.


To my colleagues on Council, please accept my deepest gratitude for your commitment to our city, and for all you have done this past year.

There is no doubt that the public services we deliver to our residents is amongst the highest in the Province.

We were elected with high expectations to build a better, more welcoming, and inclusive community.

It is the expectation of our citizens that we continue to provide top-notch services while keeping spending under control. We can achieve this with dedication and commitment.  

I look forward to continuing to work alongside you, towards the common goal of making our city the best possible place in which to work, live and prosper.


This of course brings me to the employees at every level that make up this fine organization.

Thank for your hard work and commitment to making our community better in so many ways, and for providing our citizens with the services they want and need with dedication and efficiency.


In closing, I’d like to emphasize what an honour it is to serve this community.

I consider it a privilege to serve with this Council, this Administration, volunteer members of committees, and members of the community that share my, and our, passion and belief that we are indeed blessedly fortunate to live here.


Together, we stand on the cusp of a new era, committed to building on our rich history, while making sure our city thrives for generations to come.

Thank you, Merci, Meegwetch.

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