Looking to City of Thunder Bay Budget 2017

2016 has quickly come and gone and it is time for the City of Thunder Bay departments to bring together their wants/needs/deferrals and dust off the projects that got put on the shelf a long time ago. As Thunder Bay departments look to the future I think its necessary that those on City council take a step back from the political posturing (Councillor Verdiramo) and really try to deal with Thunder Bay’s realities. Council last year deferred projects and items that will come back to make this years budget process even harder. The decisions that we make today are going to effect us going forward. We need to make the right decisions in order to truly create the city that people will want to live in and move to. Some of the items below aren’t going to be directly related to budgetary concerns but as the minds of Thunder Bays departments come together it could lead to policies that improve and help to direct the city going forward.

Policies:

  1. Density Targets – The Province of Ontario is setting new and increasingly dense targets for communities in Central and Southern Ontario to address the concerns of urban sprawl, transit and more. While Thunder Bay isn’t a part of this new plan its time that Thunder Bay adopted these guidelines and policies to help create the density it needs. Thunder Bay has a density of 330.1 people per square kilometer which is incredibly low for a community of this size. It means that our services are stretched longer and cost more and that the people that live in the community are less healthy. Adding to our density will work towards helping improve the life of our community and stretch our dollar further.
  2. Humanity and Clean&Green – As Thunder Bay moves forward and plans/builds new facilities I believe that it is time to provide a safe space for everyone. We continue to see groups of marginalized people like those of the LGBQT community face daily challenges. As a small means of solidarity; I would like to see the City of Thunder Bay develop a policy that includes gender neutral bathrooms in the design as a mandatory component for city buildings. Additionally I would like to see the city establish electric power stations at its new facilities to help facilitate the expansion of electric vehicles within the community.
  3. Green Buildings/vehicles – Many of the City of Thunder Bay’s facilities are older and are built for a time before climate change. Its time to look at creating a plan to reduce the footprint the City of Thunder Bay has and creating modern, efficient buildings that cost the city less and produce less harmful effects for the environment. The city of Thunder Bay as an entity created 30,078 tonnes eC02 and used 4.280 million litres of fuel throughout 2015. As we look forward we need to consider the types of vehicles and units we use; if there are legitimate environmentally friendly options for the city to use instead. Every penny that fuel costs rise cost transit $44,000 and with the projected costs only to go up we need to make these decisions now.
  4. Investing in Technology – Technology has become an important part of how we as a society function and operate. There are always new and emerging ways to make the job easier, quicker and reduce the negative effects on individuals bodies. Thunder Bay Police Service is one institution that could easily benefit from additional technology. Many officers are still stuck writing tickets by hand and stuck for extended periods of time writing multiple copies. Cruisers are small but they can be adapted to work for the officers benefit. Printers that double as a head rest are just one example. Instead of taking 45 minutes to write 3 copies of the same paperwork it could be done once on a computer and have the officer onto the next call in significantly less time.
  5. Modern Parking lot Codes – Thunder Bay is obsessed with parking and the opportunity to park as close to the establishment as possible. This is not only unhealthy for the user as it promotes a lazy lifestyle but for the environment as well. The modern parking lot acts as reflective shield bringing large amounts of water to the storm sewers and catch basins. Whereas green space would catch this or a portion of the water the asphalt deflects it. Requiring those who plan to develop parking lots or fix established ones in Thunder Bay to change how they create this space. If a business wanted to create a 200 stall lot under the old standard they would see this happen but if we introduced new rules it could develop more greenspace. Requiring 20-20% of land to be used as green space for shrubs, grass, trees etc would reduce water flow to city sewers and provide green spaces within the community.

Budgetary concerns:

  1. Printing Office – One has wonder if Thunder Bay needs to own and operate its own printing unit. Can things be done by the private sector for less cost? do we need to be printing as much as the city does? While I don’t want to see people lose their positions or their income one has to ask if there is a need for this under the city umbrella
  2. Staffing – Without knowing the direct operations of the City of Thunder Bay its hard for me to truly provide either a criticism or a positive on this topic but for many companies staffing amounts for 90% of their operational costs. This leaves little for other items and can handcuff corporations now and into the future. Conducting a review whether it is necessary to cut or add positions has to be a necessary evil. A review starting from the top and working down is just one step.
  3. Infrastructure upgrades benefiting urban sprawl – in 2018 the city has 750,000 projected for the NW Arterial route for property acquisition. Then additionally a projected cost somewhere in the tune of $20 million for the road itself. This infrastructure project only benefits those who live in the fringe of the community and make it easier for their suburban lifestyle. This project should be scrapped and the money reallocated for other infrastructure projects. Additionally as the expansion of road projects gets further from the cores we should start to consider additional factors like does it support urban sprawl, could transit/multi-use better suit the space etc.
  4. Development fee – Building in Thunder Bay continues to expand on the fringes of our community. A recent decision by council to increase the size of Neebing ward by 120 units means additional cost beyond revenue for the city. Its time to require development in the fringes to pay for their cost. I propose a distance based fee with the 2 downtown cores as the anchors. As the development gets x distance from the core the cost to develop increases. While developing in the core itself could net the developer a rebate on their building costs; building in Neebing or Mcintrye could cost someone 15-20% of their development costs through a fee which could be put towards infrastructure.
  5. EIRP – Simple enough, it needs to continue and potentially expand to work with Confederation College and Lakehead University to address some of their costs. Both institutions bring in youth and huge sums of money into the community. Making them more profitable and their image better only serves to benefit the community today and tomorrow.
  6. Proper Funding – Its hard to come to the community and say its going to be this percentage or this percentage. Its much simpler to let the department heads deffer projects because of variance issues at the end of the day. Its time to forgo this practice and properly fund the departments and stop dealing with the fires of variances as they arrive. Thunder Bay Police Service Chief J.P. Levesque continues to come to council with the budget they require and then council cuts it. At the end of the day we end up in the same place. When I budget I do so for my expenses and then a contingency for those issues that arise and the City of Thunder Bay should too.

 

References:

http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=3558004&Geo2=CSD&Code2=3543042&Data=Count&SearchText=barrie&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=&TABID=1

http://www.thunderbay.ca/Assets/Strategic+Plan+2015/docs/Implementation+Plan.pdf

http://www.thunderbay.ca/Assets/City+Government/Finance+$!26+Budgets/docs/Budget+2016/2016_TAX_CAP_I$!26O.pdf

 

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A redesigned N. side of the marina

The city has a tender out looking at redesigning the area north of the marina that was left untouched after the major reconstruction in 2009. This area is primarily used for large public events and the current home of BluesFest. The city is looking at redesigning the space to make better for patrons and business who want to use the space. As we have seen in the last couple years with major events held in this area there are significant pedestrian, traffic and general space issues. BluesFest for example has continued to grow annually and continues to bring in more and more people to a relatively small space. In order to allow these groups to continue to bring in more people we need to look at the amount of space made available to them. With the additional people there will be more pedestrian and traffic issues facing this area. Currently there is a struggle to provide enough facilities to vendors and have a site that is functional for mixed traffic. This got me to thinking about what we could do to make this site functional and attractive to events to bring more business downtown. Obviously there would be a costing issue for the City of Thunder Bay as it needs to be within a reasonable limit for the community. There would also be some type of community bash lash as the city tried to undertake its event center proposal in the same area. Add to that the fact the city and private business are still working on a 133 million dollar reconstruction at the marina and one can see the concerns. In this blog I throw those away, I take charge with unlimited funds and no population backlash. Here is my idea for the reconstructed marina park (N. Side).

Personally, I find that the area now is a good layout but its in need of more space and in need of a refresher. As more and more people come to this area it is making it incredibly cramped and showing how desperately this area needs more space. How do you make a case for spending millions of dollars to provide a couple events the area they need to bring in more people only a couple times a year. I believe the answer is 2 fold: A) More people coming to the community means more economic benefit to the community. Fees to the city for using the space, hotel rooms booked, restaurants etc etc. B) This area is already well used by the community in general, adding space to this area will only further allow them to stretch their legs and enjoy the landscape. Economic benefits and increased quality of life are two great reasons for investing this money. So lets take a look at the space as it currently stands.

Marina Original

This is the starting baseline for this project. It saw a little bit of reconstruction work during the 2009 reconstruction but was mostly left untouched. The road on the bottom is a 2 way street and the one looping around the lake is a one way street. There is a significant hill on one portion of the area that jets out the farthest that holds a memorial to the two cities coming together in the 70’s.

Now I believe that this project should be done in phases. In order to allow for the city to continue to use the area as much as possible and to reduce the costs associated with a project of this scale. The first portion of the project will involve infilling Lake Superior (areas highlighted in light green). The city how successful this was in providing additional space to the community by infilling little portions of the water. Here we would go a little more indepth into the water expanding the area to make it more of a rectangle then its current shape. This allows the city to more evenly distribute the new land between vehicle, pedestrian and green space. A infill of this magnitude I believe would take most of a year to complete if not 1.5 depending on the strategy to infill. Here is the range that I believe would be valuable to infill in order to make this space more usable. I am not an expert on how the flow of boats in and out of Pier 3 works so this could inadvertently affect them (good thing is an idea eh).

Green are is infill.
Green are is infill.

So now we have the area infilled we need to do things with this new found space. One of the major things would be to reroute the road system inside of the marina. When the entrance from Cumberland hits the first parking lot it sometimes can be a dog eat dog to get around. It really wasn’t properly designed to handle the extra traffic that is occurring there now. This is why I believe that the its best to reduce the parking lot in half. Leave the Eastern portion of the parking lot there but remove the western portion and replace it was a straight road. The current road around the peninsula would be pushed back closer to the edge of the new infill. Built into the edge of the infill would be a boardwalk that would allow citizens to walk along the edge of the water with areas jetting out to provide a rest area/sightseeing area. There would be a buffer between the road and the boardwalk lined with trees to provide a sound/sight barrier from the vehicles. There would also need to be some sort of retaining wall as the road would need to cut through where there is currently a hill. Removal of that hill is likely too expensive so a retaining wall would be sufficient in this case. Parking lots are laid out in blue, 2 are able to be expanded should the need demand it.

Light brown is a boardwalk, Blue is a designated parking lot and the areas black are roads.
Light brown is a boardwalk, Blue is a designated parking lot and the areas black are roads.

Phase 3 would see the completion of the overall project. It would see the stage area moved backwards of where it currently sits and see it increased in size to allow for larger concerts and events. The stage being moved backwards would allow for more venders, more people and more amenities to fit inside of the new space. Behind the parking lot would see a upgraded area dedicated to the unification of Port Arthur and Fort William. There would likely need to be some stairs and face work on the hill but it would provide a great lookout. The #1 on the map would be the new location for the shed that was built in 2011. I see no need for it to be destroyed after only recently being completed, moving the building over a couple feet would save the taxpayers money. The dark brown would be the paths that connect the different areas of the park together. The current set up allows for a decent movement of people around the space and some of the current paths could be saved. The expansion would mean they need to be pushed back to properly fit the new space and connections to the boardwalk would happen every so often. The dark green shows the existing areas against the new infill, some areas where left untouched to allow the user to see the current item occupying that space. In this case the bathrooms, playground and tai-chi park are left from the original satelite image.

Marina Phase 3

I believe that there is a need for a large empty space for people to run around and enjoy the land. There was a big emphasis on buildings in the current reconstruction which has turned out great but left the area lacking that big open space to run. A couple pieces of art here and there (that can’t easily be destroyed) along with a couple other amenities and it would be a very nice space. What we have now works well but we could use that little bit more space to make it a really perfect environment. Clearly, I don’t know what the cost of expanding this area would be or if there is any/enough public support to push a project like this forward. This is simply my idea for the tender that the City of Thunder Bay has put out. If anything I hope they resurface the road in this section and the parking lots, they’re a mess.

Thunder Bay North Sports Complex/Rec Area

One of the things I have noticed being down here in Orillia, ON that Thunder Bay doesn’t have is a dedicated area to sports. There is no one area where one can go to and do a large number of different things related to sports without having to drive around the city. Here in Orillia they have just that which works perfectly with Lakehead University – Orillia. The sports complex’s naming rights were given to the Rotary club of Canada (more likely their local chapter) and built for the residents of Orillia. It contains 2 NHL sides ice surfaces with 700 and 200 seats respectively, a rock climbing wall, 2 concession stands and a mini stick set up for the kids. Outside the arena it has a playground, 2 half sized (football field), 2 full sized fields and a fully lit tennis court. One of those full sized fields is artificial turf and rumours have been circulating that it could be domed to provide a playing surface all year long. The great thing about this venue is that it allows for multiple events to go on at the same time. Its been used by a large number of people for a large number of reasons. While the school may be taking up a football field and a rink for its own sports, the citizens are able to enjoy the other areas for their own pleasure. It creates a space where people are able to have fun and intermingle. The closest thing that Thunder Bay currently has is the Port Arthur Arena, Complex area but those venues don’t come together as well because its divided by a roadway. On the south side the best venue is Delaney and The Legion track and again there isn’t a cohesion between the two venues. So I decided to come up with a design that could help Thunder Bay build that community center it desperately needs to have a true sports complex. A space that everyone can enjoy and is pedestrian friendly first, car second. This is what the area currently looks like.

Community Auditorum Currently

Editors Note: There is a slight design error with the way High St. connects to Beverly and Memorial. In actuality it wouldn’t come that far without major changes to the surrounding area and this was a design flaw. Beverly in the design should still go straight to Memorial but High street wouldn’t.

Here is my final design for the area. I’ll explain the different areas in detail. This is designed to be pedestrian friendly and make the area a walkable space. Make it friendly to the people who will use the facilities and make it a space that people can come to enjoy.

Community Auditorium Redesign

Phase 1 of this plan would involve purchasing properties, tearing down buildings and relocating infrastructure. One of the first things that would be necessary to accomplish this vision would be to purchase the homes along High Street between Lisqar and Inchquin St. these homes would be torn down and replaced with a parking lot to service the baseball diamond and the new arena. Some parking would be lost by the Community Auditorium to make space for a new soccer/football venues. Port Arthur Arena would be torn down and replaced in its current spot as a double padded ice surface with more seating. The arena would need to be torn down in order to have enough room for the second sheet of ice and the extra spectator/vendor space without encroaching on green space. Winnipeg avenue would be turned into a plaza style walkway with access too all of the buildings and facilities. The Baseball diamond would be torn down an replaced as well which would leave 2 more on the site. An investment into making the other 2 better quality would need to occur in order to make up for the lose field. The dog park would be torn down as the land would be used for other purposes.

Phase 2 would involve relocating the parking lot beside Port Arthur arena to its new location closer to High St. It would also involve the construction of the new Port Arthur arena with 2 sheets of ice and increased spectator seating. It would be based on the Rotary Place in Orillia but would be slightly different in size and design. The Rotary Place having come in at 27 million (2010) it would be easy to guess that this new rink could cost around the same. The new football fields/soccer areas would also be built in this phase but based on need could see only 1 of the 2 built right away. Both would be full sized facilities with stands holding up to 1,000 spectators and with amenities like sports boxes and a concession area. Based on the need within the community one could be left on the shelf and keep the area as a green space until such demand requires the additional facility. Port Arthur Arena would be built to a LEED: Gold status and the entire development challenged to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Phase 3 would start when construction on these facilities were substantially completed. This would include the creation of the memorial park which would be a space for memorial to fallen service men and women. A new playground close to the memorial park which would force families and children to walk through it as to always remember those who have served. It would include the creation of a new parking lot off of Beverly St. which would currently sit where Beverly runs today and include the plaza landscaping which connects the facilities. One of the more interesting features would be hook up spots which would allow street vendors to park their trailers and cook meals connected to water and propane. This would allow for a tailgating atmosphere in spring, summer and fall events in this area.

Phase 4: Final landscaping. Planting the hundreds of trees that will line the passages and walkways and make the site a truly green, clean and beautiful site. This would also see money invested into the Community Auditorium, the baseball stadium and the complex to make them more modern and appealing on both the inside and outside of the facilities. A Sports committee would also be set up with representatives from each facility to coordinate the uses of the space along with trying to bring larger, more expensive events to the area and get as much use out of the facilites as possible.

Some of the appealing aspects that could entice the city to pull of an plan like this. Adding a second sheet of ice to Port Arthur arena would allow the city to continue to meet the demand from skaters in the city but also allow it to close a expensive rink in Grandview. As it stands currently, Grandview is costing the city $500,000 annually in costs because of the state it is in. It doesn’t meet the needs of users and doesn’t help the city in attracting events like hockey tournaments. This would create another green space which would help to increase the values of homes in the area, create a new meeting space for citizens and help to divert rain water from sanitation, storm sewers. The construction alone would provide an economic stimulus to the community and could provide the area with new private investment. A city commissioned report stated that the single use facilities which the City currently runs don’t appeal to organizers of large sporting events and make it much harder to bring tournaments to the city. A multi-pad arena could help to bring in more sporting events to the city and bring in extra tourism/economic related dollars.

I could see something like this costing around 60-70 million dollars and taking about 3 years to complete (cost depending on a number of factors like a 2nd football stadium as pictured and other industry related costs) I believe it would be a benefit to the community seeing how others have adopted the idea and how it operates.

Of course this is only my idea. What do you think?

Design from beginning to end:
Sports Complex Timelapes

Alberta Oil is responsible oil

There has been much media coverage lately talking about the protestors and the keystone pipeline. The Keystone pipeline offers the first real expansion of pipeline capacity in North America in years which should allow more oil to flow to consumers. The real issue it seems with this pipeline is that the type of oil that will be flowing in these pipelines. Alberta’s tar sands oil is viewed to be much dirtier then other forms oil which is mainly due to its extraction process. Environmentalists feel that this oil is not worth the damage to the environment and the people living around the area. On the other hand economics and defenders believe that this oil has helped to keep the Canadian economy from collapsing all together like the American one did. They say that the oil doesn’t help to fund terrorism and that it is ethically taken from the ground as compared to poor wages/ conditions elsewhere. Both of these views have Merritt but in my mind they don’t talk about why Alberta oil is responsible oil. Here is my view:

Alberta oil is responsible oil because we are responsible for the decisions that occur in this region. We either allow or stop the production and expansion of the oil fields. We lay out the plans that these companies need to follow and we make sure that the environment is either destroyed or protected. We hold the key to the future and the present of the oil sands which is why I think its responsible oil.

Production in the oil sands is only halted by the lack of available pipeline capacity in North America. The more space we create the more jobs are created in the production aspects of the oil. These jobs have helped us to avoid financial collapse, avoid an economic meltdown the same as the US and become an international player. The production of oil in Canada has helped to relieve both Canada and US from imported oil which has always been a concern. The production of oil typically comes from higher risk countries (Libya, Congo) and this causes higher prices and risks. Expanding our capacity will be in the best interest of both countries as we move forward. The oil sands also have an added benefit that all Canadians are enjoying on a daily basis. The added tax base will help to protect our way of life and the free healthcare system we have come to enjoy. This is one of the positives about the Alberta oil and our responsibility to properly develop it. There is a need and desire to continue to expand the oil sands but it must not be done without checks and balances.

We need to look beyond the production and expansion of the oil sands; we need to look to the future. When a facility is done producing it needs to be returned to its original state with all aspects of human life gone. We need to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect the environment. If this means higher costs for the oil companies and their suppliers then so be it. While the production of oil is important to the world economy the environment needs to be just as important. Continuing to push companies to reduce their emissions in production but also pushing consumers to use less will be important. When the expansion of the pipelines come, the government will need to have the laws and the bite to protect our land. We will need to make sure that oil spills become a thing of the past. Fines need to be so high that it forces companies to spend on the pipeline maintenance rather then more money to the government. While we need to prosper development we need to make sure that its in the best interest of Canada and its people rather then oil companies profits. There are some things I would like to see.

1) The Americans can help to control their market by having a storage unit available as government controlled storage. The Canadian government needs to start storing resources for times when they could be desperately needed. This might just be my own personal feelings of relying on yourself rather then others but I feel its something we need to do. Having giant storage facilities in a couple different areas of the country will allow for Canadians to help control the flow of oil to its consumers. This storage could help reduce the price of oil for police forces, the military or transit services. It also gives us flexibility when it comes to controlling the flow of oil to different areas when supply may be reduced.

2) While I am no expert in pipeline need or capacity it would seem that serving the largest portion of Canada would be a important issue. The eastern coast of Canada is served by imported oil which in my eyes is completely unacceptable. We need to serve the Canadians and then sell our oil to the world. If we are producing it then we should at least be benefiting from it.   Canada's Pipeline Network - Mozilla Firefox_2013-02-04_22-21-05

 

While the Alberta oil sands are controversial they are responsible. It is responsible oil because we are the decision makers and the key holders. We decide when they shut down and when they grow. One can only hope that the decisions we make have both today and tomorrow in mind.

Transit can be paid for by gold

A couple topics are front and center for the new Ontario government. Transit expansion, dealing with pissed off teachers and paying down the debt. The province will look at tackle these issues with a 12 billion dollar deficit, growing amounts of debt and an economic which is growing slower then expected. Ontario is looking for new ways to be able to deal with the issues mentioned above and more but are looking at more traditional sources. The premier-elect has talked about road tolls, adding to the gas tax and additional taxpayer based taxes to pay for these projects. These will all likely be hard sells for taxpayers who are feeling the pinch more and more on a daily basis. Other forms of funding will need to be looked at in order to avoid putting the burden on taxpayers. Ontario should take a long hard look at other provinces and their plans when it comes to raising money. British Columbia has joined on the bandwagon of provinces collecting increased royalties, taxes and income from natural resources. With the upcoming boom in the mining sector there is an opportunity to raise more funds.

Increasing the resource tax to an acceptable level will allow for Ontario to remain competitive, allow business to flourish but also pay down its debt, pay for transit expansions and balance the budget. Alberta has been collecting an increasing amount of royalties from the oil sands which has allow them to increase spending for projects such as education, healthcare and infrastructure. While there are currently issues facing Alberta when it comes to royalties in the present budget; if expansion projections hold true Alberta could almost entirely rely on oil. These royalties also haven’t caused a reduction in the amount of spending underway at in the oil sands. The issue now is the lack of money by companies to properly invest in their operations. Alberta isn’t the only one now looking to make the most of its resource by adding a little cost. British Columbia will be adding a special tax to natural gas that is acquired from its grounds. This will be used to pay down the debt that BC has gained but also pay for other programs. This wont be going directly into the budget which I believe is a good thing because then it doesn’t get lost in the political bureaucracy and administration. These provinces are working with resources that have a fairly stable and growing demand. Ontario is dealing with minerals that fluctuate massively depending on the markets and demand. A good comparison for Ontario to look at is Quebec counterpart with its ‘The Plan Nord’.

The Plan Nord looks at developing northern Quebec to its utmost potential, while also being environmentally sustainable along with bringing in cash for the government. The Plan Nord and Northern Ontario have a lot in common which is why the Ontario development plan was considered a let down after seeing the Quebec version. The plan calls for how to develop the north, where to start, how to get infrastructure to these areas, how to benefit the local First Nations and how to reap the benefits of all of this. All of these decisions will be important to making sure that the infrastructure we lay down benefits the First Nations communities in the north for years after the mining development. The plan also lays out how the money gained from the different projects will be used to better the north but also the province. It gives mining companies and idea of what they will have to pay for pulling minerals from the ground but also the benefits to the local infrastructure they will see. Ontario doesn’t really have anything that can compare to this.

Ontario is looking at building a 1.4 billion dollar highway up to the Ring of Fire with the expectation that it will bring in return 17 billion dollars of investment. The problem is that we don’t have a source of funding for this project yet to be undertaken. While it might be found ‘somewhere’ in the budget, a more open funding source like a resource tax would be easier to comprehend. Currently, Ontario charges 10% tax on mines operating above $500,000 annually in profits and only 5% for mines opening up in remote areas. Based on the criticisms of the plan, we wont see a significant income from the mines we currently have operating or will be operating in the future. To see our minerals taken and barely a penny given to the Ontario coffers isn’t acceptable. I would purpose doubling these rates and include a higher rate of 25% for mines making more then 4 million dollars annually in profits. This money would go into a account which is separate of the budget and be managed by a collection of Northern First Nations leaders, municipal leaders the government officials. Projects would be approved based on a collective good for the province with a emphasis put on transit, debt repayment and northern infrastructure. This transparency, openness and predictable development will allow businesses to see that their money isn’t being squandered away. Investments into infrastructure in the areas around the mines will help to make it easier and cheaper for workers to make it to their sites. This extra tax would allow for an expansion of transit as Metrolinx has predicted in its Big Move plan. This would allow for businesses to bear a little more of the burden in order to reduce the planned increased on the average worker.

Of course this is just an idea and I am no economist. I believe that we should be properly taxing the businesses that come and take our resources. We only get one shot to do this and making sure we make the most out of it will be important. I don’t want to see the money get lost in the budget never to be found again or lost in some minister pocket. If we are going to take from the land in the north we need to have a plan for the north, that is administered by the north. We need the transparency to show these mining companies and indirect companies that we have a good plan for their money which is why we need to take a little more. Grid lock causes a huge problem in southern Ontario and expanding transit will be a number 1 priority for the province. It likely can be paid for by this tax but we need to make sure that the manufacturing jobs stay up here in Thunder Bay.

Tbaytel LTE launch – How it should be done

Tbaytel is now one of the only carriers in the country who is still running 4G as its main service. The company has spent a large amount of money on towers in recent years to address issues with coverage, capacity and customer complaints. In 2012, Tbaytel spent close to 9 million dollars investing in the service to make the service quick, cover more and deal with issues in the system. I can say that the service is much better with the investments and a lot of my personal complaints have been fixed. The issue as it stands now is that competition has moved in to the area and they are offering much more in terms of speed, data strength and phones. For Tbaytel to catch up they will need to offer a new and improved LTE system for the most modern phones. Tbaytel will likely be getting help from Rogers on this expansion but personally, I feel they need to do it differently then they did before. When Tbaytel started offering 4G they rolled it out almost system wide at once. This massive undertaking along with the migration of Rogers customers under the Tbaytel banner created havoc for Tbaytel employees and the service. Towers were overloaded, it was taking weeks for activation and general consensus with customers was anger. With the LTE service it will need to do things differently and take things on slower to make sure that it works out best for the customer. Below is a map showing Northwestern Ontario and I will describe why I believe each individual phase should happen.

Phase 1:

Blue shows phase 1
Blue shows phase 1

While it might be hard to see there is blue covering Kenora, Dryden and Thunder Bay. My preferences for these 3 cities as phase 1 varies from competition to making a good impression. Thunder Bay and Kenora are the 2 largest cities in Northwestern Ontario and covering these first will be important for Tbaytel to remain competitive. Bell, Telus and Virgin mobile also have LTE in these 2 sites already and are promoting them heavily. While Tbaytel has coverage across NWO compared to those companies, it is only a matter of time before they add coverage as well. Dryden’s mobility customers were recently bought out by Tbaytel and providing them with a good first look will be important to keeping them. A first look will be important to keep them with Tbaytel when the other companies provide service in these areas. This phase will cover a majority of Tbaytel customers and allow the service to get the biggest pressure out of the way, right away.

Phase 2:

Thunder Bay

A big complaint that Tbaytel customers have is that the drive down to Duluth is a mess of cell service and no cell service. Providing them with a nice welcome back 5 bar signal strength could go a long way to making people extremely happy to be a Tbaytel customer. Expanding into Ignace, Fort Frances, Nipigon and expanding the reach of LTE in Kenora will be important for phase 2 success. The movement over to LTE will also have an advantage for 4G users as more capacity opens up. I don’t believe at this time that it is economical or practical to provide LTE along both highways. The extra capacity of 4G is better suited for these tasks with LTE going into the urban areas.

Phase 3: Putting LTE into the cities and having 4G covering the highways will be the best option to making effective use of both existing and future infrastructure. I believe that a slow roll out of LTE will be important for Tbaytel to avoid the same mistakes it made during the 4G launch. If it does plan to roll it out as one package I hope that the lessons are learned and more staff/capacity has been added.

To give a visual of how I think the Duluth expansion should be rolled out. See this story for details https://thenotsonews.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/tbayduluth/

Thunder Bay 2

The red would be LTE covered space and the green would be 4G covered space. Again the roll out of LTE would be in urban spaces like Lutsen, Grand Marais. This could be importantly vital to Tbaytel as it gets squeezed in the NWO market by Bell, Telus and Virgin Mobile. See the previous blog for details.

Infill opportunities

Cities across the nation are facing the consequences of an unchecked urban sprawl. Rising costs for all city services are the number 1 problem facing these Councillors and administrators. For many redevelopment means tearing down the old and replacing with new high rise buildings. A perfect example of this is Toronto, who’s downtown has undergone a massive redevelopment. High Rises are all around in Toronto and it is a place of rest, business, homes and entertainment. This wasn’t always the case tho, many people searched for land and cheaper homes during a great expansion. Homes with room for the kids to run around, a nice 2 car garage and 1,800 square feet. This is no different in Thunder Bay, massive growth in the outlying regions have left the city with 2,000 km of roads but limited funds to pay for them. The infrastructure has taken a massive beaten as decision makers grappled with keeping taxes low and rising costs. There are opportunities for the city to open up lands and make them available to developers to reduce the urban expansion. The more people we can keep in city developed lands will help to reduce our tax demands. When we can replace the existing infrastructure instead of putting new stuff in the ground; we all win. Below will be a couple sections across the city that could be opened up to development.

See Below for details
See Below for details

For those who aren’t familiar this area is boulevard lake. My vision for this area is to keep the park as natural as possible for people and the environment to enjoy. That said there is such a large expanse of land available to the city here that a section could be cut for residential use and used to bring in taxes. The development would include 3 condominium buildings which would be 12-15 stories in height overlooking the lake. With limited space available at the waterfront due to industrialization, these could be easy sells. The buildings would be set behind a 10 meter buffer zone of the original trees to provide the feeling that the land is still in its natural state. The only signs of development would be the roadway entering the area and the buildings themselves overlooking the lake. The city is undertaking a redevelopment of the existing infrastructure in the area to make the area more usable for citizens. This includes dredging the lake to make it colder and less likely to be closed due to water borne diseases. This will make the area a destination for people to come and relax who can’t make it down to the marina or other areas. It could easily be expected that the area would come in around the same in terms of tax income for the city as the marina development. An additional 750,000-1 million a year could go a long way in paving roads around the area or helping to upkeep the area. This doesn’t block anyone’s sight lines and could blend in well with the surrounding area.

 

See Below
See Below

This area is completely underdeveloped and hopefully with the 4 laning of the Golf Links road we will see more people move into the area. There is a legitimate debate over the development on the other side as to if it the forested area between the hospital and the residential area should be built up. I think there is an opportunity to keep the green space that is already available by developing the other side of the roadway. There is a huge amount of space available here to put the 6,000 homes that are needed without having to really put much effort to the land in terms of new infrastructure. While there would need to be a relocation of the power lines somewhere else it is likely something that will happen with the development in this area. The blue stays with the commercial development which is ongoing in this area and allows more stores to move in should they want to develop here. This is a perfect area to start a new housing development without expanding our boarders out. This route will also be serviced by transit which could increase the number of riders and its distance to Lakehead University and Confederation College also make it a high reward development.

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See Below

This is kind of a mute point now with the old Sir John A. Macdonald school being taken over by a engineering firm but this just shows another opportunity. There is massive amounts of vacant land in this area that is dominated by the old school. If the original development plan had been accepted with minor changes to protect more green space this could have been a great development. Since the school closed this area has been underutilized as children and families moved out of the area. There is still opportunity to develop this area some more but it will take some work now that the firm said they would ‘protect the area’.

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See Below

To say that this area is a bit of a mess is a understatement. This is one of the oldest ongoing residential developments in the city of Thunder Bay. Original designers thought that the area would look like a cart wheel with all the pegs coming together at one point. It turns out that not too many developers were fond of trying to figure out how to size their houses into lots with 3,5 or less sides. Still to this day there are the original designs slowing down development in this central area. Realtor Vince Mirabelli went to city council on behalf of his client to try and purchase a lot of land in this area. He was told by administration that the city wasn’t sure of what to do with this land because of the future industrial development to the west (left) and commercial to the east (right). The plots were also still divided into many different shapes and sizes and administration felt uneasy selling the lots until they were fixed. The city having these in their possession for close to 70 years and yet the lots are unchanged. This fact is slowing down the development in a perfectly good area for new housing. While there are many imperfections it still can be saved and developed if proper care is taken. The area’s in red are already developed and guesses at to where the properly lines end. The green are areas where I believe development could take place. To try and put industrial in this area is a mistake and wont happen, commercial maybe a little but I’m sure that would be a fight. Developing residential of the same size and lot appropriations as the ones there are the best options. This is another vital area to get going for our upcoming housing issues.

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See Below

In May of 2012, a 100 year flood struck Thunder Bay which flooded many basement apartments and houses. This caused an already tight housing market to shrink significantly for many more people. The area above is close to both Confederation College and Lakehead University. This is a perfect area for student housing to be developed to house a growing population of students who come to Thunder Bay for schooling. Many students were stuck searching for a place to stay before the school year which grew increasingly desperate at a early stage. Students were offering a higher then average amount for rent, they were offering to do house work, repairs or babysit to try and find a reasonable place to stay for a the school year. While this could be reducing in the coming years as homes which were normally available come back; this might not be enough. LU and Confederation College are both growing in the number of students they bring in each year. To accommodate these growing numbers we need to provide affordable housing to students. Chathem-Kent’s college provides townhouses for students to rent during the school year as an option for students who may have families. This provides more options for students but also opens a new source of revenue for the college. This area is perfect for a new development of student housing but again the city is ‘looking at its options when it comes to this area’

If the mining boom comes to fruition there will be close to 20,000 more people living and working in Thunder Bay. We cannot afford to continue building homes on the outskirts of our city. We need to replace the existing infrastructure we already have compared to the expansion of our system. Transit, city taxes, services and more will all benefit from a smaller sized city compared to one spread over a wide area. In another article we will look at areas already developed that could be a potential area for redevelopment (Toronto style).