How the Ontario Liberals could re-brand to win the 2018 election.

After the claims of sexual misconduct against then, Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Patrick Brown turned the Ontario political landscape upside down; we finally have clarity. As hasty and contentious as the determination of the new PC leader was; the party has a new head. Doug Ford appears to have won the social conservative vote in order to take over the party election from his rivals. We now have Premier Kathleen Wynne, Opposition leader Doug Ford, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath as the main three parties leaders.

The polls currently show that Ontario is set to turn back to a conservative government after 14 years under the Ontario Liberal platform. Part of this reason is due to the poor polling performance and likeability of Kathleen Wynne as a leader but also due to general sluggishness associated with the current status quo. Yet; the conservatives are also in a bind with low ratings for their new leader Doug Ford and the self-destruction of the conservative platform. The previous party platform built under Patrick Brown has been tossed by the wayside in order to allow Ford’s visions for Ontario come to light. Party platforms typically are a very challenging document because you need to accommodate the general ideology of the party but also pander to individual groups and the public as a whole. If I were to be in the liberal war room I would think that there is a good opportunity here to re-brand the party in order to shift where it sits on the political spectrum. In recent years, Wynne has taken the party hard left in order to take votes away from the NDP to much success. Yet, I think that this has disillusioned many right of center liberals and soft conservatives.

The reset; I believe is required by the Ontario Liberals to win the next election or at least effectively challenge the PC party is to shift back to the center/center-right in order to win those votes back. This would require that the Ontario liberals present a plan that is fiscally responsible and more in line with traditional economics (aka. a budget surplus in good economic times).  I think there are three steps that the Liberals need to take in order to win this election.

Ford = Canadian Trump

The Ontario Liberals were likely going to take this route with Ford anyways but I think it could play off well. Ford and Trump share some similar characteristics in their chaotic businessman style and their desire to connect with the ‘common person’. The downside for Ford is that we have seen what a year of Trump has done to America on the international stage and voters may be careful to not want to subject Ontario to the same fate. A poll post-Ontario PC election showed that soft conservatives were 27% less likely to vote for Ford then they were to vote for Elliot or Mulroney. That should be the target audience of the Ontario liberals when they re-brand to try and take away from the conservative party. Policies that focus on debt reduction, budgetary balance and future provisioning (reserves) as their core. The Liberals also need to avoid the mistakes of the Hilary Clinton campaign where she called the Trump voters deplorable; that became a rallying cry for a lot of people to get out and vote. The Liberals should not use the past personal mistakes of Doug Ford or his deceased brother Rob Ford as leverage. They need to keep it strictly to the policy spectrum because of how well Doug Ford connects with this ‘common man’ mentality. If you start to act in such a factor he will turn it over as an elitist vs average Joe mentality such as Trump did and you will lose voters along with embolden the conservative base. Conservative voters tend to be older, wealthier and most importantly are much more likely to get out and vote then other groups of voters can be. That 27% of wavering soft conservative would play a very important role in the victory if the Ontario Liberals were able to convince them that Ford would be dangerous for Ontario and the conservative brand.

Ontario Liberals = Economic stewards

I think that this stage would not only be the hardest part but be the most important. Whether you like the Ontario liberals or not there has been a vast improvement in the economic conditions since the start of the economic recession in 2008. A vast majority can be attributed to the global recovery as a whole and the return of the United States to health. Yet, the liberals were the ones in charge of the recovery and they need to show how their economic policies and practices helped to allow Ontario to recover. The Liberals also need to bring out a plan that will show these soft conservatives and right leaning liberals that they mean business in terms of fiscal responsibility. That means A) bringing in balanced budgets that are supported by more then the budget document. This needs to be supported by the auditor general who has been highly critical of their budgeting. B) Running a surplus and being responsible with it by putting money away to reduce the debt and provide future reserves. Ontario has the highest individual soverign debt in North America and pays billions in interest rates alone. C) Producing a plan that is viable and aggressive to pay down Ontario’s debt. Conservative groups such as Ontario Proud show off the growth in debt under the Liberals as a means to show their economic inability. The federal liberals have the ability to run deficits and push cash out to everyone; the Ontario liberals do not. Economic policy and policy aimed at conservatives will be an important factor in willing those voters who are not sold on Ford’s policies and personal conduct. A large part of the voting population is in the large geographic areas surrounding the GTHA. These areas have been traditionally liberal strongholds but with a new Conservative leader coming from this area it can undermine their hold. It will be vastly important for the Liberals to show how they have improved transit within this region; how they intend to continue this and the process forward. Commuting is a huge deal for many within this region and it will be important to win these people over or hold on to established areas. Taking one from the now dead Conservative playbook would be adding in transit operational costing to the Ontario budget. Covering 5% of the budget for organizations like the TTC/ GRTS etc could be a huge boon to the Liberals.

NDP voters = Strategic voting

Ontario’s Liberals under Wynne have been good to those traditional voters to the NDP. That’s a big part of how they have won their last couple victories to keep themselves in office. This time they need to present themselves as the only real opportunity to stop a Ford run Ontario. They need to promote how they can win over that 27% of voters from the conservatives but they need the help of the right leaning NDP and moderate NDP voters to stop Ford’s Ontario vision. Talking about splitting the left vote to allow for a conservative victory will be important to the potential win for the Liberals. If the Liberals can win over a large amount of NDP voters they can keep themselves in power likely in a minority position. They can also use the lack of ability of Andrea Horwath as a springboard for winning the voters from the NDP. Horwath has let a couple elections or second place finishes split from her grasps and if they don’t want a Ford nation they need to vote Liberal. Given the past history of progressive policies within the party, they can also promote how they will continue to push responsible policies to keep improving the lives of Ontarians. 9% of workers in the workforce make minimum wage; the boost to $14 and the upcoming boost to $15 along with workplace changes are important policies that they can promote to these voters.

 

Either way; I think that its going to be an interesting election and the outcome will be an important timeframe to how Ontario moves forward. It’s possible that the Ontario Liberals could win even without the plan mentioned above; although a tired party with an unliked leader would be a stretch. As a right of center leaning individual myself my vote is not currently attached to a single party. Had the conservatives stayed with the ‘people’s choice platform’ of Patrick Brown that likely would have gotten my vote. It will be interested to see the ways in which each party tries to cannibalize each other and out maneuver one another. If the Ontario liberal’s lose this election I believe that it will be important for Kathleen Wynne to step down as the leader and to have a party reset. There needs to be new policies and direction brought in because the party itself does seem tired and out of ideas. While taking the best ideas of other parties isn’t a bad idea it also isn’t viable long term.

 

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Collaboration Between Lakehead University and other Government Agencies

The Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital board of directors announced that they are starting a process to redevelop the hospital and plan for the future of the facility. They are looking at the potential options to meet the current demands of the community and into the future. A requirement of this planning by the Government of Ontario is that one of the options considered is a complete redevelopment on ‘green space’. Typically; I view this to be the least effective and least productive method for moving forward as green space is often away from established areas and can promote urban sprawl. In this instance I believe that there is an opportunity here to establish a new facility while creating new and exciting partnerships between other governments and governmental organizations. One of the options that the hospital should consider is a partnership with Lakehead University to create a university hospital much like those seen at larger campuses in the United States. This facility could provide a partnership that creates the future model for intergovernmental cooperation and the training pipelines necessary to provide the educational and real world experiences for future professionals. This collaboration provides benefits to Lakehead University; the Ontario Government; the City of Orillia and Georgian College. Below is a presentation of what each group has to gain and offer to this option.

Lakehead University

The campus was established in Orillia in 2006 and later established a permanent campus into a large green space in West Orillia shortly after. It currently serves approximately 1,500 students and is the only university in Simcoe County. Laurentian University was set to establish their satellite campus in the City of Barrie in 2015 which would have served 3,000 students but this was not picked by the Ontario government for funding. The Government of Ontario is currently looking to establish new campuses further into the GTHA region and much of the financing is being focused there.  The Lakehead Orillia campus is set for growth as both the City of Barrie and Orillia are expecting their population to grow significantly in the next 10 to 15 years. It is well positioned for growth as the campus has significant space requirements to expand their facility. The current issues pertaining to growth at this campus is the lack of available financing to continue expanding facilities and lack of space for new programs. The negatives for the campus can be used as collaboration pieces for the new hospital campus. The abundance of space means that the university can offer cheap land to the hospital in return for shared space in the new facilities. These shared spaces can be used in conjunction with one another to offer state of the art training facilities for university students and hospital patients. A practice like this is already in place at the Georgian College Barrie campus; if an accident were to damage the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) they could transfer patients to the training facility on campus and still have the same quality of care. The difference for this campus would be the buildings would be shared instead of stand alone buildings. Students in these facilities would get the opportunity to interact and observe the real world operation of a hospital. These shared learning facilities also provide the university with the opportunity to add additional degrees to attract students to the facility. Courses like Nursing, Business administration, Information technology are all some of the potential options to attract students to the campus. Lakehead University also has its own medical school which produces doctors at the Thunder Bay campus; were they to provide an additional satellite facility on the campus they could provide the same mandate of improving medical care to rural areas to Simcoe County. A collaboration between the hospital and the university opens up research opportunities for the academics within the facility and commercial opportunities for developing medical technology. In short; Lakehead’s current issues of lack of funding for expansion and the resulting issue of lack of space could be mitigated by this cooperation.

Orillia Solders Memorial Hospital

The current hospital is running into the issue of lack of space and existing facilities that are aging and not meeting the demand of the citizens. Some of the buildings are from its original construction and there have been additions on the building as its grown. The benefit of the expansion into the Lakehead space is twofold. One; they get a new facility which will be designed to meet the demands of the community and designed for future growth. This facility will be able to meet the requirements for accessibility purposes; the planners will have the reduced stigma associated with mental health hence providing more space for staff to reduce stress and more room for addressing mental health within the community. Secondly; they get a partner in the cooperation with Lakehead which provides them with the next generation of nurses, business administrators among other important roles. This means that when they need to expand they don’t look purely at the Ministry of Health for funding they can also look for the Ministry of Universities and Colleges. This additional funding opportunity allows them to get new technology faster and better meet the needs of the community. Leveraging the knowledge at Lakehead University could also allow them to attract research investment into the hospital. A smaller version of university avenue in Toronto, ON could be an example of collaboration between universities, research companies and hospitals leveraging each others strengths to further one another. In short; the OSMH gains a new facility where they meet the demands of a growing community for the next 25-30 years and gains access to new funding/research opportunities.

City of Orillia

The City of Orillia has done a lot of work to better support the expansion in West Orillia with the development initially of a single bus line serving Lakehead University to the expansion of a second one. They have also invested in a multipurpose sports facility which gets extensive use and an industrial park which is set to be home to the new OPP detachment and Hydro One research/service facility. The collaboration between these Lakehead University and the OSMH does provide some initial issues but I feel provides long term benefits to the community and the city. Short term the city has to deal with a large parcel of land in an established part of the community moving out to the fringes. This would likely cause a depreciation of land values of those homes and businesses close by to the hospital. Long term the city would gain a large parcel of land that it could influence the redevelopment of that part of town with. That could be the catalyst for new multi use developments which brings commercial and residential to that area including new tax income. There is a lot of opportunity for the community to reuse this land to provide benefits for the long term of the community. The continued development of Lakehead University also has important benefits to the community. Housing development in this area of town has expanded significantly in a short period of time providing employment and income to city coffers. With a community population of 31,000; 1,500 students annually attend the Lakehead campus on September 1st of every year which means the community grows by almost 5% overnight which has a significant impact on the businesses within the community. The City of Orillia has invested a lot of time and money into this part of the community to address its growth and expansion. The collaboration between Lakehead and OSMH would provide significant benefits to the community as a whole but could have some detrimental short term effects.

Georgian College – Lakehead Collaboration

Lakehead University and Georgian College have come together to provide additional programs that “offer the benefits of a college diploma and an university degree”. While this is beneficial to both campuses it is currently focused more on the Barrie campus then Orillia as Georgian has more space to offer these programs. Furthering the collaboration between these two groups could again provide fruits in the Orillia campus. Georgian college has a number of programs pertaining to health which would be beneficial to the new collaboration. Students at the Georgian Barrie campus have access to very high tech and realistic technology which makes them attractive candidates for future employment. Programs such as nursing could take advantage of the investment Georgian College has made into these facilities and complete a diploma there; then complete their degree at the university campus which would have ample workplace opportunities for training with the merged facilities. Nurses could have the opportunity to do two years in Barrie in those facilities and then come to Orillia to attend the theory part of nursing and the hands on experience of being in a shared learning space. This would provide students with the hands on experience they need to be highly sought after candidates and provide work spaces with employees who have real world experience coming into the work site. This makes it highly valuable for all parties to work together on providing the opportunities that students need to make something like this work. Continuing the collaboration provides highly sought after students and makes these two campuses attractive to applicants as they offer the best job prospects.

 

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

 

Victoriaville: The Future

The City of Thunder Bay is looking for input into what the citizens would like to see happen to this space. Since its inception it has polarized the citizens and for many is the reason that the Fort William side of town has gone into a decline. Much has changed since the days of old and the city itself has changed. The question still remains as to what do we do with the Victoriaville Mall and how do we move forward?

I think we need to take a step back and come to an agreement that no matter what decision we make whether to tear it down or to keep it up; the area will not boom like people seem to predict. Thunder Bay is a much different place then when the mall was created and we as a society have changed as well. This idea that if we tear it down everyone will come rushing back into the area is a fallacy and it just wont happen. Fort William downtown still struggles with a bad reputation, high crime rates and lack of a real draw. I know personally that if they tear down the Victoriaville Mall; I will still have no draw to go there.

The decision on what to do with this half filled building that has struggled to bring in business and customers is an extremely challenging one. On one hand if we keep the building as such then we run deficits and spend millions for repairs to a facility we may not need. Yet, if we tear it down the question becomes the next steps for the space, the people who lose their businesses and employment. The larger picture must also be considered in this decision. The decision to invest millions in the waterfront redevelopment was not done on its own; it was done with the implications it would help the surrounding area and the investment would incite other investment.

The City of Thunder Bay needs to look to a much larger plan then simply the space that Victoriaville occupies and create a plan to bring life into this area again. This means dealing with issues such as public intoxication, businesses supporting potentially illegal or antisocial actions and beautifying the area. We have a gentlemen in Mr. Habib who has taken the time to present his vision for the area in order to bring life back to this part of town. It is going to take a vision on a grander scale to address the issues facing this part of town and it is a multifaceted one. Looking to modern urban design principles, the realities of the city and its population along with a multitude of potential tax policies will be important.

The City of Thunder Bay cannot take this on their own and they need to introduce private partners to the plan. Residential development or having people live in the area is an important part of improving the area and bringing in other investments. Council can work with developers to create multi use facilities that build on each others success. There are a number of buildings that can be torn down to introduce these new spaces for developers to establish themselves. Toronto is one community that succeeds because they build on each other. Bottoms floors are rented out to things that the community would need like grocery stores, gyms and cafe’s while upstairs are residential areas, the people who work and use these areas. Thunder Bay needs to look to this vision beyond just the Fort William area but specifically for the plan of the Victoriaville Mall how to best create mutli-use facilities.

To the idea of what to do with the Victoriaville mall; I really hope that while the city gets input from the citizens as a whole it places more emphasis on those who work, live, and play in these areas. As someone who hardly uses this area my opinion should have less value then someone who would lose a business, employment or a recreation space due to this decision. I hope that the city looks to a pedestrian facility where people can come, sit and relax while taking in the area. A space for vendors to provide food, meals and allow for a community connection. I hope that the city takes into account aboriginal features as this area does have a larger Aboriginal population.

I guess my thoughts on this topic are that we cannot expect a miracle to happen either way. We need too look beyond this area and make the effective investments that improve life and the users of the space should have more say then those from Neebing, McIntrye or even the north core who haven’t used the space in 30 years.

Mr. Habib vision: http://visitfortwilliam.ca/NeighbourhoodNews/Avisionfordowntown.aspx

Thunder Bay in 40 years

Its hard to truly say what Thunder Bay will look like in 40 years and what we can expect of not only our city but our leadership. It’s likely that city council be more gender equal and we will see more representation of minority groups like First Nations; both of which would be positive advances from where we are today. Yet, there are also concerning factors for Thunder Bay that cannot be ignored and today’s leaders need to start laying the groundwork for. It’s often tough to look beyond that 4 year stretch and make decisions that will have little to no impact on your term in council today but these decisions need to be made none the less. Thunder Bay is continually faced with tough decisions when it comes to budget seasons and the future holds no different. Infrastructure deficits, pressures on emergency services and more all play a big factor in how Thunder Bay functions as a city and how it operates. For Northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay they face the additional challenge of out migration and economic issues associated with the geography of the territory. As city council struggles today to make ends meet I believe its time that we start to look at what exactly are our core responsibilities as a municipality, how we can improve our city through urban design and how we can address the future challenges.

Thunder Bay stands at 108,359 people according to the 2011 census a decrease of 0.7% over the previous census in 2006. It has a population density of 330.1 per square kilometer and has a median age of 43.3 years old. While I have lived in southern Ontario for the last 3 years, I have seen a lot of similarities between Thunder Bay and Barrie but there are distinct differences between the two in the statistics. Barrie has a population of 135,711 per 2011, an increase of 5.7% over 2006, its population density is 5.3 times higher then Thunder Bay at 1,753.10 and its average age is 37 or 6.3 years younger then Thunder Bay. It’s right to wonder what these numbers mean for both communities but the simplest answer is that Barrie will have a much easier time attracting economic development to its community, supporting that development with services like transit and providing quality of life to its residents. Thunder Bay on the other hand due to its sheer size, its aging and declining population will be forced to make significant cuts to services necessary for its citizens.

If we were to look at the data for population for the City of Thunder Bay it has decreased at a range of roughly 4% between 1996 and 2011. This mean at a population base of 109,000 people the City of Thunder Bay would lose 4,360 people every census. Given that 40 year span and 8 censuses between now and then if the city continued to lose at that rate it would lose 34,880 people or in 2056 be a population center for just under 73,500 people. Factors such as increasing median average age will also play a factor in decreasing populations and the large size of older individuals (65+) in the City of Thunder Bay will also affect the numbers in a negative way. Items such as Aboriginal influx into Thunder Bay will have a positive correlation on this total population as Aboriginal people are one of the fastest growing and youngest demographics in Canada.

For the city to potentially lose 34,000 people would be devastating to the city’s tax base and to the services that rely on them. Many services would either be diminished or drastically cut that they would be a shell of their original self. In a 60 year period Detroit lost 64% of its population and it is suffering from poverty, addictions, crime and corruption and its services have been slashed and burned. To lose almost 30% of your population would be just as drastic and have huge implications to the city and its residents. So the time to act is now to prepare ourselves for the future and make sure our feet are firmly planted going forward. We continue to feel the effects of the Orval Santa’s regime where their 0% tax increases were loved by the populous but are being felt on the roads, parks and under our feet in the sewers. Thunder Bay needs to look for new ways to address these issues and make some tough decisions.

I truly believe that if we want to support the programs we have today that we are going to have to let things go.

Councilor Ch’ng has been an effective fighter for more infrastructure money and we need to see others get on board with this. We cannot let our infrastructure get further behind because every day we do we fight the interest clock and changing values/ideals. Infrastructure investments are beneficial to those surrounding them and they provide an economic boost to the city. Infrastructure like parks, roads, disaster prevention all play an important role in improving the life that citizens of Thunder Bay have come to enjoy. Making smart investments with our infrastructure resources is also an important factor which means reducing the sprawl of Thunder Bay and investing in the cores/established areas. Thunder Bay needs to continue to infill its established lands and build up; it cannot let residence slow down or fight density. Making sure we are investing the proper amount into this field will held to address unknowns like the gas tax refund cities get. What does transit and infrastructure funding look like if the gas tax is gone or severely reduced? If we find a way to pay for these items now we can provide the flexibility for a lot of other items going forward.

That being said there are operations within the city that need to be done by the private industry to get these costs lowered or eliminated from the city’s books. We need to look at centralizing city operations and the number of individuals that we employ with the corporation. Its much tougher given that Thunder Bay is very reliant on the 3 levels of government for a vast majority of its larger employment centers but if the statistics are right we need to make these changes now. If we can find ways to reduce the organization in scope and size starting at the top we can avoid the issues now. We can avoid the nightmare scenario of Detroit where someone comes in and makes the decisions to cut or we have to do it whether we like it or not. Thunder Bay needs to have administration in my eyes sit down and really plan out the future beyond its long term projections and we need to make these decisions matter to the future. Using the seventh generation principle of the Iroquois “applied to relationships – every decision should result in sustainable relationships seven generations in the future.” The decisions council and people make today affect tomorrow and well down the line.

Explaining snow days to Thunder Bay students

I remember in first year that the Lakehead University campus had 2 snow days back to back at the beginning of the school year. It was joyful for the Orillia students but seemed to irk the Thunder Bay students that they weren’t getting days off. Students were making comments about the inability of southern Ontario drivers to deal with a Canadian winter. I totally understand where students are coming from and have personally seen both Thunder Bay and Central Ontario drivers not comprehend driving in the snow. There is one major difference though for students at the Thunder Bay campus to know about the campus down here though and why we may get more snow days.

In Thunder Bay the campus and a majority of its students are in Thunder Bay. There isn’t much driving required for Thunder Bay students to get to the campus and those that make the trip from out of town are smaller portion of student. Which means less reason to shut down the school if only 10-20% of class is commuting. Here in Orillia that statistic is much different. A significant majority of the student population commutes from outside of Orillia to the campus. The best example would be taking the Thunder Bay campus and placing it in Murillo or Lappe and expecting students to drive there during dangerous weather conditions. Large portions of students drive in from the surrounding communities and from Barrie which is the hub of Simcoe County. Highway 11 from Barrie to Orillia is 35 km one way and lined with farmland meaning squalls and whiteout conditions are common. Traffic is also much heavier leading less room for mistakes and more accidents to deal with. The geographical location means a significant portion of the class will be unable or unwilling to attend class due to the weather. Central Ontario also deals with snow drifts like I have never seen before, they are much more common than Northwestern Ontario and more severe. Add in a less comprehensive transit system and the location of school being a primarily car oriented design it doesn’t leave much room when the weather is dangerous.

As Lakehead Orillia deals with another snow day sit down and think if the campus was in Lappe would you take the time to drive there in blowing snow and squalls?

Proposed Changes: Westridge Bus Route

The longer I stay in a community the more I challenge myself to come up with new ways for the community to come together and become a better place to live. When I use Orillia transit I have always wondered what the plans are for the future to make sure the transit service services the proper areas for those who want to use it. Western Orillia is undergoing a massive expansion in the number of residents, businesses operating in the area. A large influx of students has moved and continues to move into the area to attend Lakehead University and Georgian College – Orillia. As the area changes the services need to change with the community and this is where my idea comes in. Large numbers of students who live close to Lakehead (within a 20 minute walk) drive to school and the school is currently focused on finding ways to alleviate the pressure from the single commuters. One means of reducing the number of students who drive to school is to make the transit system more attractive to use. Moving the Westridge route to where the new developments are ongoing would help to alleviate the pressures placed on Lakehead. Currently, the bus follows the main road to the school and for students/individuals who are going to live in the new additions to the subdivision there isn’t a great place to go and catch the bus. They’re stuck in between two bus stops and neither are an attractive offering when having to walk in the snow. This lack of viable options means that students are more likely to drive to school and the city misses out on a real opportunity to increase ridership. I figured that it would be a better idea to bring the bus to them in order to get them to their destination in a environmentally friendly way.

Westridge Change

Above in red is my proposed changes to the Westridge route that would take students to the university. I purposed these changes based on the positive impact that the transit system more effectively servicing this area would do. Isabelle street alone in undergoing a massive influx of new residents that would be perfectly served by this addition. 5 new town home units are being built which should add another 100-120 residents to this street alone. This road is also connected to 3 massive clearing where developers are preparing to start construction on 3 new sections of the subdivision. Large numbers of people could be served perfectly by this change in the bus route which would increase transit ridership and decrease the parking issues at Lakehead campus. Adding the stops in the subdivision would give people a closer spot to gather for the bus and would better service the subdivision construction further away from the main road. It would add additional time to the route which would need to be accommodated for all route in order to continue running the service on time. Additions to the other routes could also likely be found which would help to service more people to and from these areas.

In future, council would need to look at servicing rotary place and servicing the new Costco that is going to be developed along this route. The proposed changes made here are just one step in helping to expand the active transportation offerings that Orillia has and reduce the greenhouses gases put out by the city and its residents. With how fast the community is changing it might be time today to look at changing the transit system to meet the growing needs of the community and its residents.