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Erik White of CBC Radio sent all candidates a series of five questions to be answered on what decisions we would have made had we been on council at the time votes were taken during the past four years. I thought it would be of interest to constituents to hear what I had to say.

How would you have voted on the following resolutions from this past term?
Please respond with yes or no... 


(from Feb. 10, 2011)
Should the city scrap its bylaw 2004-204 regulating when retail stores are allowed to open and close? 

It is impossible, and perhaps illegal, for any candidate to answer this question with a YES or NO answer without being a Registered Lobbyist with the City of Greater Sudbury. And right now, only the Chamber of Commerce is Registered. I can, however, tell you that my official position is that regardless of the turn-out of voters, I am going to recommend that City Council deal with this issue in the new term. And I am going to vote on this issue in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the voters in Ward 5, the people I will be representing. I don't care if the result in Ward 5 is different from all other 11 wards. If Ward 5 votes a particular way, that is my vote. So it doesn't matter what I would have voted for back in February of 2011, nor do I know what I would have voted because I was not part of the debate and I am not at this time privy to a lot of the information that was exchanged between the Councillors at the time. They decided to put this issue to a referendum and that is what is happening on October 27, 2014.

(from Feb. 12/26 2012)
Should the city remove the Ontario Ombudsman as it's closed meeting investigator and instead retain a firm called Amberley Gavel? 

You can't make a decision on this with a simple Yes or No. You need to examine the credentials of each and then determine if there are other alternatives. Having an Ombudsman is not the issue. All city councils and school boards should have an appeal process that can be referred to in times when a decision needs to be questioned. So having accepted that the concept of an Ombudsman is essential, the selection of who is to provide this service should be a simple matter of reviewing the credentials and the costs involved. In the case of the Ontario Ombudsman, if there is no cost to the City to use the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman, then I don’t see why that would be a problem. On the other hand, if there is one person in that office who has made it a point to review every single appeal made against the City of Greater Sudbury Council, then my question would be why? Why can we not have rotating adjudicators instead of having the same one all the time? And why would the Provincial Ombudsman want to place himself in a positon where there can be a presumption of bias involved in his decisions? There are a lot of questions to be asked and once again, I am not in a position to take one side or the other since I am not aware of the facts. It is the same as a person who doesn't get along with his parish Priest or Minister. He does not have to abandon his religious beliefs simply because he does not like the Priest or Minister. He can find another parish with a different pastor and still practice his religion. It is not a question of his religious conviction. It is merely a personality problem. So it is with the Ombudsman. It is not a question of the importance of having an Ombudsman. It is merely a question of which organization should be used when an Ombudsman is required to intervene.

(from Dec. 5, 2012)
Should the city continue to give each councillor a $50,000 Healthy Communities Initiative Fund to spend in their ward?

The purpose of the Healthy Communities Initiative Fund is something that needs to be made perfectly clear to all Councillors and residents of the City of Greater Sudbury. I would never stand up and tell the people living in Ward 5 that I am against the concept of having access to $50,000 per year to help groups and organizations in Ward 5 initiate projects that will enhance their community. I am not going to throw away $50,000 that can be put to good use in my Ward. I am perfectly capable of distributing this money to people who need a “boost” in getting initiatives off the ground, or who would appreciate a few thousand dollars to get started on the project. For me to turn that money down is saying that I do not think the residents of my Ward deserve this funding or that they are not capable of coming up with projects that will help the community. It would be an insult to their dedication and commitment to the community.

Any candidate who says that they want to eliminate the HCI fund is admitting that they do not have the ability to get involved with their community in such a way that they can use that money to encourage new initiatives or to help organizations with their small projects that will benefit the community. I look forward to helping many groups each year with seed money of $1,000 to $5,000. I feel that I have the ability to find projects that will improve the quality of life for residents throughout Ward 5 and over the four years will be able to look back and see how these initiatives have made a difference in the community. My responsibility would be to make sure that money was spent each year, not save it over the course of several years so that it accumulates. If I can’t find projects that are deserving of the funding, then I am not doing my job for the people who elected me.

But most importantly, how can I ask the people of Ward 5 to trust me to make responsible decisions on a $500 million budget for the City if I tell them that I do not think I can spend $50,000 in an open, fair and responsible manner within our own Ward 5? If you don’t think a candidate can be responsible for a budget of $50,000, why on earth would you vote for that person to deal with $500 million?

I expect that the HCIF needs to be examined and revised somewhat, which is something that the new Council should do at the beginning of its term. Do I think all of the Councillors have used their funds wisely? No. But I also don't think that most councillors are involved enough in their community to know where to place those funds wisely, and that is another issue all together. Councillors need to be held accountable for finding effective places to distribute the funds and the only way for that to happen is for Councillors to get on their feet and encourage initiatives and projects in their respective Wards.

(from Oct. 9, 2013)
Should the city fast-track plans for a new arena replacing the Sudbury Arena with the aim of having the project underway by the end of 2014?

The issue of building an arena is not simply a Yes or No decision. The City needs private sector investment before we can get into building an arena and we can't begin to “fast-track” the project without that funding in place. To commit to an expenditure of up to $100 million or more without knowing that we can secure the proper funding would be irresponsible. Of course I would like to have a new arena and/or multi-use recreational complex. They are wonderful facilities and I love visiting them when in larger municipalities in Southern Ontario. But as a City Councillor, I have a fiduciary responsibility to the people who have elected me to be their representative on City Council. There are just as many people asking for improved walking trails; bike paths; baseball diamonds; soccer fields; swimming pools; playgrounds; and dog parks, to name a few. We cannot simply vote to “fast-track” an arena to replace the Sudbury Arena to the detriment of all other forms of recreation. So really, without having the funding in place, a vote in the affirmative to this question is demonstrating irresponsibility as a candidate for the position of councillor. It would clearly be designed to encourage support from all those who have been lobbying for a new arena. To vote No, does not mean that a person is against a new arena. It simply means that the city should not decide to “fast-track” any such project until it is in a position to fund this arena without harming any other sector of the community. If you want votes, then say YES. If you want to demonstrate that you intend to be a responsible leader who will make good decisions that are fiscally viable, then say NO.  But by saying NO, you risk the wrath of the people who strongly support a new arena at any cost and who do not fully understand the ramifications.

(from Dec. 11, 2013)
Should council approve the 2014 budget with a 2.9% property tax increase?

This is another question that is impossible to answer with a simple YES or NO. The budget was approved with a 2.9% property tax increase, but there are also a lot of other “hidden” user fee increases that need to be factored in as well. In addition there is the issue of assessment increases of the homes in the area. Is a 2.9% increase going to generate much more in actual dollars because of the increased property values over the next year? As a City Councillor I will not just be looking at the increase we see twice a year on the local tax bill. I will be looking at what we are charging residents for ice rental, recreation membership fees, transit fares, water rates, hydro rates, and so on. All of these user fees are taxes. And the big question is, are we making the best use of our employees and our equipment? If we were a business, we would say that we have a lot of people who are not in a “production” position in our firm. Do we have too many people who are simply doing administrative jobs that multiply at every level, or can we eliminate some of this administration and get just as much production out of our front-line workers? There is a lot to determining a budget and a huge responsibility of a councillor is to ask the right questions at budget time. A councillor must be prepared and educated so that requests for funding from city departments are truly reflective of the needs and of the services that will be generated. So I don’t know what I would have voted on December 11, 2013, because once again, there is a lot that you know when on City Council that is not published by the media because it is just not exciting enough for the readers and listeners. I need that knowledge before I can give a responsible answer to this question. If you ask whether or not I would like to keep taxes as low as possible, then my answer would be YES.



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