While Thunder Bay has traditionally benefited from the large employment from natural resources and transportation industries, the 2008 recession had a negative impact on the local economy and led to the successful reassessment appeals of Resolute, Grain Elevators and Canadian Tire that decreased Thunder Bay tax base by $23 million in the last five years.
As the Budget and Finance Chair and with the support of council and Administration, the city was able to find $15 million in operational savings through continuous improvements and efficiencies and keep tax increases at around 2.5 percent while maintaining investment in services and infrastructure.
Thunder Bay is Open for Business
Thunder Bay has survived the demise of the forestry industry and the loss of over 7,000 direct and related jobs. To a large extent this was due to growth in the educational, health, transportation and other sectors of our economy.
Through my role on the Board of Economic Development, I have had the pleasure of working with the Port and Airport in getting a Business Improvement Designation for their lands, that provides financial incentives to business that invest there. For example, no property taxes over 10 years and up to the value of the building.
I believe that the Mayor has an important role to play by working in collaboration with all major institutions and large employers in the city in growing our economy. I have already started this process and invited all major community organization at a Town Hall meeting to discuss such opportunities.
Like in so many other parts of the country, small business is now providing the largest employment gains and quickly becoming the backbone of our economy. This sector has the potential to transform our community by creating many needed jobs and helping develop a more reliant and diversified economy.
Below are just some of the initiatives that I have spearheaded and accomplishment that have and will continue to help the business sector in our city through:
- Lower Commercial Taxes
Thunder Bay commercial tax rates while coming down in recent years are still above the provincial average. My plan will help lower these taxes and help us compete in the global market when attracting new investments.
- Lower Multi-Residential Tax Rates
I am a strong believer in tax fairness and brought resolution forward to City Council to gradually lower the Multi-residential rate and stimulate new construction of rental units, which will help keep rental rates low.
- Reduce Red Tape and Bureaucracy
As the Chair of the Audit Committee during my previous term of Council and as the Chair of Budget and Finance for the last four years, I have worked closely with administration and Council to reduce red tape and bureaucracy and provide better services to our citizens. I have introduced a more streamlined process that allows the city to finalize the budget one month ahead of time and take full advantage of the short construction season.
The process of acquiring building permits can be further streamlined through proactive meetings with developers and builders and the recently approved new Official Plan will also go a long way in ensuring that our city will continue to develop in a sustainable, progressive and welcoming way.
- Financial Accountability
Value for your tax dollars is becoming even more important in light of a slow growth economy not bringing in sufficient revenues to maintain taxes low while paying for infrastructure and services. As Budget Chair, I have consistently advocated for a renewed focus and effort in living within our means which helped the city achieve three years of financial surpluses during this term of council, compared to the previous three years of deficits.
- Need for a Pro-Business Attitude
While many municipal agencies such as Tourism Thunder Bay and the Community Economic Development Commission strive to encourage development and growth, their efforts ca be greatly enhanced by a coherent vision and plan from the top.
Thunder Bay can attract investments from outside and from within our own community, but in order to do so we must ensure that when we say we are “open for business” we really mean it.
The small business sector needs a receptive, capable, and helpful Mayor and Council in order to grow and prosper. Our future as a viable community depends on it. As Mayor and with the support of the rest of Council, we can “Awaken Thunder Bay’s Giant Potential“, address the above issues and help revitalize Thunder Bay by bringing back its vitality, pride and prosperity.