February 10, 2021
Mayor Brian Bigger and City Council
City of Greater Sudbury
Tom Davies Square
P O Box 5000, Station A
Sudbury, ON P3A 5P3
RE: Greater Sudbury Municipal Budget 2021
Dear Mayor Bigger and City Council,
On behalf of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce I appreciate the opportunity to share
our comments regarding the City of Greater Sudbury’s 2021 budget process. The chamber
represents approximately 750 businesses in the Greater Sudbury area. We work to influence
policy and decision making at all levels of government in the interests of the business
The past year has been more challenging than any in recent memory, and businesses have the
felt the brunt of the economic impacts of COVID-19. During these difficult times, business
owners have had to adapt their operating methods, their finances, their customer outreach, their
supply chains, and many other aspects of their business. The same is true of the City and we
commend the support the City, in particular the economic development department, has
provided to the business community. We have seen increased and improved communications
from the City, including important Business Continuity conference calls led by the Acting
Director of Economic Development. Generally speaking, the City’s transparency and
communications over the year has improved substantially, and the chamber urges Council to
remain committed to continuing this positive trajectory.
The proposed property tax increase of 3.9 percent is particularly concerning as it comes during a
pandemic-caused recession. The recession and the most recent provincial lockdown have had
drastic impacts on our businesses’ bottom lines, and in some cases even their ability to continue
operations. Many affected businesses in our community are at risk of ceasing operations and
declaring bankruptcy, and even the more fortunate ones are reconsidering investments and
contemplating hiring freezes and layoffs. Council should bear such conditions in mind when
voting on the final budget. It is important to strike a balance between investments in the
community and maintaining service levels, and fiscal prudence on the other. In striking that
balance, Council must ensure that it has made every reasonable effort to find efficiencies within
the City’s own operations to offset the reported budget deficit.
Additionally, the past year has highlighted other issues that the City should address and, if
solutions are prioritized and implemented, could contribute to the economic recovery over the
next year. These issues include:
• the skills shortage;
• demand-side management for water/wastewater investments;
• Waterfront Commercial Development; and
• economic competitiveness.
The biggest challenge to many businesses in Greater Sudbury is the difficulty they face in finding
and retaining talent. Our annual policy survey of our members identified this issue as the top
challenge, only behind the pandemic, for the development and growth of their businesses.
Businesses have trouble not only finding the right people with the skills for the job, but also
have difficulty attracting and retaining motivated workers.
The chamber has raised these challenges with key officials from both the provincial and federal
governments and they recognize that this issue is the biggest barrier to the growth of our
businesses and communities. The province has introduced many initiatives to tackle this
challenge, including expanding the eligible categories for the Ontario Provincial Nominee
Program, group sponsorship grants to hire apprentices, investing in childcare, and prioritizing
school re-openings, among others. The federal government has made similar investments, but
their most relevant initiative is the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), in which
Greater Sudbury is one of 11 national participants.
The RNIP, in conjunction with various other immigration pathways, has the potential to be a
game-changer for our community’s population stagnation and skills shortages. The chamber
was an early advocate for this program and celebrated its announcement. The business
community saw the program as a tool to help hire international candidates, and more
importantly, retain immigrants already living in, and committed to, Greater Sudbury.
Unfortunately, while many employers are willing and eager to participate in the program, they
have largely been unsuccessful in taking advantage of it as it was meant to be. Part of the reason
is the disruption caused by the pandemic, but that cannot be an excuse moving forward. The
City should encourage the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation to prioritize the RNIP
over the next year, ensure the program coordinator is proactive in engaging the business
community and expedite the processing of the multiple applications already submitted.
More generally, the City should continue expanding its marketing programs to sell the
community as an attractive place to live and work, especially to Southern Ontarians. COVID-19
has provided an opportunity for smaller communities to attract young professionals and their
families looking for a more affordable place to live and able to move due to Work from Home
practices. Greater Sudbury has many advantages to offer workers living in other big cities, and
we should emphasize them as much as possible.
Over the past few years, the chamber has paid particular attention to the City’s
water/wastewater projects, services, and costs. The City’s staff have been forthcoming
communicators and open to the chamber’s feedback on their work, and we commend them for
it. Given the ongoing economic challenges in the community, it is critical that the City utilize all
options to keep service costs increases and tax increases to a minimum. As the draft budget
projects a water/wastewater cost increase of 4.9 percent, the City should explore demand-side
management strategies as a means to lower consumer usage rates and reduce the need for
further rate increases. We appreciate that many of the projects that have warranted the rate
increases, such as the Advanced Meter Infrastructure system, will, in the long run, modernize
the system and increase efficiency. Once the new systems are in place, and consumers are better
able to monitor their consumption, the City should consider further demand-side management
strategies, including launching a public education campaign to encourage lower water usage.
Waterfront Commercial Development
Given the economic recession caused by the pandemic, it is more important than ever for the
City to explore all options that could provide a significant economic benefit to our community.
To that end, the chamber has, over the past two years, emphasized the potential of commercial
development on some of the city’s waterfronts. If developed, these lakefront establishments
could be a major source of economic growth, particularly in the tourism sector.
With over 330 lakes in our city, and several in the centre of Greater Sudbury, it is disappointing
that our residents cannot enjoy a delicious meal or refreshing beverage overlooking one of our
most unique and popular lakefront properties. Pulling together as a positive, united, energized
community, we believe permitting development on some of our waterfront sites could raise the
quality of life in Greater Sudbury and put us on the map as one of the best places in Canada to
live, work and visit. We can enhance our ability to retain/recruit our youth, professionals,
medical workers, and other top talent, and enhance our ability to attract investment capital, to
continue to build our city’s future, our economy, and jobs for our residents.
In particular, we encourage you to issue an RFP for the former Austin Airways Boat & Canoe
Club on the Ramsey Lake waterfront. This city-owned property is located at 531 McNaughton
Street and it is very well suited to be transformed into a restaurant and licenced patio that would
dramatically enhance the Ramsey Lake waterfront experience on a year-round basis. With the
guidance of the city’s administrative leadership, the winning proposal would sign a long-term
(several decades) lease for the space. The RFP should clearly state the space for lease does not
interfere with the Bell Park Covenant gifted by William and Katherine Bell in 1926 as this
property is outside of the boundaries of Bell Park. The RFP should also state that any
construction and renovations to the space would be paid for by the successful developer and
that an outdoor licenced patio for food and beverage service is a requirement of the proposal.
There should be a prerequisite for the submission of concept plans, a proposed financial outline
of capital investment, proof of financing or financial ability to fund the project, and revenue
potential/lease value/revenue sharing for the city. Potential bidders to the RFP would likely
include many local restaurant owners and national chains.
As the ‘City of Lakes,’ Greater Sudbury should continue to build on what differentiates us and
look to other best-in-class waterfront cities to draw inspiration and make our waterfront
properties even more extraordinary.
Recognizing the particular challenges faced by small businesses during the pandemic, in its 2020
fall budget the province introduced a new measure to allow municipalities to target property tax
relief to small businesses to help them weather the storm. The chamber has had discussions
with senior city staff about the possibility of the City utilizing this option in the 2021 budget; our
understanding is that the City’s position is that the province needs to provide further details
about the small business property tax subclass option before it can be considered in a budget.
However, similar conversations with officials from the Ministry of Finance have indicated to us
that the Province does not intend to provide those details, aiming to allow greater flexibility for
each municipality. While it is too late to introduce this tax relief in the current budget, the
chamber strongly encourages you to ensure that it is introduced in the 2022 budget.
However, keeping to the Province’s intentions when introducing this option, it is critical that the
City fund this tax relief via savings in its own internal budget rather than distribute it to other
ICI or residential property tax classes. During the recovery from COVID-19, it will be
important for us to utilize every economic advantage we can to ensure that our community
remains attractive for business investments; increasing taxes on larger businesses and residences
after a hard-hitting economic recession could be devastating to the city’s ability to attract and
retain business investments.
Lastly, economic competitiveness is enhanced not just by policy, but also by attitude. We have
too often heard from potential investors that they are discouraged from investing in our
community because of restrictive and cumbersome red tape at City Hall. We encourage you to
continuously review and reexamine the case for all municipal red tape, and to eliminate any that
are not necessary. Additionally, a series of new health and safety regulations have been
introduced over the past year to combat the spread of the virus. Businesses are complying to
their best efforts however, given the speed of events, there may exist confusion among business
owners regarding some new regulations. We encourage you to instill a culture of assistance and
support among municipal by-law officers, and to prioritize by-law education rather than harsh
enforcement of businesses. Businesses are better able to comply with regulations when they are
informed of what exactly is expected of them, and wherever possible, the City should opt for
such an approach. Ultimately, such an attitude can only prove beneficial to our community’s
economic and social prosperity.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the 2021 municipal budget process. We
trust that our recommendations will assist you by providing insight into the Greater Sudbury
business community’s priorities during your work ahead.
Debbi M. Nicholson
PRESIDENT & CEO
cc Ed Archer, CAO
Download the letter HERE.