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Council Hears From Public During Pre-Budget Deputations

By Adam Riley Jan 13, 2023 | 7:22 PM

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Thunder Bay City Council will have their work cut out for them going into 2023 budget review meetings which start next Tuesday.

Part of that will include going through some of the suggestions and requests made by disputants Thursday evening.

One of those requests came from Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson to keep tax levy increases limited to a maximum of three percent before growth, which is all what the Chamber’s membership can absorb at this time.

“They really need some help from council.”

As well there is a request to have the city add $1.3 million back to the capital amount.

“We know that it is a big ask,” Robinson admits. “but we also know that businesses are facing even more inflation in their businesses right now as the lingering challenges of Covid and on going challenges with inflation, supply chain issues and labour shortages.”

Currently the tax levy increase is set for 6.2% pre-growth and 5.58% after growth.

Meanwhile Mayor Ken Boshcoff has stated he would support a 2% tax increase.

Both of those numbers would require the budget to be cut according to City Manager Norm Gale. Which he says is doable, but notes that it would increase risk.

“Increase risk by increasing revenue projections, and we need to do that responsibly. We are required by legislation to have a balanced budget, so we just can’t simply make up revenue targets and hope for the best. So we need to have a responsible recommendation there.

Alternatively Gale says a reduction in reserve fund contributions, which is not recommended, would work, or to reduce or change service levels.

“Doesn’t mean its easy, doesn’t mean its palatable but there are ways to do it.”

Also among Thursday’s deputations were two on active transportation within the city, with two groups seeking to expand the city’s trail network, both along the waterfront and in the intercity area.

Warren Philp is the Team Lead for the Waterfront Trail Rotary Community Action Team, which seeks to establish 13.5km of trails along the waterfront linking to other trail systems in the city.

He admits this will be a tough budget and understands that money is tight but believes the city has to make progress.

“We made a great first step in waterfront development with the two kilometres at Prince Arthur’s Landing. We see such potential in adding to that, maybe 5km in one direction and 7km in another direction out of Prince Arthur’s Landing to provide a foundation for future exciting development along our waters edge.”

Boshcoff understands where Philp and the representatives from JustBike Tbay and Memorial Link, which seeks to create a bridge over the floodway between Memorial Avenue and Balmoral Street for cyclists and other path users.

He believes active transportation is fundamental for alternative transit within the city, which he says goes beyond just trying to get around.

“People really care about the city, and you have a lot of people who have done a lot of planning and a lot of homework on many of these projects, and they’re not just lifestyle, I think  a lot of them almost had a big health component to them.”


Paul Berger with Poverty Free Thunder Bay opened that groups deputation with a simple plea.

“Please don’t take from those who have the least.”

The anti-poverty advocacy group says many residents, especially those who receive income assistance need a substantial increase already just to make ends meet, and reemphasized its support for basic universal income and rent reform.

As part of its presentation the group pushed for improvements to transit, specifically access for the city’s lower income residents, through the affordable bus pass pilot program.

Berger admits the program would only help around 250 people, but notes it would provide data for future decisions.

“The public benefit of having some of the most vulnerable citizens in the city able to move around a little bit more easily, would be massive.”

City council will be meeting again for budget review meetings on January 17th, 19th, 25th and 31st, before a post-budget deputation meeting is held on February 2nd.

In the meantime, on Saturday January 14th, a group of concerned taxpayers are holding a meeting at the Mary J L Black Library starting at 2 p.m. with several members of council expected to appear and hear from attendees.


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