Original Published on Sep 04, 2022 at 12:05
By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
THUNDER BAY, ONT. — With the municipal election fast approaching, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce has worked with its members to identify several factors that they say limit the city’s ability to provide opportunities for its citizens.
With a mission to support a stronger business community, the chamber has surveyed its members and from the results compiled a list of recommendations for action creating a platform that reflects three pillars of a strong, resilient community in what they call the City of Opportunity.
Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, says the 2022 City of Opportunity platform is based on the concerns that have been identified by the chamber’s membership.
“We represent almost 800 businesses and about 22,000 employees in the community and these are issues that have come forward in, in our surveys and in our conversations with members for things that they really are looking for from council,” she said.
The survey found among the chamber’s membership, participants were most concerned with community safety and well-being, which is identified by increasing poverty, homelessness and crime. At least 49 per cent of the members are concerned with rising taxes but suggest they would be happy with the current rate if they could see better value from their tax dollars.
Many of them want to see staff in city hall’s public-facing departments better empowered to work with them towards positive outcomes. Also, the survey revealed consistent feedback from members regarding the cohesion of council itself, as well as its ability overall to work collaboratively and effectively with city administration.
“It’s hard to get through that information so we’ve developed this platform as a way to pull all that together as to what the business community has told us that they want from the next city council, and to be able to pull the responses from all candidates into one place that they can do their comparison that way,” Robinson said.
“The second thing is candidates understand that the business community is paying attention to this election and that we do have specific directives that we want councillors to be thinking about.”
She says they are asking elected leaders to say, “yes” to 10 actions and recommendations which revolve around three pillars.
The first pillar, visionary leadership, asks candidates to lead by example and say yes to partnerships, to openness and transparency and to be focused on fiscal prudent spending.
The economic opportunity pillar vitalizes less red tape, higher customer service standards in the city departments, and long-term thinking.
The third pillar revolves around quality of life for building great neighbourhoods, safe streets and increased diversity and inclusion.
“We think this provides a bit of a framework for the candidates as to what the concerns are of the business community, but also a framework that they could be using when they’re elected to actually make decisions as they’re moving forward to align with those commitments,” Robinson said.
In 2018, the chamber released its first City of Opportunity platform which was endorsed by all elected councillors, however, some candidates at the time did not respond to the platform.
The platform proved instrumental with results, including a program and service review, improved citizen engagement, reduction of average tax increases, and development of a digital services strategy.
The 2022 City of Opportunity platform will build on the work that has been done over the past four years.
Meanwhile, all registered candidates in the election will receive an email providing them with a link and a deadline where they will be asked to go through the chamber’s platform and indicate their commitment to each of the 10 actions and recommendations.
“Once that’s done, then we will actually provide a list of all the candidates and which ones they have committed to providing that clarity for all the voters as to where each of the candidates aligned on these issues,” Robinson said. “That’ll be the first week of October when we will roll out the responses and anyone who doesn’t respond will be indicated so that it’s fully transparent as to what the responses were or if they weren’t received.”