Thunder Bay City Council and its municipal administrative apparatus seems to have embarked on its Roman imperial phase with respect to community relations with its taxpayer base. In response to those who provided input ( my input here ) on the 105 Junot Avenue South Rezoning application and following the October 21st decision to uphold the rezoning in a 7-5 vote, the Office of the City Clerk provided a Notice of Passing decree that begins as follows:
“The Thunder Bay City Council passed By-law 94/2019 on the 21st day of October 2019, under Section 34 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990 as amended.
Public comment has been received and considered and had no effect on Council’s Decision as the application is consistent with all relevant planning legislation and represents good planning.”
I suppose all that was missing at the end of this statement was a simple “All Hail the Glory of the Emperor” to convey the full message of conquest and victory. The implied message seems to be that any resistance to the edicts of City Council is futile and has no effect. Whatever is decided is consistent, represents good planning, and the final collective decision is ultimately infallible.
The entire public drama and division over 105 Junot was amplified by The City of Thunder Bay because they encouraged the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Corporation to expand the scale of the transitional project from 20 to 58 beds to “maximize” the use of the site which one suspects probably really means greater property tax revenues for the City - assuming that the OAHC pays property taxes. A smaller scale facility more in keeping with other such projects around the province would have been more suitable given the many concerns raised by residents in the area and generated less discord.
Unfortunately, the Aboriginal Housing Corporation was caught in the middle of this unfortunate situation and making it into an emotional issue that attracted the attention of the Globe and Mail did not serve anyone’s long-term interests. What the City of Thunder Bay should have done in response to the input received was return to the original proposal of 20-beds but that would have required actually listening and accepting at least some of the arguments made by those who presented their concerns. Really, how can a facility approved on a much larger 58-bed scale in a neighborhood with the social and crime issues that were raised be “good planning?"
In the end, it is water off a duck’s back because many members of council believe they have been annointed as “progressive” thinkers who love their community. The strength of their love means that they are doing good and therefore the ends always justify the means. If that means tacitly implying that opponents to their good works are insensitive to poverty or diversity, then so be it. They constantly solicit input from constituents but listen through a set of political noise cancelling headphones so that the discordant notes from any input not coinciding with their vision of fighting social and economic injustice is politely filtered out.
Those in Thunder Bay who uncritically champion all social injustice issues with unquestioned fervour and feel they have the ear of City Council and its municipal-corporate apparatus should be cautious. In the end, any dispensed progressive works are to be accepted on The City’s terms because they know what is best for you. Take the example of Dease Pool as a case in point. Here, a long-standing community pool in what is considered a disadvantaged neighborhood was closed because it was old and needed substantial and expensive renovations. There is continuing opposition to the closure but The City forges ahead.
The proposed new draft plan (available here) will essentially replace the pool area with a tennis court and a community garden. Given that swimming pools accommodate a greater and more diverse number of users than a single tennis court, it seems like an oddly elitist rather than progressive use for the site. However, consciences will be soothed with a multi-user community garden – which also atones for the environmental sin of an asphalt surface on the tennis court. If all this redevelopment was designed to somehow deal with the rising costs of an old and aging pool, those of us with a more fiscally conservative bent could be understanding. However, this will still cost a lot of money and in the end not fully serve the needs of the area.
As for the money that will be spent, it does not seem to matter because a “progressive” council that wants to do great things will simply raise the tax rates on its residents - who by the way are now responsible for the lion’s share of property tax revenue given the declining industrial and commercial base. Be prepared this year for an initial budget proposal that stakes out a high increase in the tax levy. This will be blamed on the provincial government who, being conservative rather than progressive, are the source of all fiscal evil. After a cleansing public ritual of debate and input of appropriate length, The City will then retreat to an increase of between 3 and 4 percent thereby demonstrating that it is both fiscally responsible and generous in matters of expenditure.
We should not complain too much. We elected them.