Sudbury council needs common vision, strong leadership, forum hears

A public meeting on the structure of Sudbury city council Tuesday night inevitably turned to the 13 people who currently sit around the council table.
About 100 people spent Tuesday night talking about how to make Sudbury city council better. (Erik White/CBC)

A public meeting on the structure of Sudbury city council Tuesday night inevitably turned to the 13 people who currently sit around the council table.

Much of the evening was spent on how many wards Greater Sudbury should have, if it should have wards at all, and how much councillors should be paid.

But former mayor Jim Gordon was hoping to cover another topic.

"I would have loved to have commented on the council and the mayor,” said the city's longest serving mayor. “But I'm not going to."

Gordon did make this general statement, however:

"It is very important that the mayor of the city be someone who has the expertise to develop policies and goals for the council."

That could be seen as a shot at rookie Mayor Marianne Matichuk, who has had well-publicized battles with councillors that some say keeps the city from moving forward.

But audience member Chris Nerpin argued it's the ward system keeps city council from being a cohesive group.

"We ended up with a mixed bunch where there was no common vision, there was no common ideology."

'Current system is bananas'

Laurentian University professor Bob Segsworth say that notion is nothing new, and it's up to someone on council to "build a majority."

"Perhaps that leadership has been somewhat absent in the recent past."

About 100 people attended the meeting.

The Chamber of Commerce, the event's host, said it's time to consider electing some or all of the councillors at large.

That's what they do in North Bay, where Mac Bain is a councillor.

"It makes me represent the community, I believe, better, [instead of being] concerned about 10 blocks,” he said.

Other cities, like Thunder Bay, have some ward councillors and some at large councillors.

Segsworth said he wants to keep the ward system and maybe even have more city councillors. He argued the real problem is the how Greater Sudbury is currently split up into 12 pieces.

"Because the current system is bananas,” he said. “Azilda and the Donovan? I mean, c'mon!"

It's too late to change the council structure before this October's municipal election. But the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce says it plans to study this issue further.


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