Thunder Bay council to debate plebiscite on event centre

City councillors will debate a plebiscite on the proposed event centre on Monday night.
Two councillors want their colleagues to consider the possibility of a plebiscite on the proposed Thunder Bay event centre. (

City councillors will debate a plebiscite on the proposed event centre on Monday night.

Councillor Larry Hebert has prepared a memo to council for Monday night’s meeting, which outlines a range of options to get more feedback from the public — including the possibility of a plebiscite.

However, Councillor Linda Rydholm for Neebing ward says she has developed specific wording for a plebiscite.

Rydholm's proposed question is, "Are you in favour of City Council continuing with the process to build the proposed Event and Convention Centre in Thunder Bay?"

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Rydholm said her council colleagues should not be afraid to ask the public their thoughts on the centre.

"If they're so certain that everyone in town pretty well is in favour, then, I think that would be favourable for us to get that positive vote when we go and ask the province and people in Ottawa for funding."

Thoughts of other councillors

In emails to CBC News, several council members indicated Thursday that a plebiscite at this stage is a  non-starter for them. Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's made his position clear many times: the city will do its homework, and he will not "succumb to public pressure from a vocal minority."

Councillor Iain Angus said it would be risky to rush the proper wording needed for a plebiscite. Other councillors saying much the same included Paul Pugh, Aldo Ruberto, Rebecca Johnson and Andrew Foulds.

The only councillor who indicated he's prepared to consider a plebiscite or other options right now is Joe Virdiramo.

On Tuesday night about 100 people attended a public meeting to voice concerns about the proposed centre, and hecklers often interrupted speakers supporting the project.

Mayor Hobbs and other council members have been defending the city's approach in the face of criticism from the group called Concerned Taxpayers of Thunder Bay.

Another group, Citizens for a Waterfront Event Centre, has become more vocal lately in supporting the project.