Sudbury

Timmins mayor says audit of Stars and Thunder expenses would be "waste of taxpayer dollars"

In Timmins, the Stars and Thunder music and fireworks festival continues to be a major point of contention ahead of the October 22nd municipal election. At the centre of the debate is the more than $2 million dollar deficit the event has posted over the past two years.

The 2018 version of music and fireworks festival lost money for a second straight year

Music fans enjoyed eight days of concerts and fireworks at Hollinger Park in Timmins for the second straight year in 2018, but the future of the Stars and Thunder festival remains a hot-button municipal election issue. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

In Timmins, the Stars and Thunder music and fireworks festival continues to be a major point of contention ahead of the October 22nd municipal election.

At the centre of the debate is the more than $2 million dollar deficit the event has posted over the past two years.

The city's financial staff says enough money was saved in other departments to cover the deficit in the budget.

But incumbent Ward 3 councillor Joe Campbell continues to push for a financial audit of the contracts and expenses for the festival.

"I'm not suggesting for a minute anybody is [illegitimately] benefiting financially or anything from this," said Campbell.

Councillor Joe Campbell wants the city to make sure they've got a much firmer budget in place before planning for another Stars and Thunder. (timmins.ca)

"But by having the audit, if we do go with another [festival], it certainly will give us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and move forward in a way that is able to ensure that our taxpayers aren't on the hook for a lot of money."

Since he was voted on to council in 2014, Campbell, a former accountant, has often butted heads with incumbent mayor, Steve Black about the city's role in financing Stars and Thunder. But on one point, they seem to have agreed.

"Obviously we've got to bring the finances in order to ensure it doesn't continue to be at a cost for the residents," said Black.

However, Black dismissed Campbell's suggestion of a financial audit and called it a "waste of taxpayer dollars."

"Mr. Campbell demanded the same thing for the wastewater treatment plant and we went through that process, and there was some good feedback and recommendations that came from that," said Black.

"But in the end Mr. Campbell argued with the auditor who took part in the process and disagreed with him for the large part as well."

More than 10,000 tickets were sold at this past summer's event, which featured the likes of Bryan Adams, Burton Cummings and the Arkells.

Steve Black is the incumbent mayor of Timmins. (Jean-Loup Dodard/ Radio Canada)

That was down from the 20,000 tickets purchased in 2017 when Keith Urban was the headliner.

The four other candidates opposing Black's bid for re-election — Ray Burey, Daniel Fortier, Lauchlan MacInnes and George Pirie — have each stated the city shouldn't be in the business of putting on festivals.

Black maintained the economic spinoff from Stars & Thunder has been invaluable to the local economy.

He acknowledged changes would have to be made, but said it's an event the city must support.

"I think we can do that with what we've learned over the last two years and shortening up the festival, as well as passing a municipal accommodation tax so that hotel guests pay a fee which would go toward tourism and could be used to help cover costs of the event," said Black.

About the Author

Benjamin Aubé is a journalist based out of Sudbury. If you have a story you'd like to share, email him at benjamin.aube@cbc.ca

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