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'I will fight to have my equal right to live out here,' Sudbury ruralite says

With more than 300 lakes and thousands of square kilometres, Greater Sudbury, Ont., is a popular destination for rural living. But some say that lifestyle is becoming more challenging to afford.

'The service level is not to the standard that they're hoping for:' councillor Michael Vagnini

Ken Salo wants to get more value out of his municipal services in Sudbury, Ont. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)
With more than 300 lakes and thousands of square kilometres, Greater Sudbury, Ont., is a popular destination for rural living — but some say that lifestyle is becoming more challenging to afford.

Ken Salo lives on a picturesque waterfront property beside an old family farm about 45 minutes from downtown Sudbury. 

Salo's family has owned the land since the 1920's.

Back then, his relatives used to pay for their taxes by fixing up the road that led to their home by hand.

Times, of course, have changed. 

Salo now has to pay his taxes, which keep climbing.

However, Salo is not prepared to give up his way of life because of the extra cost. 

"This is where I want to be, where my forefathers were," Salo said.

"I will fight to have my equal right to live out here, and right now I don't feel that it's equal."

'It's actually embarrassing'

Salo is concerned he has to keep paying more for services, such as hydro and septic tank pumping. 

"I really think that the city of Sudbury, ever since they went regional, the geographical area is way too vast," Salo said.

"Because we're spread so far and thin, they [city] can't just provide those services that they should be providing us."

For example, the street leading up to Salo's house has not seen much improvement since his ancestors used to maintain it. 

In fact, Salo and his neighbours prefer when Fairbank East Road is covered in snow because they say they do not notice pot holes that way. 

"It's actually embarrassing for me to have people come out here and visit me," Salo said.

"Every time they come out here, they say, Ken, what's with these roads? I've never seen such bad roads."

Rural resident 'scared to death' by tax hike

Louise Baker lives nearby. She has complaints about road conditions, but she is most worried about the city's 3.6 per cent property tax increase next year. 

"I'm scared to death," Baker said.

"They'll [city] tell you I have access to the libraries, the transit, all the amenities that are in Sudbury, but no I don't. I live out in the bush. It takes me half an hour to get to Lively, where the local bus does reach and I'm not going to drive there and then get on a bus."

Baker's tax bill is already over $5,000. She is appealing the amount to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), but she said she was told a decision will not be made for a while.
Greater Sudbury councillor Michael Vagnini represents the communities of Worthington, Whitefish, Naughton, Lively and Copper Cliff. (Michael Vagnini)

"This is ridiculous," Baker said.

"The rate of our taxes, and now they're [city] going to put it up and they [MPAC] haven't even assessed me again."

Michael Vagnini, the city councillor representing that part of the city, is trying to address the rising cost of rural living by gearing his support toward essential services.

Vagnini's inclination has led him to vote against council's favoured decisions so often that he said he has developed a nickname at his gym called "12 to one."

"No disrespect to any of them [colleagues]," Vagnini said. 

"It's just a way they perceive things relative to the way I perceive things, and a lot of times that's why the vote is 12 to one."

Councillor wants rural issues fixed before city commits to large projects

Vagnini is taking an unpopular stance once again with the city's plans to develop large projects. 

The city is studying the development of a new arena, convention centre, and combined art gallery and main library. 

Vagnini wants to put those discussions on hold until the needs of ruralites, like Baker and Salo, are addressed. 

"I may compare our infrastructure and our water/waste water and our assets almost like we have this beautiful house," Vagnini said.

"The roof is leaking, the garage floor is cracked, the basement floor is cracked and we've got water coming in. But we want to go out and we want to put a jacuzzi and we want to add a sauna in the basement, and we want to put a big, huge deck out. But we haven't fixed up our priorities ... our essential services."

Vagnini did not say he would put forward a motion to stop the large project process, but he said he wants to find a solution. 

"What I think a lot of people do is [in rural areas], unfortunately, they've come to accept the fact that the service level is not to the standard that they're hoping for or what they used to having," Vagnini said.

"It's not the fault of the city employees. It's the fault of where council is directing the money, in my mind, and we need to ... look at what we're doing for our rural communities and what we're giving back to them."

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.