Timmins mayor, council under fire for festival financial fiasco

Despite the financial loss for the city of Timmins, Mayor Steve Black says the Stars and Thunder festival was 'well worth' the money. But some ratepayers are upset and feel city council gambled with their tax dollars.

Figures show the city lost more than half million dollars from the 8-day music and fireworks event

One of the many performances at the inaugural Stars and Thunder 2017 music and fireworks festival in Timmins, Ont. (Facebook)

The Stars and Thunder festival is still causing fireworks in the city of Timmins.

Recent financial figures show the municipality lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from the inaugural eight day music and fireworks festival, held in late June.

The event was an idea that first came from Mayor Steve Black.

A month after the event was held, Black presented financial figures to city council. At that time the numbers showed a loss of $30,000. Several city councillors were concerned with the loss of taxpayer dollars.

Then in October, re-calculated Stars and Thunder figures were presented again to city council. This time the deficit was $545,000 for the municipality.

Despite that climbing number, Black says the festival was well worth the money. 
Timmins Mayor Steve Black says despite the financial loss, the inaugural Stars and Thunder 2017 was "well worth it" (ici.radio-canada.ca)

"It's a relatively low loss when you consider the impact it had on the economy, and the businesses, as well as the community pride that it instilled ... and bringing the community together for a large celebration, Canada's 150th."

Black says he believes most people can see past the numbers to understand what the event did for Timmins and the surrounding community.

"The majority of the residents in the community appreciated what this event meant to our community. The benefits it brought to our community, by attracting those out-of-town residents, and having people come back home that haven't been home in many years."

"I believe the majority of people here support it, but as any decision that the city makes, the government makes, there's always those who oppose it and have their concerns," Black says.

'Gambling city taxpayers' money'

Jack Dugas is the director of the Timmins Taxpayers Association. That's a non-profit organization which has more than 150 members from around the city.

He says when city council first proposed and approved the festival at the same meeting, members of his group were surprised with how much money was being directed to the event.

"We just about fell out of our chairs."

Dugas agrees the celebration helped to increase tourism and incite community pride throughout Timmins, but that doesn't translate into savings for those who pay municipal taxes in the city.

"The normal taxpayer didn't really benefit from this."

Dugas says the taxpayer group is especially concerned there wasn't a business plan provided for either the first festival, nor the second one city council recently approved.

"That's gambling city taxpayers' money. It's a big gamble and we don't expect if they lost that kind of money with that [2017] lineup that they had ... imagine what kind of money we'll lose this year [2018] with a lesser lineup."

"They just go ahead, forge ahead and do it."

"This is an election year and this election will decide whether they were right or wrong to gamble that much money," Duga says.

'It was well worth it'

Black says he still gets stopped around the community by people thanking him and the city of Timmins for organizing such a successful event.

"Overall, from an impact on the community for the cost to the community it was well worth it."

Black says he is encouraged by the number of people who have already purchased tickets for next summer's festival.

When discussing the finances for the 2018 festival, Black says he hopes adjustments to ticket prices, increases in sponsorships and the festival lineup will help.

"The goal this year is obviously to break even."

About the Author

Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 13 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca