Maley Drive Update July 2016

Political expediency won out and the Maley Drive Extension project was approved by the Mayor and all councillors except Michael Vagnini with virtually no debate on March 22nd.  This took place despite a growing chorus of opposition to the Maley Drive Extension and occurred quite possibly before a tipping point took place with respect to public opinion. More information on the embarrassing flawed process below.  The project received money from both the provincial and federal governments - the city share is about $27 million (1/3) plus cost overruns and completion of phase two ($50-100 million) plus maintenance and eventual replacement. According to late media reports there is an indication that the project cannot be completed with the funding available.  If true this leaves three alternatives 1. The project is "scaled back" (something that has already taken place from the original plans). 2. Spend more money (which would most likely have to come from local taxpayers). 3. Abandon the project (highly unlikely but the best option and put the money from all sources to repair and maintain our present infrastructure).

Species at Risk and Watershed Concerns: In their haste to begin work on the project it was revealed that the city would have to apply for special "permission" to undertake construction on a portion of the new roadway which would impact "species at risk" A letter was sent to the Ministry of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change here. The MOECC acknowledged receipt of the letter and the MNRF provided this reply which outlines what action is to be required by the city and the process here. Besides species at risk there are very serious concerns about the impact on the Junction Creek watershed and wetlands in the immediate area of planned road construction.

Flawed process:  Council had previously approved an extension of a deadline for citizens to comment on the project to Friday March 18th, just before the vote on the the following Tuesday.  A public meeting on March 1st saw all that presented oppose the project except the Chamber of Commerce. A substantial number of submissions were received and the largest number, including those heard in the public input session, questioned or outright opposed the project giving detailed, informed and researched opinions.  Others in favor were basically brief and unsubstantiated (see reports on links provided below).  There was little opportunity for staff or council to review these inputs before the vote and no responses were provided to the opinions or concerns expressed.  Councillor’s reasons for approval echoed staff unsubstantiated information with respect to potential traffic improvements and the belief that upper level government funding would be lost, also unsubstantiated, as well as supposed future business economic benefits.  They also said constituents had indicated to them the need to approve but gave no numbers or reasoned opinion.  We believe action by council could be considered a violation of the public consultation process. 

http://agendasonline.greatersudbury.ca/index.cfm?pg=feed&action=file&attachment=15598.pdf

http://agendasonline.greatersudbury.ca/index.cfm?pg=feed&action=file&attachment=15599.pdf

http://agendasonline.greatersudbury.ca/index.cfm?pg=feed&action=file&attachment=15600.pdf

In summary those in favour indicated that the project had been "on the books" for so long that is should be done for that reason alone.  Others suggest that heavy trucks needed to be removed from Lasalle Blvd and the new road would accomplish this as well as relieve perceived traffic congestion.  Others felt that the city needed to "move forward" and the new roadway would contribute to economic development.  Some felt the road was meant to go North into the Valley.  Most comments were not supported by any substantiated reasoning.  Those opposed generally presented arguments with reasoned evaluation with respect to economic considerations and perceived need now and for the future and suggested possible alternatives.  You can judge yourself by reviewing the pubic input.  There was an almost complete lack of what might be called "common sense" which might have become evident by an in-depth examination of the matter employing an evaluative analysis based on "complete" knowledge and not just biased information.  This we believe would have resulted in a different decision by council. In this instance acting in haste will likely result in future regret. 

There is plenty of blame to go around in this whole episode that many describe as a fiasco, or worse, a sham. The majority of blame rests with the roads and transportation staff (infrastructure dept) that in the opinion of many, did not act in the public interest but rather their own.  Despite very questionable explanations of the projects value and convoluted reasoning with respect to the supposed wide ranging benefits there was unconvincing reasoning for the roadway having to be expanded from an original two lane corridor primarily for mine vehicle traffic to now four lanes. No options were considered to return to the two lane option at a much reduced expense or instead for a road way north from the present Barrydowne Road to serve the Vally area. Consultants were hired only to validate the staffs current option, consultants who had worked on the project design and offered disclaimers in their report which indicated they based their findings on information supplied by the city. Additionally upon review it was discovered that full roadway benefits would only be realized upon completion of the whole project and in particular phase two, however tripartite funding was only likely available for the first section. The Mayor and council are to blame for not asking staff for alternative considerations and/or for a fully independent outside consultant opinion and extensive cost/benefit analysis of the project itself and also related to other possible infrastructure endeavors.  Also council is to blame for not fully considering public concerns and providing reasoned response to these concerns, and for dealing in a cavalier manner with respect to environmental concerns related to wildlife species at risk and degradation or destruction of wetlands in the important Junction Creek watershed where the roadway is to be built. Regrettably there was as well a complete lack of fiscal responsibility with respect to the long term liability of a project of such magnitude and its supposed long term economic benefit. The public was assured that the project could be undertaken with no increase in taxation or debt including major repairs to present infrastructure which is highly suspect even for those of very limited financial understanding as whether a city or an individual spending can not take place without payback consequences even with creative accounting.   

What this experience did reveal was a very clear lack of understanding on the part of both our elected representatives and many in the business community of our current and likely future economic situation that could have have long term consequences.  We have population growth predictions that are totally unrealistic with forecasts of 10,000 more jobs (30,000 more people) over the next couple of decades.  This apparently totally ignores that during this same period we are likely to have at least 10,000 of our older adult population die (or move away), and with many younger working age individuals age continuing to leave the community any net gain cannot take place. We now know that production from our mining extraction and processing industries is in decline and will unlikely reach heights experienced in the past including work force levels. The mining supply industry is currently struggling being largely dependent on local demand. The education sector after experiencing decline in elementary and secondary levels, but increases in post-secondary is not likely to see future growth.  Health service expenditures while being possibly redirected to other areas of care besides institutional is unlikely to grow significantly. Home construction is stagnating and rental vacancy rates are increasing and this is likely to remain the situation without increased population growth. The retail and service sector is holding its own and is dependent in some significant measure in demand from outside our area as we are becoming a hub for Northeastern Ontario, but are experiencing competition from other northern cities and likely even more from southern Ontario with the completion of the four laning of Highway 69. There is possibility for growth in tourism and the arts, however occupations in these areas are relatively low paying compared to other industries. Basically we have virtually maxed out potential development in areas of diversification. We realize that manufacturing industries are unlikely to establish here, being distant from markets in a “just in time delivery” environment, while information technology development enterprises are a possibility if we can provide for these and other alternative industries an attractive environment, a liveable community with amenities and reasonable costs – a challenge which can be met with vision and determination. The current reality is that our unemployment rate is the highest in the province.  The commercial vacancy rate is rising as is apartment vacancy.  It appears as if the city planners have not considered this possibility and what could be done if growth does not take place or population actually declines. 

Taking the foregoing into consideration - what’s to be done?   First the establishment of a viable “think tank” to look at the current situation in a realistic and educated manner.  An organization made up of those who are not just “pie in the sky” dreamers but totally objective individuals who can bring together ideas from other areas that have or are experiencing similar circumstances. This group with input from citizens could determine what can be done to, in effect, save our city from eventual decline which is inevitable (despite the current overbuilding of apartments, hotels and retail establishments) and considering demographic trends.  We have to make the most of our resources, whatever they may be, to prepare for the future.  Short-sightedness is our enemy.  Achievable goals need to be set and resources provided, which likely do not include building new roads of doubtful value. It is now time to look to the future and not the past, and prepare for what is to come – likely contraction rather than expansion.  We may become smaller, as we have in the past, but likely to remain so this time.  But we can be better smaller, however not with the current "old thinking" attitudes now prevalent with those who are unwilling to see or acknowledge what is to come and only likely when it becomes more obvious that action must be taken. We hope by then it will not be too late.  

 Extension Issue:  Evaluation/Deferral Recommended

Media interview critics of Maley Drive Extension Project March 18th.  Shown (right to left) Dr. David Robinson, Thomas Price and Gord Slade. Others who took part in the event at the Minnow Lake Canadian Legion included, John Gaul, Lionel Rudd, Liisa Toner-Lindsay, and Dot Klein who all spoke to the Sudbury Star, Northern Life and the CBC. Dr. Robinson, an economics professor at Laurentian University was especially critical of the plan and his media release can be accessed here.   For Sudbury Star story (March 11th)  on Alternatives for Maley Drive click here.  Tom Price research preliminary material on Maley Alternatives:  Introduction and overview click here.  Benefits Matrix click here. Priorities ranking click here

John Lindsay of Friendly to Seniors - Sudbury and the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons has requested meetings with all councillors and Federal MPs to determine their "position" with respect to the project.  Only one councillor and MP replied.  For submission to city input request and rational to support  deferral/abandonment of the project and concerns about species at risk click here.

Interview with Tom Price on CKLU Radio by Lionel Rudd - Friday Feb. 26th 2016. Tom is a former INCO employee and has worked internationally as a project manager and consultant on a number of infrastructure projects.  The Interview is approx 30 minutes long and begins with a review of employment in the mining sector. For the interview click here.

Note for a video presentation on the Maley "issue" click on the link below:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS0DZcJuOJs 

There has been considerable interest in what could be potentially the largest and most expensive project in Sudbury history.  Three concerned citizens, Tom Price, Dr. David Robinson and Steve May have taken particular interest in the project and a summary of their observations in the form of a "Myths and Facts" document are presented here and the background data sources and additional information can be found below: 

Summary of the Project by Steve May (January 27th 2016) in which he reveals that 'the project now being considered for funding by senior levels of government has never been endorsed by any municipal council" For additional important and revealing information you deserve to know click here.

More interesting resource material provided by Steve May - Letter to Mayor and City council with references including some very in depth examination in four additional "taking a closer look at Maley Drive" reports click here

Resource Material provided by Dr. David Robinson on "How not to do a Cost-Benefit Analysis" click here

Resource Material provided by Thomas Price  - Detailed analysis of the project and shortcomings can be accessed here. 

All three of these individuals and a number of other citizens and the Sudbury Star (Give Tom Price a chance to Speak editorial) have requested that a full and transparent evaluation of the project take place. 

Those in attendance shown at Feb. 26th 2015 presentation on Maley Drive Extension arranged by Friendly to Seniors - Sudbury and Sudbury Chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). 

A Friendly to Seniors YouTube "Opinions" full report of this presentation with Tom Price in some detail can be see by clicking the link below:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS0DZcJuOJs 

Also a critic of this project Professor Dr. David Robinson recorded an excellent and very informative video in which he presented his views and possible alternatives click on the link below for this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-CgFGToRZU

For the City of Sudbury and Chamber rational on the project click here.  It is felt by many that this is just a make work project to secure provincial and federal funding

A number of letters of concern have been published in local media:

Gift horses could result in while elephant. - July 2015.

It is time to look at not one but two “gift horses in the mouth” before we invest in a “white elephant”.  The recent news that the Federal Government may be matching the Provincial offer of one third funding for the scaled down 80 million dollar Maley Drive project should have city council carefully evaluating  our participation.

Several questions needed to be answered and full transparency evident with respect to the actual need for the project and the cost.  There is only one municipal taxpayer pocket and we need to know just how much the project will effect local taxation and if other projects will be put aside or postponed, including repairs to our present infrastructure.   The provincial and federal funds will not cover any cost overruns or ongoing maintenance costs of the new artery.

The latest submission to recognize Tom, David and Steve: 

Sudbury’s Three Musketeers – the Maley Drive Critics. 

All Sudburians should thank the three selfless citizens who with no personal gain to be realized have brought to public attention serious concerns with respect to the proposed Maley Drive Extension project.

Perhaps best known due to recent media exposure as the result of being denied permission to speak to city Councillors on the Maley matter (Operations Committee – January 18th) is Tom Price a highly respected former project manager employed by INCO with world wide experience in development projects.   The other two individuals, Dr. David Robinson, an economics professor at Laurentian University who has provided valuable fiscal impact information on the project and Steve May who has researched the history of the project in a series of revealing articles. 

Like the three musketeers of historical fame the modern trio, Price, Robinson and May,  are today, in the face of the entrenched establishment, attempting to bring attention to an important issue of civic concern with serious long term implications.  The three have spent countless hours of their own time in evaluating the Maley project from all perspectives to illustrate that more consideration needs to take place before any final decision is taken with respect to this most expensive project in Sudbury history.   

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency and without prejudice Friendly to Seniors – Sudbury has created space on the organizations website for all the information provided by these three champions of the public good including videos, articles and submissions.  All citizens are urged to avail themselves of the opportunity to learn more about this project deserving a full public review, which has never taken place, before any council decision is made to proceed.  In the interest of all Sudburians and the democratic process nothing less will be satisfactory.   

John Lindsay, Chair, Friendly to Seniors – Sudbury. 

Other Related Information of Interest to concerned citizens:

Sudbury  Master Transportation Plan:

For the Friendly to Seniors full input to the Sudbury Master Transportation Plan including reference to Maley Drive click on the link for the pdf file here

Sudbury 6 Million Dollar Budget Reduction Savings:

For the Friendly to Seniors input suggestions on savings 6 million dollars in the city budget going forward which includes reference to the roads budget click here.

Bell Park Parking Issue: 

Friendly to Seniors support the local CARP chapter initiative to save the St. Joe's Parking lot for Bell Park Parking - talks have taken place with local councillors.  See suggestion by clicking here.  More information provided to a further review by the city on the subject here and here.

Looking Back - Historic Events:

Sudbury Election 2014 - Seniors Issues - Mayoralty Debate:

All candidates for Mayor were presented with both a "wish list" and a number of "concerns" related to older adult and senior concerns.  A debate took place on Oct. 9th at the Parkside Older Adult Centre with an overflow crowd of 230 persons, mostly seniors in attendance. Concern and support was expressed by all candidates with respect to senior's issues.

Here is our position as an organization on various matters: 
 
Transparency, accountability and responsiveness of council and staff to citizen concerns:   There needs to be improvement from past experience.  We cannot continue to be regarded as having the lowest opinion by the public of staff and council of any municipality in Northern Ontario.  A whole new attitude and performance is required possibly requiring new faces around the council table who can better deliver the quality of service citizens deserve.  
 
Issues:
 
Healthy Initiatives (Slush) Funds:  However, well meaning it is a process inherently flawed and should be removed from Councillor control.  Other more fair and less biased mechanisms could be established.   
 
Expanded Gambling Casino Operation:  Though public meetings and extensive evaluation have determined expansion is not in the best interest economical and socially.  We suggest open debate with citizen and other organizations  (Health Unit, Chamber of Commerce, University, GSDC etc.) to examine the issue before any decision is made to accept any proposal.  For additional information click here.

Community Guide:  An expanded leisure services guide to include Civic Information, Events, Tourism, Seniors, Youth etc...see example here.

Taxation:  A concern for all taxpayers of any age: 

The question asked is "How does the city of Windsor, being one of the most economically depressed municipalities in Canada with a population in decline, not have a tax increase in the last six years and yet has reduced debt, increased reserves, looked after infrastructure needs, built new leisure facilities .. the list goes on" The answers are not hidden .. click the links below to discover.  
 
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/windsor-reaping-rewards-from-earlier-hard-decisions
 
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/francis-talks-bike-paths-jobs-in-windsors-state-of-the-city-address
 
No municipalities are the same, however it would be interesting to see how Windsor and Sudbury compare.   Both are not that different in size, with comparable budgets it would seem.  Both have challenges, however how does one appear to be able to "have their cake and eat it to" while the other barely seems to be able to "scrape by" with no prospect of having desired amenities without significant financial "pain".   An election is only days away - Maybe our candidates need to find out - our future could depend on it.   
 
Windsor Population:  216.000 
Sudbury Population:  160,000
 
Budget:  Windsor 722 million
Budget:  Sudbury 600 million

We congratulate Brian Bigger on his election win and wish him well as Mayor of The City of Greater Sudbury for the next four years.  Congratulations as well to the new councillors elected who will work with the two returning council members.  Much is expected of the new team going forward and Friendly to Seniors will watch closely to determine if the wishes of our population are addressed in the new term.

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