To the Editor:
Thank you for this opportunity to respond to the following questions posed by fellow Thompsonites in your newspaper last month:
As large employers in Thompson are downsizing, and the small business sector has been shrinking, what are your ideas to help Thompson’s economy diversify and grow?
Firstly, I will champion efforts geared towards attracting new businesses to Thompson by ensuring that council puts in place more business-friendly bylaws. In addition to this, I will employ targeted (to save costs) business roundtables to woo investors to seriously consider Thompson as their base. Efforts in this regard will be largely aimed at the tourism and extractive industries in particular, being two areas that the city, as part of Northern Manitoba, has been identified as having huge, but hitherto relatively undertapped revenue potentials in.
Also, I am of the opinion that the current downturn in profitability that is being experienced by local businesses, particularly those in retailing, can be turned around with the right strategy. No doubt some of these challenges are brought about as a result of the increasing application of the internet/online merchandise to virtually everything. Importantly, since it does not appear that this trend will be reversed, our local companies will do well to participate in, and profit from this global trend, through re-engineering of their own operations. I am convinced that there are very bright prospects for local companies that will position themselves to support locally some of these products that are purchased online, say, in the area of repairs. While, in my view, there are good opportunities for such services, I do understand that there will be need for investment of time, money, and skill acquisition in order to be able to provide these after sale services. But with the expertise gained, Thompson can then present itself to other northern cities and towns as a one-stop station for the provision of these services, with the goal of profit making therefrom.
As city revenues will be diminishing with a smaller grant-in-lieu from Vale, what are your ideas for cost-saving measures for the City of Thompson operations and/or new revenues to keep our taxes reasonable and competitive?
One of my major actions plans to address dwindling revenue is to have an exhaustive search made to identify other available alternative sources of income to the city. This search will include all provincial and federal government grants, as well as other corporate funds, be they general or project-specific funds. My view is that every project funded from these sources is one less project to be funded from the traditional, previously reliable, but now shrinking, sources of revenue. By so doing, we will in some sense, be stretching these traditional incomes to go farther in extra project execution.
While I acknowledge that the city has availed itself of these alternative avenues of resources before, I will nevertheless like to ensure that we are not missing out on any other one. Or, as it is commonly said, we are not “leaving money on the table”.
Additionally, I will work with colleagues on the council to develop good working relationship with the province, which can then be leveraged to lobby for increase in funding from the provincial government. Alternatively, the lobby could be pursued concertedly through the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM).
Furthermore, while working on generating alternative sources of revenue, I will simultaneously be looking at maximising value from the dwindling traditional revenue through facilitating efficiency in the city’s operations. In order to achieve this, training and skill upgrade and/or acquisition by the city’s personnel will play a central role. With a highly resourced workforce, the city will be well poised to confidently undertake more and more of its project in-house. It should be noted that insourcing is something that is now growing among municipalities in Canada, in their bid to save costs. In the end it will be a win-win case for all: residents will be provided high-quality services, efficiently; staff are equipped with skills, many of which are inseparable from the individuals; and the city will be able to save on premiums that would otherwise have gone to contractors.
Other cost-saving measures I will proffer will include: working on enhancing the city’s credit rating so that the city’s borrowing cost for bonds, as well as interest, could be reduced; scale the city’s spending to the city’s needs, for example in the area of transit buses; place a moratorium on starting new projects that are not essential; maintain existing projects at their current levels, with no expansion entertained, except it is of utmost importance to do so.
What are your ideas to make city council and city management more accountable to the taxpayer in order to better serve and engage residents?
In this regard, I will advocate for ample time to be allocated at council meeting for residents’ concerns to be voiced, and attended to promptly. Also, I will encourage platforms through which residents can reach out to council and/or management quickly and directly. These platforms could be accessed both in a soft, online format, for prompt, almost real-time engagement, and in a hard format, say through making a box available at City Hall where questions or concerns can be dropped, even after hours. With the aim to check the box regularly in order to deal with the issues in a timely fashion.
Additionally, I will encourage continuing transparency in the provision of information by default, or on request, as much as is administratively possible. Allowing ample time for widespread consultation to aggregate residents’ position on issues before decisions are reached will be another measure I will put forth to make council and management more representative in their actions and decisions.
I hope I have been able to mention a few of the ways I will set out to address the concerns that are facing our city. With your support I look forward to serving you all on the council.