To the Editor:
To the residents who asked questions in the letter to the editor section on Sept. 19: all of these questions deserve more than just a written reply limited by space. They deserve community engagement. But, I am attempting to share some of my views, regardless.
Mining will always be important to Thompson, but it is not the only driver in our economy. We need to become more familiar with the contributions of health care deliverers and suppliers, education providers, transportation, hospitality, industrial, commercial and other contributors. Then we need to make known those contributions to local and outside investors.
We are a “hub” of goods and services mostly due to our geographic location. Just as we took advantage of our weather to promote and grow winter weather testing, so too must we take advantage of our location to promote and grow ourselves as this hub, especially in transportation. To do this, we need to look at establishing cold storage, trucking and terminal services, and ensure they are linked to the airport. If necessary, lobby for a second bridge that accommodates both rail and vehicle traffic to the airport. We could develop a ‘Northport’ as part of brownfield development in the train station area, not unlike CentrePort down south.
Expanding ourselves as a hub is important if we are to develop tourism. We must ensure Thompson provides all the goods and services tourists expect when they eat, shop and look for entertainment. This is in addition to actual tourist products (such as the pontoon boat ride on the Burntwood, sturgeon habitat at Boreal Discovery Centre, the 18 points of interest with Spirit Way.)
Manufacturing is something we don’t often talk about, but there are opportunities for ready-to-move homes, cottage crafts, repurposing recycled products, commercial agriculture, forestry products and so on.
Cut costs or grow revenue?
I value the experience and opinions of our employees and residents/taxpayers. Before addressing the topic of cutting costs or finding efficiencies, I would first engage city employees. Past experience has proven to me that employees are one of your best sources of identifying efficiencies and potential cost reductions. I would also engage residents/taxpayers in discussion groups before the formal budget process actually starts. I think council got a clear message this past year regarding the summer camps at the TRCC. The message was that they should not have been cut, and that people were willing to pay more to keep the service. This type of information is vital to making sound decisions concerning cost reductions and efficiencies.
I would rather focus on increasing revenue. And I would prefer to do that through expanding our tax base, which means attracting more business and service investment. We need to review our fees and fines schedules, not just the normal annual review, but really dissect them to ensure we are keeping a fair playing field for entrepreneurs and properly penalizing those who don’t abide by the bylaws. There are other avenues we can explore, such as municipal bonds, contribution agreements and incentives to attract business investment.
Accountability and communication are closely entwined, and I feel we can do a much better job of communicating our decisions and actions with the community. First, I would engage our city employees and residents in the budget process at the beginning, not the end of the process. I would offer to meet regularly with organizations, business leaders and individuals, and I would streamline the standing committees and create advisory committees of organizations, business leaders, etc. to meet and bring recommendations to council. It is interesting, in this age of Facebook, Twitter, phone apps, websites, etc. that people feel less informed. I believe that nothing will beat face-to-face communication, and I will make every effort to live by that. I will not rule out social and traditional media, but they will be a part of, not a foundation of, my communication.