New direction sought for economic development: Closed-door meetings, lack of communication prompts mayor's motion to replace board membership.

Author:MacDonald, Darren
 
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Greater Sudbury city council will decide in September whether to keep or ditch the volunteers who direct the municipality's economic development body.

Details emerged about why Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger wants to replace all board members of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC).

Multiple sources have confirmed Bigger was driven over concerns the board was holding too many closed-door meetings and was leaving council in the dark on important issues. As a corporation, the GSDC can go in-camera with few restrictions, unlike city council.

In one case, the board voted behind closed doors to apply for funding for a $3.5-million feasibility study for a major long-term project downtown that aims to remove the railway tracks and redevelop the land. The plan assumes Sudbury Arena would remain down town, even though city council voted to relocate it in 2018 to the controversial Kingsway Entertainment District in the city's east end.

One source said regardless of the merits of the proposal, it is a major change in direction, and one that all of city council should have been made aware of.

When the federal or provincial government receives a funding application from the GSDC, it is treated as if it was from city council. But if councillors wanted to apply for funding for another project, for example, they could be in a situation where they would be told no because they have already received funding--for an initiative most of them knew nothing about.

In this case, money for the feasibility study was about to be approved by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) and the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), with the developer paying $2 million of the cost, and the two levels of government providing the remaining $1.5 million. That prompted the mayor to introduce his motion to replace the board, sources say.

The GSDC receives...

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