We continue with our series of questions to the 9 candidates vying for the ward 2 seat in the February 1 by-election.
We asked the candidates three questions, for yesterday’s questions CLICK HERE
Today we ask the second question:
The City is facing some uncertain financial future in regards with the troubles at Essar Steel Algoma, what if anything can council do to make sure Essar Steel Algoma’s situation improves and what should council do in regards to collecting the back taxes owed to the city?
Essar Steel is a tricky situation because it’s not just something that council can come in and correct. The issues lie with the price of steel and contracts between Essar and their providers that haven’t been honoured. My business was effected at were businesses of many of my friends who are owed money and have had to lay employees off so I understand the sentiments echoed by many residents regarding taxes owed to the city. If Essar can recover and resume operations the city should make collecting back taxes a priority, the same way any of the tax payers in SSM would have to pay back their taxes.
There is little that City Council can do to influence coke supply contracts or prohibit steel dumping. What Council can do is to take the lead in finding new industrial investment to help lessen the inevitable blows of the steelmaking industries’ ups and downs.
I grew up in a steelworking family and I remember vividly what it was like in the early 90’s when my father, who had 4 children under the age of 6 at home, was laid off. Life becomes much more difficult and families are compelled to make sacrifices to keep going. This is why I believe that as a City, we need to be less dependant on the steel industry. Having more and larger government jobs here isn’t the only answer either. With a low Canadian dollar, low cost of living and strong shipping links, Sault Ste Marie can make a good case for being an ideal community to invest in. We need hard-working councillors to take the lead in using some of its resources with the Economic Development Corp. to start this search for new manufacturing.
We need to do what we can to lobby both the federal and provincial levels of government to provide policies and legislation to protect the Canadian steel industry.
We also need to think outside the box as we look for solutions.
Perhaps we could look for opportunities that might provide for agreements that could be reached with businesses with products or services that complement those of Essar. For example: A new business agrees to create jobs creating/manufacturing items using Essar products. We could take it a step farther, Essar could also provide the workspace and the municipality could agree to provide tax credits for each new permanent employment opportunity created. (This idea could support the creation of a new tax paying local business, create much needed new jobs, and stimulate a new revenue stream for Essar.)
As we all know, Sault Ste Marie’s major employer is in big trouble. When you hear people ask,”What’s the worst that could happen?” all you have to do is take a look at the St. Mary’s Paper site. As a city, we’re fortunate to have a provincial cabinet minister and a federal member of the government that city council can lobby for guidance,direction and financial assurances. As for collecting back taxes that are owed to the city, from a legal perspective, the city’s position is relatively secure. The bottom line is that council must do whatever it can to resolve this situation.
Council, on behalf of the taxpayers, can endeavor to balance costs and services within a framework of fair taxation levels. Council should also strive to improve the situation with Essar Steel Algoma by lobbying and encouraging other levels of government to take whatever actions they can to provide assistance and resources that would enable ESA to rebound from this current downturn.
In regards to collecting back taxes, the Ontario Municipal Act has specific guidelines in place. Under sections 339-370, which outlines “TAX COLLECTION” rules and regulations; and, in the case of back taxes, section 371 “SALE OF LAND FOR TAX ARREARS”, could be applied if need be. Council can only operate within the boundaries of the municipal act.
The city can and should lobby provincial and federal governments to help Essar Steel Algoma over this difficult period. The steel mill has faced this problem before, working in a tough economic environment when some countries are dumping steel at prices below cost. By getting outside government help, Essar Steel Algoma will be able to ride out its tight financial situation. The city is fortunate to have both David Orazietti, our MPP, and Terry Sheehan, our MP, sitting with the parties in power. It is extremely important to steelworkers, pensioners and the financial well-being of the city that the mill remain viable.
As for the back taxes, the city has to be patient. Past examples have shown that major employers like Essar Steel Algoma (previously Algoma Steel) and Abitibi Pulp and Paper, have been responsible citizens and paid their back taxes in full, once they recovered from their tough financial situations.
There isn’t much Mayor and Council can do with Essar situation, why did they allow it to get to this over the last seven years? As mentioned in my previous answer we need to start building the industrial tax base, had we done this during the last twenty years we would be in better shape as a community than we are now, in 2016. Idea is more people , more business , more people paying taxes. We need a promoter sales person on council to promote Sault Ste Marie with Mayor and Councillors. I have been in this community for 26 years, lived worked and played here, know what a great city Sault Ste Marie is to live in , in Ontario.
The challenge with regards to our steel industry involves several global economic factors that council cannot influence. Essar Steel is facing record low steel markets, an influx of imports (however with our declining loonie, it may assist Essar’s steel pricing, but not the cost of their debt), and global competition. The production of steel is global. Today Essar is competing in a very different market than 5 or 10 years ago. The process of restructuring does take time. During this process many financial experts, business strategies, government bodies will no doubt be consulted, including the Mayor and Council to map out the best solution that will hopefully limit the economic impact to the community.
Essar Steel Algoma is in Creditor Protection while it reorganizes its operations.Mayor and Council can through our MP and MPP seek out what assistance and help is needed for Essar Steel to get through these troubles.This City has been down this road before with the Steel Plant and has gotten through this.The Steel Plant rebounded before and will do so again.They will pay back their taxes owing we just have to be patient for the recovery.
We conclude with our last question, There’s a lot of interest in this by-election being that there is 9 people running for the seat, what was your deciding factor to make a run for the ward 2 seat?