Throughout Sault Ste. Marie’s election campaign, Mayoral challenger Rory Ring has criticized the financial management of Mayor Provenzano and City Council. Mr. Ring has also made audacious claims about what he would accomplish as Mayor based on his leadership ability, business knowledge, and financial expertise. As such, it is important and relevant for voters to consider Mr. Ring’s record in past business leadership positions.
Here are the facts: before moving to Sault Ste. Marie, Mr. Ring worked as the President and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, a role he began in December 2012. A look at official documents from the Sarnia Lambton Chamber shows there were obvious financial challenges during Mr. Ring’s tenure:
- In 2013, during Mr. Ring’s first full year on the job, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber posted a drop in revenues of $55,354 compared to 2012—a decrease of almost 10%. Revenues would remain stagnant in 2014 and 2015.
- In 2013,the Sarnia Lambton Chamber finished the year with a deficit of $24,255;
- In 2014, the organization’s year-end deficit had grown to $38, 711;
- In 2015, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber closed the year with a deficit of almost $80,000 ($79,434).
As reported by media sources in Sarnia, Mr. Ring abruptly parted ways with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber in September 2015. The Sarnia Lambton Chamber then hired a new CEO that did not have any Chamber experience and enjoyed a quick financial turn-around in 2016, posting a $32,000 surplus.
After leaving the Sarnia Lambton Chamber, Mr. Ring’s next role was with the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC). SSMCOC General Manager Shelly Barich announced her intention to retire in October 2015. Mr. Ring succeeded her as SSMCOC’s Executive Director in February 2016.
Mr. Ring’s record with the SSMCOC shows similarities to his time in Sarnia. In the SSMCOC’s 2016-2017 annual report, the Treasurer’s report notes that, “Despite a strong aim for profit, the Chamber fell short on its expectations with expenses exceeding revenue.” It is further noted that the Chamber also missed its growth target in memberships and was slightly below the previous year, but that an increase in fees offset some of the revenue loss.
The tough times for the SSMCOC continued in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, the Chamber’s popular Sports and Outdoor Expo was cancelled. In May 2018, it was reported in the local media that the SSMCOC was laying off three of its five staff, leaving just Mr. Ring and one other employee working at the 129 year-old institution.
Mayor Christian Provenzano remarked, “I appreciate the challenges that come with leading an organization like a Chamber of Commerce. I’m a small business-owner myself; I have nine employees at my firm and I know the importance of making payroll every two weeks.
“But challenges aside, there is more flexibility and freedom when managing a small business or organization than in governing a municipality. By law, Ontario municipalities cannot operate at a deficit. By law, Ontario municipalities cannot borrow money to fund operations. Many City services are legally mandated and many expenses—such as levy boards—are outside of Council’s budgetary or administrative control.
“Mr. Ring’s record with the Sarnia Chamber of Commerce and the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce demonstrates why he will be unable to deliver on his promises. It is a matter of fact that Mr. Ring has a consistent record of decreasing revenues and increasing expenses. This type of record does not lead to lower taxes—it will lead to higher ones. This type of record also does not lead to more jobs. Quite the opposite, it leads to less jobs,” concluded Provenzano.
Attached Graphic: Year-end financial results for the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce from 2012-2016. Screen capture taken from the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce 2016 Annual Report, pg. 9.