Ooooh, I think we have a different mayoral race going on in the municipal election this year. In this one the usual decorum seems to have been discarded, nasty becoming the order of the day.
I think you would have to say the nastiness was started by challenger Rory Ring, who came out early and hard, criticism of incumbent Christian Provenzano dripping off virtually every word in his multiple news releases.
Provenzano, it seems in Ring’s eyes, is the cause of every problem the city has faced, especially when it comes to taxes. Although the mayor likes to say Ring is also including council in his criticism, my read of his news releases is that he gives a pass to the dozen councillors whose votes carry the same weight as the mayor’s.
Provenzano started off the election campaign seemingly ignoring Ring, preferring to run on his record. He points to a study by BMA (Management Consulting Inc.) in 2017 that determined that the Sault has the third lowest residential property taxes among surveyed cities with a population between 30,000 and 100,000; that showed property tax as a percentage of average household income improved to 3.6% (down from 3.8% in 2014); and that the total municipal burden (municipal property tax and municipal water cost) is 4.5% of household income (down from 4.8% in 2014), the year he took office.
Ring, of course, didn’t really have a local record to run on since he only came to the Sault in February 2016 to take on the job of executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, a job from which he has taken a leave of absence to run for mayor.
This week it became obvious that his barbs had hit a nerve with the mayor.
Provenzano struck back, criticizing Ring’s performance as chief executive officer with the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce, his last employer before he took the same job with the Sault chamber.
Provenzano noted in a news release that a deficit of $7,595 the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber was facing when Ring was hired in late 2012 grew to $79,434, on a $500,000 budget, before his “sudden” departure from the chamber three years later.
“As reported by media sources in Sarnia, Mr. Ring abruptly parted ways with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber in September 2015,” Provenzano said. “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.
“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.’”
Provenzano said Ring has made some audacious claims about what he would accomplish as mayor (you will note his signs say more jobs and lower taxes) but his record with the two chambers demonstrates why he will be unable to deliver on his promises.
“This type of record does not lead to lower taxes – it will lead to higher ones,” he said. “This type of record does not lead to more jobs. Quite the opposite, it leads to fewer jobs.”
Ring, when questioned by SooToday about Provenzano’s claim about his time with Sarnia-Lambton, said the mayor’s release was filled with inaccuracies.
This, of course, was the same thing Provenzano had said to me about Ring’s claims in his news releases.
Ring declined to answer SooToday’s questions directly, preferring to issue a follow-up news release. In it he said, “I left the Sarnia Chamber because I had the strength, good judgment and integrity to stand up against a certain board member who had been accused of domestic assault and against a board member due to a conflict of interest surrounding a real estate transaction. I am sure the mayor did not research these facts before he issued his press release. It is certainly telling that he would shade the truth on such serious matters of personal integrity and good governance.
“During my tenure at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, the business community was suffering from, among other things, the loss of the Motor Vehicle License Bureau contract,: a loss of over 35 per cent of the Chamber’s revenue, heavy cross border shopping due primarily to a favourable exchange rate at the time. Consequently, the Chamber was challenged to renew membership.
“I developed a plan to drive more revenue and cut costs. That plan took root and the chamber benefitted from that work in the years that followed. I was recognized for my performance by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce President, Allan O’Dette.”
The war of words appears to be just between Provenzano and Ring. The other two mayoral candidates, Ted Johnston and Kemal Martinovic, seem to be playing by more traditional rules, no sign of any vitriol coming from their corners.
When it comes to inaccuracies, Ring has to be careful throwing stones. In his news release in answer to the mayor, he claims the mayor used $575,000 of taxpayer money pursuing a futile lawsuit against Essar (now Algoma) and increased the industrial tax rate by a whopping and unprecedented 56 per cent.
The city did not pursue a lawsuit against Essar, it simply paid Toronto lawyers to look after the city’s interests as Essar was under the protection of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Nor did it increase the industrial tax rate by a whopping 56%.Both of these claims were debunked last year and Ring knows they were.
Ring has produced a chart that shows the tax rate per $100,000 assessment in Barrie is $1,203, in Peterborough $1,420, in Sudbury $1,482, in North Bay $1,544, and in the Sault $1,717.
When I asked where he got the numbers, he replied they were from the ministry of finance but did not steer me to where I could get them. When I asked again, he said he got them from an administrative contact.
When I asked Provenzano about Ring’s numbers, he provided me with numbers that showed Barrie $1,272, Peterborough $1,427, Sudbury $1,444, North Bay $1,456 and the Sault $1,530. He also provided me with specific links where I could verify his numbers.
Who is right? I think it is obvious but you get to decide on election day Oct. 22.