A candid conversation with Jeff Lehman, Mayor of the City of Barrie, and Danny Breen, Mayor of St. John’s, on how their cities are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 and what the short, medium and long-term impacts could look like
Live City Check-In—St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen and Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. More than one pandemic
The differential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming clearer. Vastly different infection and transmission rates are being experienced in large metropolitan areas like the Greater Toronto Area compared to neighbouring urban areas like Barrie. For St. John’s, “challenges became advantages” when the isolation of being an island seems to have contributed to the low number of cases they experienced. But both Mayor Lehman and Mayor Breen question whether transmission rates are simply a factor of density and both credit the response of their communities in flattening the curve of the pandemic.
2. Impacts and resilience
Notwithstanding lower infection rates, the impact of the pandemic has been significant. Both cities have already experienced dramatic decreases in revenue and the tourism dollars that they typically draw in will not be there this season. St. John’s has cancelled its three major festivals. As Mayor Breen puts it “2020 has been an interesting year.” Starting with a record snowfall that shut the city down for eight days, and a substantial drop in oil prices, COVID -19 is just the latest shock for the city to absorb. Both mayors expressed new appreciation for the resilience of their constituents.
3. Supporting the recovery
Mayor Lehman identified the three elements of recovery as confidence, capital and capacity. The confidence is something that will need to come from all members of the community, the capital, from the federal and provincial governments, and the capacity is something both city governments are working hard to support in local businesses within the new environment. Much remains unknown, however, as economies are gradually opened in the absence of schools and childcare, restricted transit systems and the ongoing threat of a possible second wave. “There is no play book for what to do in this pandemic” says Mayor Breen.
4. Cities out front
Mayor Lehman noted that when the pandemic was first declared, cities moved “lightning fast” to close things down with an efficiency that surprised many and were able to prevent the worst effects of COVID -19. Cities are now being called upon again to surprise with their nimbleness and innovation in responding to the needs of local businesses and communities in the first stages of reopening. Mayor Breen calls on other levels of government to recognize the unique ability of cities to lead the recovery based on local strengths and priorities, with the reminder, “city building is nation building”.
5. Changes needed moving forward
Mayor Lehman has spoken of the need for recovery, relief and reform following the pandemic. The situation that Mayor Breen describes where the “feds have the funding, the province has the jurisdiction and the cities have the problems” is no longer an option for moving forward. The opportunities for structural change from this crisis include some form of “crash modernizing” of federalism. A Canadian resiliency bulk transfer from the Federal government, new taxing capacities for cities, or sharing a fixed portion of the HST are all options. The conversation is not new but the opportunity for meaningful change is.
Ontario’s Big City Mayors urge provincial and federal governments to provide relief for municipalities, Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario LUMCO
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:40] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe. President of the Canadian Urban Institute. Thanks for joining us for another episode, episode, edition of City Talk.
Mary Rowe [00:00:49] I have notes that I started when we first started these and I refer to them during the introduction each time. And that was when we were doing our first. And I think you gents are our twenty second. You might be our twenty third city talk. The appetite in this country for trying to make sense of what the impact of COVID 19 has been on our cities and on our municipal governments and what it’s likely to be going forward. Is it just lots and lots and lots of questions? So we are so appreciative that people like you would sandwich into your busy days time to share your own thoughts and your own observations about what you’ve been seeing and what you’ve been grappling with and what you think the future is. And we initiate these broadcasts from Toronto, which is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabek, and the Chippewa and the Haudenoshaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples from across Turtle Island. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty thirteen signed with Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams treaties, which were signed with multiple Anishnabek, nations. And we are always taking seriously our obligation to come to terms with the reality of our ancestry and the history of the lands which we are privileged to occupy. This is been an enormously challenging time for municipal governments. CUI early on when COVID hit, we wanted to create some tools that would allow us to be able to learn from each other because we’re in the connective tissue business. So we put up City Watch Canada, SPCA and city share candidate outstay and those are both platforms that continue to be robustly populated by volunteers and partners across the country. Actually pay attention to what governments like yours have been doing, but also what community groups and business associations and individuals and all the kinds of robust ways in which community is innovated and responded. And we’re anticipating they’ll be a lot more of that because we’re heading into the next phase, which is, you know, I I have used this anecdote before that I was in New Orleans after Katrina. And I finally moved there about, I guess, a year after the storms hit. I had been there regularly, but then actually moved there and I got there and the street lights were on and I thought, oh, took me too long to get here. But what I found was it actually took a long time that the recovery is not a fast thing. And we are going to have lots of adjusting to do and lots of when we leave the emergency stage. And I also just want to acknowledge that we’re cognizant that we’re not through the emergency stage in many, many parts of Canada. We have thousands of Canadians who are still on the front line, saving lives and keeping people safe. And though these conversations are never intended to replace that.
Mary Rowe [00:03:26] If you’re tuning in from somewhere.
[00:03:29] Tell us where you are. There’s a really robust chat function in Zoom and I watch the chat and the two mayors may watch the chat as well if they choose to. But you can post questions there. And often what happens is people in the chat respond that answer each other’s questions and we videotape the session and we also archive the chat. So whatever you put up in that chat, folks, it stays there. Just know just know that. So not like Vegas, it comes with you and we’re really interested in hearing what questions you have for the mayors and areas that you think that they are that what you anticipate they should be addressing in the future and that kind of thing. So this is just the beginning of the conversation and we always encourage people to continue. So the chat function stays up and you can go on social media using #CityTalk. And let’s just continue to parse this out with each other and figure out what the next what the new normal might be. So joining us, we’re very pleased to have two veteran mayors who are stewarding a particular challenge, challenges particular to their community, in particular to the circumstance they found themselves in. One in Ontario, one in Newfoundland. And so, gentlemen, thanks for taking the time and participating with us. So and I’m just going to open it up by asking each of you if you can just give us a general sense of what it’s what does it look like, I guess, outside your front door? And what what have you been coming to terms with over the last? I can’t believe it, but I think it’s 10 weeks. So let’s start with you, Mayor Lehman. If we could just give us a picture of what’s going on in Barry.
Mayor Lehman [00:05:06] Outside my front door of city hall.
Mayor Lehman [00:05:08] It is our historic main street and it’s under construction. We’ve actually hurried up the construction of wider sidewalks, which was a planned construction project.
Mayor Lehman [00:05:18] But with COVID, we’re actually accelerating the whole thing and hope to get that done in time. For some of the recovery. Where I am, where I sit in Ontario right now, it’s actually a bit of a tale of three pandemics. We heard the discussion change about a month ago about one that was happening in long term care with absolutely tragic consequences. And the one that’s occurring in the general population, which the efforts at flattening the curve appear to be working. Although we are certainly not out of the woods. And what I would say is that the third pandemic or the third difference is in Ontario between the GTA and everybody outside of the green belt, the rates of COVID and their rates of community transmission are quite a bit different. They are much higher in the GTA. And for that reason, I think the province rightly knowing that people move around, are reluctant to let areas with lower case load reopen at a different pace. And there are lots of issues that go along with that. Where we sit today. We are in the midst of reopening today. We are allowing people now to use our sports fields for individual use, absolutely no group activity. People can’t gather in groups of five, but kick a soccer ball or a Frisbee and walk your dog on our sports fields. We have one hundred and thirty two parks in Barrie, so that’s a significant amount of green space that’s opening up a pedestrianised one lane of our Lakeshore Parkway to allow people to walk and cycle. And on Monday we have the first of our recovery initiatives coming forward. There’s been an effort since day three of the crisis on day three of the crisis I formed two task forces an economic support task force in a social support task force. And we’ve really been problem solving for the last nine weeks trying to help businesses through and ensure that our most vulnerable residents are getting the support they need. But as we’ve been doing that, we’ve been trying to build a bit of infrastructure. So that data collection on vulnerable people and what they need in our community has been tremendous. And I know you’re hearing this everywhere, but the collaboration actually among levels of government and community agencies has really been noticeable. It’s not only are we doing things a lot faster in some cases, I think surprising ourselves with how fast we roll out a pilot program, but the collaboration is a lot better. So. So the first of of many recovery pieces in Ontario, they’ve allowed a limited reopening of retail and certain outdoor facilities, golf courses, things like that. But we’re looking ahead to when restaurants reopen. We have a very, very strong restaurant sector here in the city, over 400 restaurants. They employ tens of thousands of people. And we want to convert parking spaces to patios, outdoor seating areas. So our program to do that is going to council on Monday night. That’s an example of the kind of local initiatives, municipal led efforts that we are trying to roll out to recognize that the keys to the recovery, and I’ll stop after this, to us in many ways, are confidence, capital and capacity. The capital is going to have to come from the federal and provincial governments and they are moving that money out to the private sector and community agencies.
Mayor Lehman [00:08:37] That confidence is going to have to come from all of us trying to tackle the spread of the virus and then be able to operate safely with distancing. And that’s where it gets to capacity. And by capacity, I mean both labor market, because there’s no real childcare solution right now and schools are closed to half the workforce out of commission.
Mayor Lehman [00:08:57] One of the parents has to stay home if both work and then and the capacity in terms of the physical space that we’re going to require in the sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit. So that physical space piece is one that we as municipalities can really help intact.
Mayor Lehman [00:09:13] I think the childcare piece is one that at least Ontario municipalities have a major role in. Things like day camps and so forth may end up being part of the solution this summer. But in all of this, my last closing comment will be we’re attempting to look forward to do things that build resiliency as a community. So we’re not just doing support or stimulus, although we’re doing that. We also want to build capacity both in our social networks, our social fabric, our physical fabric and our economic infrastructure that will last because as you said at the outset there, Mary, this is going to be a long, slow climb out. It’s not like you flip a switch back on in the economy. It’s back. It’s going to take time.
Mary Rowe [00:09:59] We write summaries from these sessions, and it’s always great when we have Mariza on because you gents know how to talk in soundbites. So because you’ve got staff there getting you key messages so that confidence, capital, capacity, I just felt my colleagues’ little hearts race that they’ve got three hooks to write the summary around. You know, it’s interesting your comment Mayor Lehman about at three pandemics.
Mary Rowe [00:10:23] I think that that people are starting to say this and I’m sure Mayor Breen’s going to reinforce it, that the experience of COVID actually hasn’t been the same. Everyone says, oh, well, it’s a great equalizer, but we’ve been hearing consistently through all the work that we’ve been doing that in fact, if you live in a particular kind of environment, you’re experience. And if you have a particular set of resources, your experience is going to be quite different than if you don’t. And so, for instance, the discussions around density, if you live in dense environments where there are supports and public amenties around you and safety safety provisions you may, your experience is quite different than if you lived, you’re low income living in density that was poorly designed, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities around it. And it’s and you’re overcrowded because the real estate’s so expensive that you’ve got too many people living in a small space. So and I’m interested in your comment that actually you’re saying that there’s an urban experience, a downtown experience and then there’s a suburban experience. There’s a rural experience. And one of the things that you two share is that you’re both cities that tend to attract a lot of tourists. And so what’s going to happen under those circumstances? I’m sure that what that’s been, if you like, I love your parking lot idea. This is a tremendous idea. I was thinking about this sort of rhetorically the other day that imagine if if we had been dealing with it the way Australia has, where our worst period, let’s say, had come in November. And then we were opening up in the dead of winter.
Mary Rowe [00:11:50] Can you imagine? Oh, there’d be no possibility of it. We’d all be cuddled together in parkas trying to have hot chocolate on the road.
Mary Rowe [00:11:59] I don’t know how it would work, but that’s one weird little piece of fortuitousness is that we’re gonna go through a period now where we have nice weather. So Mayor Breen, let’s let’s hear about St John’s, as I said to you in the pre-call. I know Newfoundland well because I’m a fellow with Shore Fast which is anchored in Fogo Island and I’m very familiar with the importance of connected connections and connectivity around local economic development. And I know that St John’s has continued to lead in that and build a kind of sustainable tourism ecosystem for the for the whole province. And I’m sure you’re thinking about how that’s going to be challenged. But talk to us a little bit, if you can, just initially about what the experience and COVID has been in St. John’s, because I think it’s quite different than it has been around the country. So can you describe it for us?
Mayor Breen [00:12:43] Oh, well, 2020 has been an interesting year for us. We’re only five months in. We started off the year in January with a record snowfall, which we refer to as snowmageddon. So we ended up in an eight day state of emergency. Aside from that, we had also we’re under continuous pressure to past couple of years the provincial government with our provincial finances, with having the the possibility of high electricity rates in our future. So we did we did that into January. We were just coming out of that. And the businesses, you know, when business are shut down for eight days. So that’s a lot in at any time a year. So we came out of that into COVID 19 at the same time or around the same time. Of course, the oil prices decreased to about 50 percent of what the privilege was based on. Yeah. So economically, we’ve had a very, very challenging first part of 2020. And I would suggest it’s going to continue for quite some time. So in terms of COVID 19, we’ve you know, we never we’ve been fairly fortunate in we never had a high number of cases. But we we did a great job and the community did a great job. People did a great job in flattening the curve. And we were able to keep those cases down. We were under for the past 11, 12 weeks. We’ve been under pretty strict conditions. Some of those were alleviated a couple of weeks ago and lifted and allowing some businesses with store fronts, I think are going to be able to open in the next phase. But we have some offices that are opening up. We have a lot of people that are working from home, which I think is going to be interesting to see the impact that that will have on municipalities in terms of finances in the future. As you know, our revenue is all based on the property values of property taxes. So, you know. Demand. What happens with people working at home? off-site is going to be it’s going to be interesting. So we’re we’re two weeks into the first phase and now we’re into, we’ll be coming into the kind of the reopening phase. The bigger part of it soon. It’s it’s been quite challenging. The the impact on the economy when you take all those things together has really has really been significant right now in terms of COVID where we’re into the we’ve, you know, done the things that we needed to do, like deferring taxes for a period of time. I think we’re up to August thirty first right now. The tricky part is for municipalities is, is you don’t know what the impact is really going to be. You don’t know when the what the when everything is going to come back around to opening. You don’t really don’t know what the impact fully will be. And so we’re trying to determine that now as we look at our finances, looking at ways that we can help businesses reopen and help them to prosper. We’re looking at ways that we can extend for restaurants in our downtown area, ways that we can get more capacity for them by taking space on the streets for tables. That’s that’s become part of our part of our look. Looking at how we can help them with some of their some of their issues to to basically take away some of the regulatory approvals that they may need for that to be able to work it. So, for example, if you have a restaurant that has parking spaces, then perhaps they may want to in the parking lot, they may want to expand their patio area. Then we have to be able to respond quickly to this. I will respond quickly to our businesses to help them help them along. The residents to in in terms of we’re just now. Our parks are reopened to to walk through and biking. We hope to get them open soon for people to be able to enjoy them even more. So we’ve got a lot more people that are walking. We’re going to be closing down sections of some streets, soon for walkers and bicyclists as we get into the to the better weather. So I find that that in terms of, we need to react more as municipalities to what the residents needs are and the businesses needs are as a result of the actions that are being taken. So we we tend nobody’s got to play book here to say this is what you do when you have a pandemic and we don’t have one either because we’re taking the directives from the provincial government and making the decisions that we need to make to help people through them and comply with those recommendations and directions.
Mary Rowe [00:18:09] Yeah, I think, you know, we’ve been using this expression that it’s a particle accelerator, you know, that the things that, preexisting challenges or maybe also preexisting assets in cities, pre-COVID and have either been completely blown apart. And you’re really, you know, all of a sudden you’re really confronted with inequality, let’s say, or inadequate housing or or similarly, if you had neighborhoods that had good public services and had good public amenities, if it did if it were designed in such a way that you could get out, those places have fared better. So it’s a it’s a big it’s a very interesting kind of moment for us to do some course correction. I was teasing a Mayor Lehman that I know his father was a planner. And so you were raised in a household that I suspect had lots of conversation, Jeff, about why the built environment matters and how it makes a difference to the quality of our lives. And we now can see areas that were very poorly planned and they have not fared well and they have been more struggling. So it will be interesting to see if we shift. Can we just go back to this idea of Mayor Breen from your point of view, do you have a lot of them and perhaps not as many? Do you have a lot of Newfoundlanders who go south for the winter and then come back? Did you? Is that one of the reasons that you didn’t see an influx of cases, is you didn’t have people coming back after March break the way Ontario did?
Mayor Breen [00:19:28] I you know, I don’t I don’t know what what what happened in terms of the lowest note, the lower number of cases. I think I think the residents really came together and really made a concerted effort to to flatten the curve. And, listen to what the recommendations were and took that recommendations very seriously. I think there’s a couple of things about Newfoundland and Labrador that that work to our advantage being an island, I think we have to have admit we you know, for it’s a strange thing, but. Things that were once challenges that we had were now advantages in this case.
Mayor Breen [00:20:07] And I think too, the lack of density, we we aren’t a very densely populated city or region.
Mayor Breen [00:20:16] So that lack of density also helped helped us out there as well.
Mary Rowe [00:20:21] I wonder if it’s lack of density or just lack of people, because we’ve got examples in other jurisdictions where dense environments have actually it’s it’s less dense and less dense, but populated environments. So Peel for instance in Ontario is leading at the moment, I think. Isn’t it Mayor Lehman, I think it’s almost 40 percent of new cases are in Peel at the moment, which is Brampton, Mississauga.
Mayor Lehman [00:20:45] After Toronto they’re the highest.
Mary Rowe [00:20:47] And they’re not at all dense. There are lots of single family there. So it’s a this is it’s a nuanced conversation. It’s a tricky thing. It Mayor Lehman, do you want to come in a little bit about the particular things that you see that you would say where Barrie is different than other places.
Mayor Lehman [00:21:04] Sure. Well, I mean, again, going back to this sort of tale of two pandemics, congregate care environments, which proved to be the most dangerous during COVID. We and I, you know, just knock wood as I say this. We’ve been quite lucky. We’ve had one long term care facility have an outbreak with tragic consequences. But even they were able to get on top of it relatively quickly. And and we’ve been fortunate because there’s 21 long care facilities in the city of Barrie.
Mary Rowe [00:21:37] let me ask you Mayor Breen, how many long term care facilities do you have in St. John’s?
Mayor Breen [00:21:42] Oh, there will be. But there’s,n there’s one major government owned one, and then there’s a number of different private, private ones. And there it has been a big there hasn’t been a problem.
Mary Rowe [00:21:59] Wow. So go back to you, Mayor Lehman. Because we know it’s been. And this is another situation where one of the worst cases was in a rural location, Bobcaygeon, a rural long term care facility. Right.
Mayor Lehman [00:22:11] Yeah. And I you know, I think if there is a lesson for me out of COVID that rises above all others, it’s how, frankly, we’ve failed our elderly in terms of long term care. I mean, this is a situation where infection, infection control, which should have been something we could have managed to protect people, failed. And there are systemic reasons for that. Let’s let’s be honest with ourselves. There are systemic reasons for that. Related to who and how long term care is provided in this country. So we all know that must be at the forefront of change as we go forward, but we’re still in the midst of it. Just as you say, Mary. I think in the general population, going back to the question you asked, I mean, why is it Barrie got so few cases here, compared to other cities our size in the GTA or otherwise? I mean, so there’s the congregate care piece, which is an obvious answer. I think there is capacity for physical distancing that that is greater in certain environments and yes, built form is part of that. And now you mentioned my dad. Actually, this crisis has made amateur epidemiologists out of all of us and we’re all remembering how to use Excel again. He and I have gone back and forth with some of the case statistics and things like density and built form to see what the correlation is. And it would be inconclusive at best. So there’s no question that your rates in Ontario. And not just not just more cases, but actually higher rates. There’s no question about that. That’s quite clear. However, is there a link between the built form? I think that’s not clear yet. And I think it’s one that’s it’s it’s it’s going to need to be looked at afterwards. Intuitively, though, the population think there’s a link. And I think you’re right. You are right to say that there are certain environments where it is very hard to use public space and distance. And we’ve seen examples of that even driving the political narrative at the federal level. You remember. Let’s go back to the famous picture of hiker’s at Grouse Point right in in Vancouver that apparently set off the prime minister. And so I think it’s behavior more than anything. And I would echo Mayor Breen and I’m not saying that human behavior is different in Brampton or Toronto or Mississauga. I think, though, I think the incidences of gathering which are affected by things like built form and the nature of the economy. Natural human behavior in some cases simply results in more spread. And that’s my guess. And again, amateur epidemiologist at best. But when you’re sort of looking around the province of Ontario and saying Kingston, you know, they had this incredible response in long term care. They had a public health unit sent their inspectors out on day one, did very, very deep inspections into all of the infection measures. And yes, they didn’t have an outbreak. Yeah. So so, you know, those sorts of things are the changes that I think we’ll want to look at. First and foremost. And and then as time passes, I think we’ll learn what the impacts of built form and demographic and economic factors are.
Mary Rowe [00:25:23] Yeah, there’s this, there’s this if I can just encourage people on the chat function, I should have said this during the introduction. Can you direct your comments, there’s a toggle switch at the bottom that allows you to choose who your comments get sent to. Questions. If you could send to all panelists and attendees. Otherwise, that’s people like Phillip Evans and them seeing a number of you here that are only Chris Fraser. Your comments calling out to Mayor Breen. It’s only being seen by the panelists, so you could reason those to the whole group. That would be great. You know this there’s this interesting term which I’ve fallen in love with called. It sounds sinister, but it isn’t positive deviants. You know, you look when you’ve got a massive event of massive factors. You go and find, well, where’s the one that actually doesn’t conform with the pattern? And what are they doing? And as you suggested, Mayor Lehman, and I’m interested in Mayor Breen, too. If you look at Kingston is a good example where they did a whole bunch of right things and were able to contain it. And can we spend. Can we be thoughtful? This is what I think the institute that I run needs to be, thoughtful about observing what what can we learn from folks that did it a different way and had better results? And how does that help us going forward? So I’m interested on the tourism side, if we could talk about that for a second Mayor Breen, you’ve got an economy that is that’s been in a bunch of transitions and I appreciate your points that you already had a whole bunch of challenges when we’re hearing it from other parts of the country now. I mean, certainly the Alberta cities say the same as you, that they were already struggling and then oil cratered and now they’ve got double whammies. And then we’ve got parts of the country that are dealing with flooding like life goes on, all these other resilience challenges. And you’re getting your sort of in the middle of a perfect storm and you’ve got an economy that’s been transitioning from resource dependency to being about tourism, which I think means people coming to Newfoundland. So what is it going to look like, do you think, for this, for the summer, for your businesses? Do you think will the outport communities come into St. John’s? How do you think it’s going to work?
Mayor Breen [00:27:25] I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more tourism in the province. You’re going to be seeing people in other parts of the province as staycations are going to be big, big. There is not going to be people, many people coming in, if any. So you’re not going to have the cruise ships that that we’ve had coming into St. John’s and providing that that level of activity in the downtown area and around the city. So I think the tourism industry is going to be is going to be very, very severely challenged. When I talk about tourism, like that’s restaurants and bars, that’s the activity that happens around. We have three major festivals in the summer back to back to back. And three of those are canceled for this year.
Mary Rowe [00:28:19] How resilient you think the local economy is. Do you think there, you know, in New Orleans after Katrina, when you when I was working there, you would be out in the field doing your work during the day?
Mary Rowe [00:28:29] It was hard and grimy and desperate. Then you come back, you’d have a shower, and then everybody went out to a restaurant to eat. And those restaurants in New Orleans had been fed by tourism for years. But there were no tourists.
Mary Rowe [00:28:39] So all the locals just sort of understood. And we didn’t cook every night. You went out to patronize a local restaurant. Do you think they are? Is there the will to do that in a place like St. John’s and the outports? Do you think you’ll be able to keep your tourism going with just your local market?
Mayor Breen [00:28:56] I think we’re going to be challenged to do that, this year, but I I am 100 percent sure of the resiliency of Newfoundlanders Labradorians and the people of St. John’s to make this happen. Look, if you look at what businesses have done in that during this and the way that they’ve changed, for example, curbside pickup at restaurants has I think will now become part of the regular offering of restaurants, at least in the in the near future.
Mary Rowe [00:29:28] I don’t know about January. Are we going to be doing it? Maybe.
Mayor Breen [00:29:32] Well, you know what? We we did it in a snow storm. You can. You can make things work for you. And I think that we can we can make it work. Things are going to be different there. Like anybody talks about a new normal. Well, I don’t know if it’s new and what is definitely not going to be normal because things are going to be a whole lot different. Just the fact that if you look at the amount of video conferencing that’s taking place, it’s just a different way that we’re that we’re doing these things now. Will all that stay? Probably not. But we’ve got some certainties. And I think one of the certainties is that entrepreneurs are going to find a way to make their business work. What we have to do as municipalities and governments, federal government, is to give them the tools to be able to help them make it work when when they need the help.
Mary Rowe [00:30:28] So let’s talk, if we can, about what kind of capacity back to your three CS Mayor Lehman, what kind of capacity does municipal governments have or does it need to have going forward? I mean, I know you’ve had to do layoffs, mayor Lehman. I don’t know whether you have Mayor Breenm had to do layoffs?
Mayor Breen [00:30:46] We’ve laid off seasonal workers and, you know, recreational, people working in the seasonal and our recreation centers, et cetera. But we’ve also taken on people for the summer or our seasonal workers, because we have to have our parks open. They have to be maintained and kept safe for people that need it.
Mary Rowe [00:31:06] But you don’t have the revenue sources that you’re accustomed to. You don’t have the user fees. You’ve deferred property tax. So I don’t merely mean you’re part of the larger urban municipalities. LUMCO, they’ve issued a statement. You’re both part of the federation of Canadian Municpalities.
Mary Rowe [00:31:20] They’ve issued a very bold statement about what resources they feel they need. You want talk to me about that. What are the financial implications for very that? What are you facing right now, sir? So we’ve had three major revenue lines go to zero, which is rec fees, program fees, those sorts of things. And then our transit fares and those are very significant transit fares, seven, eight million dollars. Rec fees a similar amount. So so that’s just gone, right. And it’s gone for as long as we’re unable to run the program. So unfortunately, we’ve had to have layoffs as well to try and take some costs out. Yeah. The broader issue here, Mary, is that we’re you know, our fiscal federalism was shaped in the 19th century for an agrarian country. Here we are facing a 21st century challenge, 21st century challenges, whether it’s climate change, income, polarization and homelessness or now a pandemic. We are so woefully short of the fiscal tools, but even some of the regulatory tools to be able to handle these circumstances.
Mayor Lehman [00:32:23] So what you’ve seen is work arounds for decades now in this country starting with infrastructure programs and the gas tax, then provincial collaboration, downloading of more authority through the City of Toronto Act for Toronto and then changes back on. All of these are symptomatic of how out-of-date our federalism is. And if if I can sound a hopeful note, it’s that in a crisis there is the opportunity to crash modernize. And if the federal government wants to respond and the provincial governments across the country want to respond in a thoughtful way to create resiliency in communities, it is time for some some fundamental change. And what that means is not one time transfers of funding, but shifting can be in terms of transfers of money between levels of government to allow us to respond to the challenges of today. And it also can mean, in many cases, legislative authority being delegated from provinces to municipalities. Now, lets anybody think I’m now making a case on behalf of LUMCO for a power grab or something like that. This is a conversation that obviously has been ongoing through FCM and provincial and territorial associations for some time. And we were held, I think, as big city mayors in Ontario by the vision of both the Martin and Harper governments to expand gas tax funding, which has allowed us to do good things. But but that’s a very much a part of the solution. So I think, you know, if you look around the country, you look at different sectors of the economy. There has been financial support from the federal government for virtually all sectors that have been hard hit, but not cities. And we do need them to come to the table and our provinces will have to come along side, because the reality is the you know, the services that are being delivered and the shortfalls that are being experienced fiscally by municipalities are across the country and they are essential services. We we need our transit services to keep running, allow people to get to work. I mean, there we are fond of saying at FCM, there is no recovery without Canada’s cities. But today, we’re going to be challenged to do what we need in Canada to support recovery.
Mary Rowe [00:34:51] You know, I don’t know if if if we’ve won this battle in terms of the communications of what we’re suggesting cities are. You know, in my role, I get the media out, interview me on these various things, and they will say things like, well, why should the federal government bail out municipal governments? And it feels to me like the general the general public think that cities and municipal governments are like another interest group. Well, they’ve done something for business. They’ve done something for the long term care that doesn’t begin now they’ve got to do somehting for cities as opposed to cities actually being about how we all live and the infrastructure that we’re dependent upon.
Mary Rowe [00:35:34] And here you’ve been on the front lines having to respond to the pandemic challenges. But even before that, as Mayor Breen said, musical governments been forced to have been challenged by a whole bunch of things leading up to this. I don’t know whether we’ve actually persuaded people that this is actually the underpinning of communal life when 80 percent of Canadians live in a city.
Mary Rowe [00:35:55] And as you suggest, we’re in 19th century governance structures. I don’t know if when you look at how long you’ve been you’ve you’ve been publicly saying that you’ve been out of money for a while, right? Four or five weeks, I think.
Mayor Lehman [00:36:10] Well, just a thought and I’ll hand it over to Mayor Breen. You know, I think you’re quite right on the structural issue, Mary, and that’s why I say it’s not a bailout that’s needed, it’s reform of fiscal federalism. And that can be accomplished quickly. And when better than at a time when there are federal and provincial governments are, I mean I think this is eroding, but they have worked relatively well together in the course of this pandemic. So I would agree with with a need for a long term solution.
Mary Rowe [00:36:40] Yeah. Mayor Breen, what’s your perspective on that? I think one of the dilemmas, though, is the scale. So if you if you’re a city like Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver running a big transit system, then you’re hemorrhaging is at a much greater magnitude than I’m assuming yours is, Mayor Breen?
Mary Rowe [00:36:58] I do. We can we get to a place where it’s not about one size fits all, that we need a different kind of fiscal transfer mechanism. What do you say to that Mayor Breen when you think about that?
Mayor Breen [00:37:12] Oh, absolutely. I. Well, I first of all, I’m part of the big city mayors caucus. And we’ve been talking about these problems for for for a number of years. And there was an old saying that was used is that the federal government has the money, the province has the jurisdiction and the city has the problem. And that’s the way that that is that this structure has has worked down. So cities and all municipalities right across the country, are on the front line of these things. And I think what needs to happen is, first of all, the reliance on property taxes as a revenue, as means of revenue has got to be shifted because we’re right now I mean, in municipalities I think we’re in the 83, 80 percent, 83, 84 percent of our revenue comes from property taxes. What we need is we need some other form of revenue that would allow us to make investments if we can get a return on. So if you’re looking at economic development investments, it takes a long while for that to show up in property taxes. But if you were getting a percentage of the HST, for example, we would be able then to take some of the reliance off property taxes. To be able to move forward. Our structure, and, you know, having to have a balanced budget with which I agree with, you can’t borrow for operating, but it’s times like this that they really cause problems for us. And so that’s why we need the help from them, from the federal government. It’s it’s interesting to look at it. Yes. If you’re operating one of the major transit systems, you are right. You’re going to be have some very, very significant challenges through this. It’s all relative as well. Right now, we’re we’re looking at about 16 to 17 million dollar deficit as we as we finish out the year. Our we’ve been fortunate in that we make good decisions along the way. When we’ve had surpluses, we’ve maintained a part of those surpluses. But I can tell you from experience, when you use up your your if you use all that up, something else may happen tomorrow. It happened to us. We had a major snowstorm and then we had a pandemic. So these things you can’t just use up all your resources to get you through that. So I think there’s a very important role for the federal government to play to to provide operating assistance to to municipalities. And stimulus packages are great if you and if the provincial government, if the city and the provincial government can afford to participate in them.
Mary Rowe [00:39:57] Funny. Yeah. I mean, who’s got the money? That’s right. Or who can borrow the money is really the question. And one of the dilemmas is that you can’t you know, municipalities don’t have rainy day funds. You’re not even allowed to accumulate them. So it, Jeff, what I think you were suggesting here is that is this the moment we’re in a crisis? It’s inarguably a crisis. Someone’s going to the federal and provincial governments are gonna have to respond somehow.
Mary Rowe [00:40:22] You’re already cutting staff. You’re facing cutting services, I’m sure. And so we have a window here where something is going to have to give in the immediate term.
Mary Rowe [00:40:33] Question is, could it lead to a systemic structural change? You get another revenue stream and I don’t know what you think it would be. Go ahead, Jeff.
Mayor Lehman [00:40:45] Well, a couple of thoughts on that. Step one, first of all, in terms of legislative authority, I think there are certain areas where municipalities could be transferred more authority, and that would be beneficial.
Mary Rowe [00:41:00] In every municipality or just those that want it?
Mayor Lehman [00:41:04] And this is immediately where it becomes complex because it differs by province particularly, but even by size of municipality. So that’s probably the topic for like an eight hour webinar later.
Mary Rowe [00:41:16] A real thrilling one too.
Mayor Lehman [00:41:20] Very exciting, we’ll get lots of lawyers.
Mayor Lehman [00:41:23] But on the fiscal piece and your. Thank you for pushing for how. Because, you know, there’s so much conversation about this. Oh, we need to use new revenues. What does that look like? So a couple of thoughts. One is that you could do a bulk transfer. So the federal government has, the health transfer, the social transfers.
Mayor Lehman [00:41:40] There’s been bulk transfers over the years that the federal government has used to fund priorities like health care at other levels of government. And they can attach criteria to that thre Healt Act for example. By attaching criteria that would allow the federal government to continue to exert some influence over how the money is spent. So here’s a thought.
Mayor Lehman [00:42:00] What about a Canadian resiliency transfer which gets transferred to communities that comes with some criteria that says you’ve got to spend it on capital works, for example, that provide state of good repair, that address climate change, that create human capital, whatever that might look like. You know, if we just had to help them.
Mary Rowe [00:42:19] It would be a direct transfer from the feds? It would be one of those work arounds you were describing at the outset. They would leapfrog over the province or would it be like the infrastructure investment funds now where there’s a match? How would it be?
Mayor Lehman [00:42:31] I remember talking to the prime minister about this. And I remember him saying that if you were expecting me to open up the constitution, you’ve got the wrong Trudeau.
Mayor Lehman [00:42:40] And I thought that was because, he’s quite right, of course. And he’s quite right. I mean, I think that now ideally you do it with the provinces, but that may be the surest way to bog it down, you know?
Mayor Lehman [00:42:51] You know, I would hope there would be in this time if we are genuine about crash modernizing or have an interest in it. That there would be enough consensus to work towards the solution. The second thought I would offer is that, yeah, you do a direct transfer act pass that has the political benefits, as Mr. Mayor Breen will know, for the upper levels of government that they don’t have to be the ones to impose the tax. If they give us room, we have to say, yep, we’re gonna up the HST and in wherever Toronto by a percent. And so it’s attractive, I suppose, politically on that level. It’s beneficial on our level because we’re able to spend the money how it is best needed in our communities. But it is politically challenging and it results in a patchwork tax quilt. And the you know, the challenges like are you going to see shopping behavior?
Mary Rowe [00:43:45] Are they going to go drive to get cheaper gas?
Mayor Lehman [00:43:48] Yeah, differential rates, sales tax on a different side of the road. Right. So all of these things can devil is certainly in the details. I like the bulk transfer idea. And I I hope that that discussion will continue because we do need a permanent change.
Mary Rowe [00:44:04] I’m wondering if part of this is trust. You know, one of the things that anecdotally has been reported is that how appreciative Canadians are that there’s a lot less political rancor at the moment. At least there has been over the last 10 weeks, there’s been a lot less of that and more kind of collaboration. And people were tuning into the prime minister and then into their premier and then to the mayor. And there seemed to always be an alignment. And I’m wondering if part of this process, this last 10 weeks, do you think that the public has going to their trust in government and particularly in their local government? Is there a chance that it will be heightened? And therefore, there might be more willingness to say, well, yes, I think my municpality should have more resources and transferred from other bulk transfer, potentially from other levels, but also maybe that people will say that they’re prepared to consider a new levy on themselves, a congestion charge or some other kinds of fees or some kind of any and other kinds of tax instruments. Do you think do you think the public are going to trust you more to steward their money? Mayor Breen do you ever think about that?
Mayor Breen [00:45:11] I think right now I think one of one of the things that really has to happen is I think there has to be a recognition of what the municipalities and cities can generate for the country if they’re if they’re properly legislated and funded to do so. And I think that, you know, there’s that that old saying that or slogan, that city building is nation building. Well, it’s true. You build your country one community at a time, and the stronger you make them, the stronger the country will be. And I think in terms of, for example, the HST, if if if a city is looking at investing in economic development and they know that that investment is going to have a return for them right away, and not even an increase in the HST, but taking a portion of the existing HST, then they’re going to be more apt to invest there because there is a more immediate payback on it. It’s the same as the gas tax from the federal government, the gas taxes, whereas one of the most effective means of transferring money to the municipalities that we have, it does have restrictions on what it can be used for, but they’re wide enough so that it’s valuable to municipalities and it’s predictable. So that’s what you need is you need to be able to plan and you need to be able to make decisions at the local level as opposed to having the criteria established for you and always back me into a narrow criteria.
Mary Rowe [00:46:44] But, you know, Mayor Breen, what I what I wonder about is, do you have a moment now to communicate that to your constituents?
Mayor Breen [00:46:52] Absolutely.
Mary Rowe [00:46:53] If I then as a constituent, can hold you accountable. Mayor Lehman was suggesting that there are certain kinds of responsibilities that he thinks Barrie should take on. And I think as a constituent, if I were living in Barrie, then I would know we don’t have enough affordable housing in Barrie and I’m going to hold the mayor accountable.
Mary Rowe [00:47:11] Whereas right now it’s well, it’s kind of the mayor. It’s sort of the premier. Well, actually, it’s the federal. It’s a big as you say, I know, Mayor Lehman, and we’re supposed to appreciate complexity, but as voters, it’s really hard to know who do you blame when something is not working?
Mayor Breen [00:47:26] You know, one of the things that I hate doing as mayor is I have to say to somebody, you know, that’s not really our responsibility, because to the person who’s sitting there asking you the question, it is our responsibility and your expectation is that when municipalities have a lot more authority than we actually do have. And, you know, explaining to them that in our case, we we’ve been trying to get a new municipalities act for about 20 to 25 years, having an antiquated act that doesn’t give us the authority to do the things that our residents expect that we should be able to do. It’s a frustration. So the whole the whole framework needs to be reimagined. And you know what? Sometimes big issues like the pandemic are the catalyst for doing that. So time to sit back and say this just isn’t really working the way it’s working.
Mary Rowe [00:48:24] You’re channeling, your , your territorial DNA there Mayor Breen. And you wouldn’t be the first time that that Newfoundland would be challenging how things are organized.
Mary Rowe [00:48:34] And, you know, in terms of what, as you suggest Mayor Lehman, people during this pandemic, you folks have had to do whatever was needed to be done. You couldn’t spend one second saying, well, actually, no, that’s not our jurisdiction. We’re going to let that crisis just unfold in front of us. You’ve been compelled to be responsive, reallocate resources. Do you think that that’s a is that does that give you more power now to be able to communicate these systemic changes, because you’ve actually rescued urban environments from horrible tragedy, really much worse.
Mayor Lehman [00:49:12] Yeah, I mean, if I go back to the first few days of the crisis, the speed with which we shut down our operations in so many our public facing operations, rec centers, huge facilities, public parks, Changes to publice transportation, public and so forth. It was lightning fast. And if anything, I I’m not sure there’s a general appreciation for how quickly the government we were able to move as municipalities and all of us were by and large able to do that very, very quickly. And it was that usual, I think, for people who are used to government moving slowly in that old belief. Hopefully that was a positive surprise. Now we need to delight them with our agility and our response. So as we come back from this. And Mayor Breen gave a great example earlier about the regulations around the patios, the outdoor areas for restaurants. And by the way, you could do that for a lot more than just restaurants. Retailers can use outdoor areas.
Mary Rowe [00:50:21] We’re going to have are we going to have change rooms in parking lots?
Mayor Lehman [00:50:24] I wouldn’t go to change rooms. That’s I mean, but interesting idea. I mean, you probably get a lot more spectators.
Mayor Lehman [00:50:32] I think, you know, maybe sidewalk sales, better parking lot sales. Right. Lots of lots of parking lots. Well, I mean, truck sales, I think you’re right.
Mayor Lehman [00:50:43] So it’s not a big leap. But the point I think is now we need to really show that local government, by being closest to the people, by being locally managed, can can move very, very quickly to do innovative things to support the recovery. We watched this very public debate over converting public spaces to walking, cycling, and active transprotatin in Ontario. We sort of dipped our toe. We’re certainly not a leader or a laggard. I don’t think in Barrie. But we did a bit of it. And by the point of it was, yeah, we’re the ones throwing concrete barriers onto a truck, taking them out, putting them down and putting up the signs in the course of an afternoon to close one hundred and thirty two playgrounds. I mean we did that.
Mayor Lehman [00:51:28] We had to do that. Yeah.
Mayor Lehman [00:51:29] You do that to protect to protect kids. And and I would hope that we can demonstrate a similar degree of motivation and energy in how we can deploy some of the things that can help people and help the business community as we as we come out.
Mary Rowe [00:51:45] So, you know, we’ve started this thing called Bring Back Main Street with a whole bunch of partners across the country, because we think it just gets to the heart of it, the heart of your community. And how do you how do you support bringing back your main street? The businesses on it. All that community functions that are on it. And we’re we’re working with partners across the country asking lots of questions about what what are the key interventions we should be making now.
Mary Rowe [00:52:09] So if you had to pick a priority, each of you in your jurisdictions of what you, forget, let’s assume the money thing gets solved. Touch wood. And and that and you’re in your acute crisis financially as is dealt with. And then you’re going to start to think about future. Where would you see the priority needs to be? I’m assuming public space as part of this access to public space. But what else Mayor Breen? What do you think is going to be the thing that you’re going to double down on for the balance of your mandate that you really want to get done? Having gone through COVID, have you got a thought on that?
Mayor Breen [00:52:45] There’s just so many things going on and there’s so many priorities to to deal with here. But the thing I you know, I think we have to get the business. We have to get the businesses back to operating in whatever that new way they’ll operate in. I’ll give you an example of something that at that that we’re you know, we’re trying to get our minds around right now. When you look at universities and that we have a very strong university town in St. John’s. We have it’s it’s about I think it’s about eight point eight percent of our population, one of the highest in the countries in the country. And if you look at online learning, and people not coming into the city to live? Well, what’s that doing to business in the city? They’re not selling their products. If there’s if the students aren’t there, rentals of houses, basement apartments, .
Mary Rowe [00:53:39] Who’s going to eat all those burritos.
[00:53:41] The impact is huge. So I think right now, just trying to find out what the impacts and where that concentration needs to go is the biggest challenge because we don’t know where this is, where this is going to end right now. I mean, we go back to our snow storm. We knew the snow was going to melt and then we were gonna we’re gonna move on. But right now, we don’t know how long what the ultimate impact is. So I think for everybody, you know, for residents to be able to to get their lives back slowly towards towards normal and for people to adjust to what the new economic realities are and what the new business realities are in the city is a mammoth challenge.
Mary Rowe [00:54:30] Do you do you are you going to invest in some infrastructure? Are you are you, for instance, going to be able to steer procurement in many municipal procurement to being not yet buying stuff from your local businesses?
Mary Rowe [00:54:40] Are you thinking about that?
Mayor Breen [00:54:41] You know, we we operate under a public tendering act, which which we have to do whatever we have to do there. But I mean, we’re doing a main infrastructure project on our main street Water Street. That’s that’s we’re taking the opportunity now to be able to do it and finish it up while businesses are closed. We’re starting another one on another street. So our major projects were continually done with because the cost sharing is in place and its necessary infrastructure to be done. But where we’re going to have to look at our other capital projects because we’re not sure how much of that money we’ll have to move from capital out of operating to operating.
Mary Rowe [00:55:21] So again, it hinges on the whether or not there’s a relief package or some other kind of financial tool.
Mayor Breen [00:55:26] Remembering as well that your debt servicing costs, although they may be going down. We work on an 18 percent ceiling, so our debt servicing costs can be 18 percent. It can’t be more than 18 percent of our revenues. So if your revenues start falling because of this, then even though you’re spending same amount, you’re still increasing.
Mayor Breen [00:55:48] That percentage.
Mary Rowe [00:55:51] Mayor Lehman, Barrie was under extraordinary development pressure before COVID.
Mary Rowe [00:55:56] I’m interested how you’re anticipating responding to that. Is there a way for instance, one of our questioners asked before you came on, actually was curious whether or not there’s going to be the capacity to have higher environment green standards for building going forward?
Mayor Lehman [00:56:09] Are they going to be a way to sort of take the intervention now and say, yes, we’re going to continue to build, but in these ways, how are you anticipating coping with what I’m assuming is going to be some resurgence in development demand. What do you think?
Mayor Lehman [00:56:21] Well, I have to tell you, there’s been no lag. The developoment construction here has largely continued and is now now moving quickly. I mean, there’s been supply issues. There’s been labor practices that had to change. But in many cases, it’s been able to continue.
Mayor Lehman [00:56:39] Amazingly the average home price in Barrie in the last two months has gone up, not down by over 10 percent, meaning that maybe that only higher and very financially stable households are buying because sales activity has been cut in half. But that’s still a very, very large number of sales. So that whole bit of the industry continues to operate not without its challenges, but it’s operating just on the general question that you asked.
Mayor Lehman [00:57:07] I mean, this recession resulting from the lockdown and the fighting COVID is quite different than any previous recession. It’s not one that really calls for infrastructure stimulus, although that is an important piece. It will help. We do need infrastructure, but I would say that needs to be much more targeted this time. And housing would be my answer to your question. You said if there’s one long term thing that we can invest in, that change, mine would be housing. This is an opportunity for us, for example, to buy hotels and convert them to homeless facilities to to renovate old motels and those sorts of things to buy or build supportive housing in our communities, but especially to look at new models for long term care. And I think that needs to be crash modernized. So if I was the federal government designing stimulus infrastructure funds, I would be heavily emphasizing housing and I would be as well. I think looking at the social determinants of health and how we can use new models that may appraise what we need in terms of building that confidence back in the economy.
Mary Rowe [00:58:22] Andy Thompson is determined to get this question answered and I didn’t ask it fully enough. And he’s asking, can you would you consider fast tracking into the SPA process so that developers may have more money and and they get the rebates for green buildings there? Do you appreciate what that question is? Maybe you know what he’s asking.
Mayor Lehman [00:58:41] I do. And I appreciate Andy’s smart questions. He often asks them at public meetings here at city council. He’s great.
Mayor Lehman [00:58:48] Yeah. Certainly expediting the approval process is something that we have been looking at since early on. Barrie city council started meeting a month ago with regular meetings and we restarted planning committee to allow that development process to continue, because there is so much pressure. And I’ve actually added an extra meeting to the calendar in June. We’re gonna go gangbusters to ensure there’s a consistent vibe. But his point is well taken.
Mayor Lehman [00:59:15] I mean, letters of credit was something that we did early on to support builders and try and keep projects liquid and moving as well. Trying to return some of those earlier and with more favorable terms.
Mary Rowe [00:59:29] Gentlemen, you’ve raised such important questions that resonate across the country, even though you only are from two of the 10 provinces and eleven territory in the in the country. But you’re talking about real situations that people living in urban environments across the country are confronting. We just want to acknowledge how appreciative we are of the leadership that mayors like you have been taking and your council colleagues and working under extraordinary circumstances and not spending one second wondering if you could afford to do something, you just have gone ahead and done it. And now we’ve got this very interesting reckoning time where we figure out how do we backfill the resources that you’ve had to spend and then prepare for the future as we continue to hopefully build more livable and more resilient urban communities across the country.
Mary Rowe [01:00:12] So Mayor Breen, a last word from you, anything, anything you wanted, have you got a nice anecdote that you want to spin for the rest of the rest of Canada from Newfoundland?
Mayor Breen [01:00:19] I just think that that as we move out of this and we get into the post COVID 19 phase is that it’s all hands on deck. We we’ve all got to work together to to get through this and to be able to take advantage of the opportunity that we have to be able to move forward and make sure that we’re developing our economic opportunities to our best to our best ability. You know, that’s that’s really the key here, is that we have to work together, because if we don’t, we’re going to miss out on a lot of things and it will be a real problem into the future.
Mary Rowe [01:01:04] Never waste a crisis. Right. As they say.
Mary Rowe [01:01:07] Well, listen, thanks both to you, both Mayor Lehman and Mayor Breen. We asked you for an hour and you’ve given it. Now, we appreciate it. This has been CityTalk. Watch your mailboxes, everybody, because Monday morning, bright and early comes the roster for next week. I’ll give you a hint. Mobility, what everybody’s concerned about. Transportation on Tuesday and on Thursday, we’re talking about public space. And how does that actually get navigated? And then we have another guest on Friday, another mayor. Well, thank you, gentlemen, for joining us and giving us that really important perspective on how municipal leadership is being implemented and all the challenges that you’ve been facing that you continue to anticipate. What was it?
Mary Rowe [01:01:43] I want to repeat them confidence, capital and capacity. Have I got them got them Mayor Lehman?
Mayor Lehman [01:01:51] You got it. Leading to resilience.
Mary Rowe [01:01:53] Got it on that, that resilient note. I leave you wishing for a good weekend. And thanks again, gentlemen, for joining us. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Bye bye. Thanks.
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12:05:14 From Susan Prior to All panelists: Sunny St. John’s!
12:05:22 From Kory Chisholm: Greetings from Barrie, ON
12:05:25 From Canadian Urban Institute: CUI is looking for volunteers to help us continue the great work of our COVID-19 initiatives. If you can help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
12:06:07 From Mary Kenny: Mary Kenny from Halifax. Happy Friday discussion!
12:11:30 From Chris Fraser to All panelists: Mayor Danny Brean – please say hi to past Mayor Dennic “Doc” O’Keefe” and Kelly Mansell of Rocket Food. St. John’s is one of the best cities in all Canada – that all Canadians should visit. The great Noel O’Dea is probably salivating at the opportunity to do more amazing advertising to attract Canadians.
12:12:42 From Abby S: Opening parking lots to patios is a great idea.
12:13:01 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:13:02 From Philip Evans to All panelists: Agreed!!
12:16:12 From Philip Evans to All panelists: I’m curious if residents from outports around the bay are frequenting St.John’s more so?
12:19:02 From Chris Fraser: Mayor Danny Brean – please say hi to past Mayor Dennic “Doc” O’Keefe” and Kelly Mansell of Rocket Food. St. John’s is one of the best cities in all Canada – that all Canadians should visit. The great Noel O’Dea at Target Advertising is probably salivating at the opportunity to do more amazing advertising to attract Canadians.
12:23:00 From Abby S: This was a clarion call a long time ago…and was ignored sadly
12:32:51 From Philip Evans: I wonder if a shift towards a cultural economy (beyond tourism) is driven by individual creative entrepreneurs…creative farming practices in response to food security in Nfld?
12:33:16 From PATRICIA RUNZER: Did you layoff Transit Operators? Also are your providing free transit?
12:35:02 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2zcc2SA
12:36:03 From Abby S: Well put Mary…
12:36:27 From Claudia McKoy: To the Mayors, Will seeking foreign direct investments to your cities play any role in your strategies to rebuild your economies post-covid-19?
12:36:40 From Philip Evans: wow. Agreed Mary!
12:36:58 From Abby S: Cities are not an “interest group”…And they are also hamstrung with regard to budgets and revenue generation
12:38:10 From Ralph Cipolla: do we have an obligation as a municipality for o tax increase for 2021
12:38:36 From Sheila Perry to All panelists: Very happy to hear a focus on Federalism with support to municipalities. reality of 80% living in cities is a huge factor facing us all.
12:39:01 From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:40:01 From Abby S: Why not allow cities to issue infrastructure bonds to create full connectivity?
12:40:23 From Abby S: The need for full and fair access as we move more and more online (whether we like it or not) is only going to increase
12:44:28 From Kay Matthews to All panelists: Thank you all for this very interesting conversation. I am sorry that I have to leave as the information is so interesting. Mayor Lehman, always a pleasure. Kay Matthews, OBIAA
12:45:41 From Philip Evans: Imagine if the snowstorm hit AFTER the pandemic. We still have flooding season we’re about to embark on here in Toronto…we’re not ready…resiliency investments won’t go to waste in cities.
12:46:08 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:47:49 From Alan McNair: There has mostly been less public rancor over the last few months but the Conservative opposition has been scathing in their attacks on PM Trudeau to wind up their base in their leadership contest. This does not bode well for a political cultural change and longterm cooperation.
12:50:12 From Jared Dielwart to All panelists: What role does the current funding structure play in executing on localized affordable housing projects? (Cities have and know the need, but funding needs to flow from Prov. and Feds)
12:50:22 From Abby S: I do think that the speed was recognized.
12:50:53 From Abby S: Hairdressing?
12:51:13 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:52:06 From Chris Fraser: Might be wise to look outside of Canada for ideas in cities that work (keeping scale and size in mind). I’m very impressed with Copenhagen – where ideology is part of the election process and once the election is over – city leaders get together to make things happen. Can you imagine that in Canada?
12:54:11 From Canadian Urban Institute: CUI is looking for volunteers to help us continue the great work of our COVID-19 initiatives. If you can help, please contact us at email@example.com
12:55:13 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2zcc2SA
12:57:31 From Canadian Urban Institute: #citytalk
12:58:04 From Andy Thomson (OAA) to All panelists: @Jeff, some architects have suggested a fast tracked SPA process could save developers more $ than DCC rebates for green buildings. Is Barrie thinking of any reform to accelerate SPA? What about partial DCC rebates for green builds?
12:58:52 From Andy Thomson (OAA) to All panelists: Haha:)
13:00:54 From Mayor Jeff Lehman: Thanks everyone for listening!
13:01:45 From Mary Kenny to All panelists: Our mayors are so impressive. Hats off to them!
13:01:51 From Francis Wallace to All panelists: Thank you everyone.
13:01:51 From Jared Dielwart to All panelists: Thanks everyone!
13:01:55 From Andy Thomson (OAA) to All panelists: Have a great afternoon/evening/weekend – thank you Mayors and Mary!
13:02:00 From Abby S: Thank you to Mary, CUI staff and these two wonderful mayors!
13:02:12 From Andy Thomson (OAA) to All panelists: And CUI staff of course!@
13:02:16 From Maureen Shuell: Thanks for insights!
13:02:18 From Philip Evans: Thanks Mary and mayors!
13:02:39 From Ralph Cipolla: from Ralph Cipolla of Orillia thank