Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Sarnia to hold “victory party” when pandemic ends: mayor

Published on

Editor’s Note: Mayor Bradley’s speech was made last week, prior to the current increase in violent crime

Cathy Dobson

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, Sarnia will derive some lasting benefits from the pandemic and emerge as one of the few debt-free cities in Canada shortly after it’s over, Mayor Mike Bradley predicts.

What’s more, the city will celebrate victory over the virus with a big party at New Year’s, Bradley said during his annual “State of the City” address to the Golden K Kiwanis Club.

“It’s important that we continue to function even in difficult times,” said the mayor, who heard some criticism after council approved a 2% tax increase for 2021.

Sarnia expects to spend $156 million on operations this year and another $61 million on capital projects, including a record level of work resurfacing the city’s notoriously bad roads.

Taxes went up, despite small businesses facing unprecedented hardships caused by pandemic restrictions.

“The Valley is holding its own… but the group that worries me the most is the restaurant and small business sector,” said Bradley.  “We want fairness with big box stores and we’re not getting that.”

He said the feedback he’s getting from small business owners is deeply concerning.

“I hear the stories and see the distress when I talk to people,” he said. “While (restaurants) have done a great job doing the take out, it’s probably just paying for the power to be on and some basics.”

Council moved to eliminate year-over-year increases on fees charged to businesses in 2021, and will consider reopening the budget this spring if the pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc.

But the ultimate hope is COVID-19 vaccine doses will arrive in Sarnia soon, the mayor said.

“I think that will help people, when they see some hope coming that will allow them to get back to normal in the restaurant business and small business sector.”

The pandemic has proven people can successfully work from home, he noted. And that supports the recent influx of new residents who have discovered they can keep their job in larger centres and save on housing by living here.

“People can work from any place,” Bradley said. “It’s really important that our Economic Partnership harnesses that momentum.”

Sarnia’s population is growing again and City Hall has approved a steady stream of new housing projects, he added.

Another more positive legacy of COVID-19 will be recognition City Hall can operate with less red tape, Bradley said, pointing to how restaurant patios were quickly approved to operate where they hadn’t before.

“I see cities redesigned because of this,” he said.

Bradley told the Golden K that if vaccinations go as planned, Sarnians can expect a big street party this New Year’s, one resembling the 2014 celebration held downtown to mark the city’s 100thanniversary.

“We’ll call it a victory party,” he said. “I think the timing is going to work.”

Bradley traditionally speaks about his hopes for the coming year each January at the Golden K Kiwanis Club. This year, the mayor marked his 35th year in office and 33rd as mayor by addressing the club on Zoom.





More like this