But Sudbury mayor calls for major reforms of city council structure
“I have decided not to run municipally, due to personal commitments,” Matichuk said, finally answering the question she's been asked dozens of times in recent months. “I'm announcing at this time is that I'm hoping that someone considering running for mayor will step forward.”
“It's time to do something different,” she said. “It is a privilege and an honour to be your leader and I thank citizens of Greater Sudbury for the support I have received.”
She plans to be an active mayor in the final few months before the Oct. 27 election, she said. Although with the recent decision to freeze development charges, most of the major issues this council must deal with have been addressed.
As she leaves office, Matichuk called for major reforms of the way city council is structured. With one councillor for 12 wards, she said the current system is a recipe for endless turf wars, and promotes a system where only the mayor is elected to focus on city-wide issues.
“I think they should abolish the ward council system and it should become more of a councillor-at-large hybrid system,” she said. “That's something that would really move this city forward … But that would take about eight years to accomplish.”
While refusing to comment on any current candidates for the mayoralty, she did say she was announcing now so anyone considering jumping in the race could make a more informed decision.
The announcement came on the same day that businessman and mayoral candidate Dan Melanson unveiled his platform at an evening news conference. Melanson was a major backer of Matichuk in 2010, and many of the people who worked on her campaign could be seen at Buzzy Brown's, where he held his event.
“I had no idea,” Melanson said, when reporters asked if he knew Matichuk was withdrawing.
But, he added, it would have no impact on his campaign.
For her part, Matichuk said securing a promise from the provincial Liberals to fund a major part of the $125 million Maley Drive extension was one of her biggest accomplishments, along with the conversion of the former Barrydowne Arena into a film studio. It was, she said, the sort of re-purposing of surplus city buildings she had hoped to make more progress on during her term.
Her biggest disappointment?
“Store hours,” she said.
Early in her term, her motion to deregulate store hours went down to defeat, before finally becoming a referendum question.
“Personally, I think that was a big turning point when it came to what I stood for,” she said. “And, unfortunately, it was not handled properly … If I had to look back now, it would have been handled totally differently.”
While her term was often characterized by conflicts with city councillors – who largely refused to support the agenda she campaigned on – Matichuk said those struggles happen in any local council. And despite some big losses at the council table – the firing of Ombudsman Andre Marin was another major loss, in addition to store hours – she said she thoroughly enjoyed her time in office.
“I haven't had a lot of worst moments, most of them have been pretty good,” she said.
But she would give this piece of advice to the next mayor: keep fighting for what you believe in, and for what you were elected to do.
“It doesn't matter if you're the only person in the room talking about it, the conversation has to start with someone,” Matichuk said. “So, as a new mayor, just stand your ground.”
David Boyce, chair of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber had a strong relationship with Matichuk.
“We've had regular meetings with her and she has been open to suggestions from the chamber of commerce,” Boyce said.
While not commenting on any current candidates, he said more people will likely announce a run.
“Particularly with Marianne's announcement today,” Boyce said. “We'll see more candidates step forward in the coming weeks and months.”
First elected in 2010, Matichuk came from virtual obscurity to win the mayoralty from John Rodriguez, a veteran New Democrat MP who won the job in 2006. There were persistent rumours the provincial Liberals were courting her to be their candidate in the June 12 provincial election, and she has talked about her good relationship with Premier Kathleen Wynne.
While admitting she had been approached, she didn't run for the nomination in Sudbury, and the Liberals lost the riding to NDP candidate Joe Cimino, himself a city councillor.
With the mayor's announcement, that leaves former mayor Rodriguez, Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis and former Matichuk backer Dan Melanson as the highest-profile contenders for the job.