North Bay city council is prepared to look ahead for the next 10 years, after the completed strategic plan framework was presented to members of council on March 7.
Jocelyn Deeks of the consultation firm StrategyCorp called the framework “the overarching document that will aid council and the city” in guiding their decision-making over the next decade.
A working draft of the framework was completed early in 2016 with StrategyCorp’s help. The community held consultation sessions through the fall to get the public’s input.
“We started with the draft from council and staff, but it didn’t have community input yet, so after the engagement process we got the new plan,” Deeks said. “We streamlined the document, and going forward we have a much more efficient operable document. The key thing is we moved from three priorities to five. The addition of two directly reflects the feedback we got from the community.”
The five priority categories include Natural, Near and North; Economic Prosperity; Affordable, Balanced Growth; Spirited Safe Community; and Responsible and Responsive Government.
John Matheson of StrategyCorp said that, in the ever-competitive race between municipalities to attract prospective citizens and tourists, each of Ontario’s 444 municipalities claims it is the greatest place to eat, live, and play — a statement heard all too often.
But provincial legislation guides what municipalities can and cannot do.
“They’re all working from the same deck of cards,” he said. “At the same time, there is something special that is authentic for the people who live there. They key to a plan is finding out what that is so a community can play to its strengths. You can’t treat every place like it’s the average municipality.”
During the consultation process, information was garnered from 900 community participants during town hall meetings, workbooks, an online survey, stakeholder meetings, and community group outreach. Deeks said they were pleased with the number of participants in the process and believed there to be a strong representation of various views in North Bay.
“The important thing for us was to have the range of tools so people could participate in the process in a way that was convenient and most comfortable with them,” Deeks said, describing how the variations in community outreach gave ample opportunity to hear different demographics within the community.
“In each of the different ways we got very robust feedback, it was great to see people so engaged. Especially because the engagement tools we used were very qualitative and we got substantial feedback to use.”
Deeks said during the process, it was great to see how much passion people had for the community and the ideas brought forward.
“There are challenges in every community and we could see some of the frustrations people had, but also people genuinely came forward with interesting and innovative ideas of what they wanted in the future.”
The framework is intended to be a living document, and staff will review and update it annually based on new information or changes within the city.