It’s been an emotional time for members of Kenora City Council and Mayor Dan Reynard, who are all saying their goodbyes ahead of the 2022 Municipal Election.

During October 7’s Council Meeting at City Hall, Mayor Reynard took time to thank members of council, city staff and the public for all of their support over the last four years – and to clear the air of any misunderstandings about what this batch of councillors have achieved over their term.

Since I announced that I wasn’t going to run, it’s amazing how many people have come forward to say we’ve done a really good job. What we did as a council, we did as a team. That was our goal, and we did that,” said Reynard, in his comments.

“When Councillor Goss and I came aboard, Councillor McMillan offered guidance – when asked. Councillor Smith just offered guidance,” Reynard joked, as the room launched into laughter.

The Mayor then built on the ‘mic-drop’ moment from this week’s All Candidates Debate at Seven Generations, where candidate Smith noted our tax rate is lower than what it was eight years ago. He adds the city was also able to leverage $36 million in free funds from the province.

“People really don’t understand what we did. The tax rate now is 90 per cent of what it was 8 years ago. That’s something to be proud of,” explains Reynard.

“People said you’re not investing in the community. So, I went into our budgets over the last four years. Our Capital Budget, in general, we approved $43 million of Capital – of that, $7.2 million came from taxes. That means through reserves or government funding, we found $36 million. We used $7 million to leverage $43 million.

In our four years together, there’s been almost $70 million re-invested in the community – and that’s just what we approved in our budgets. That’s pretty impressive.”

While he was digging through the city’s records, Reynard also took a close look at housing developments over the last four years – which despite what some claim, as the Mayor says, developments have been underway to address our housing crisis.

“I heard there’s been no housing. So, I went back over four years. Single units, there’s been 79 new units. Multi-residential, there’s been 6 units. Seasonal units, 20. Apartment building with 30. A condo building of 8. So, over our 4 years, 143 new units.

New starts that are on board right now, 30-units of supportive housing on Ninth Street North,
20 affordable units on Matheson Street, 12 units for women in transitional supportive housing on Sunset Bay, and that’s another 62 units. That brings us over 200.

Ones that aren’t announced yet...the Howard Property, 54 units. Seniors housing units at the Northlands property is another 14. Fusion capital on Valley Drive, two apartment buildings, 88 units. That’s 156 more. That brings us to 360 units. That doesn’t include projects that haven’t been approved.

The mill property, there’s the potential there for 3 apartment buildings at 90 units, and townhouses at 40 units. There’s a lot of activity. We’ve done a really good job.”

Things Reynard didn’t mention include a new-look downtown core after phase 4 of downtown revitalization with a new roundabout and an improved First Street, an upgraded Kenora Shoppers Mall, new parking meters downtown and work is starting at McLeod Park – the first step of a $25 million redevelopment of the Harbourfront and Greenbelt.

The Discovery Centre has seen some upgrades, work is finally beginning on Railway Street, the new Central Community Club is set to open this winter and the former Kenora Forest Products’ 114-acre property will eventually be redeveloped.

Then, the self-proclaimed financial enthusiast detailed the city’s strong investments, the Senior Leadership Team’s plans for the future with a new development fund and how this set of Councillors was able to save taxpayers over $200,000 per year.

“And then I thought, what did we do that was unique? We made a decision to take surplus money to put it into a fund which will be used for development. If you’ve got a good business plan, we’ll put money into the project.

Since then, we’ve sold the former KMTS building, Town Island and the Howard property. Those monies all went into that fund. We’re one of the only municipalities in Ontario to do that.

We thought outside of the box. We used to borrow money for ourselves. We went to market and got a significantly lower rate, which is saving taxpayers over $200,000 per year. We made tough decisions, but prudent decisions to set up the community and the council’s that will follow us.”

However, some divisive issues over the last four years have included a significant water rate increase for apartment units, a possible sale of the Keewatin Medical Clinic, the introduction and scrappage of ‘Jump In’, the use of wood chips at Garrow Park and concrete blocks at Rabbit Lake, and a voted down loitering by-law.

But as Reynard notes – there’s more to being a municipal Council member than budgets and finances. He then took time to reminisce about some of his favourite times as a member of Council, including a few projects that he took to heart.

“I look back on my time, the things I’ve really enjoyed… I remember when Jessie Bachinsky came in. When the TA Saints came in after coming from the All-Ontario’s. When Valleyview Kindergartners would come in for a debate. Those are the fun things you remember.

There are so many projects to name. The one I’m most proud of is what we did to ensure Wauzhushk Onigum not only got water, but they got sewer services. That’s a community that adjoins us, and through the leadership of Chief Chris Skead, MP-at-the-time Bob Nault and this council, we pushed to ensure both went. That was a tremendous step. I’m very proud of that one.

I look at the Rotary Club and the Splash Park. Norman Park – the first accessible park in northwestern Ontario. We should be proud of that.”

Reynard and the City of Kenora also helped Q104 and KenoraOnline break a World Record in July 2019, as 1,359 people all wore plaid with pride under the Whitecap Pavilion.

Reynard notes this group of Council members wouldn’t have been able to do what they were hoping for without such a strong Senior Leadership Team and the team of municipal staff behind them, that he wanted to take the time to highlight for the community.

I’d also like to talk about our staff. You hear the negatives about staff, but here’s the reality. Water pipes don’t freeze in the summer – they freeze at -40 below. When we need it, they are out there doing the job to repair it. If it’s Christmas and we have a foot of snow, they’re out there plowing.

We’re very fortunate. We have a very talented staff, who take pride. Is there room to improve? There is. But I firmly believe that as we’re leaving today, the Senior Leadership Team is the strongest it’s been. We have great leadership with a great vision, and they’re working hard.

I leave knowing, that we’ve built a foundation to move forward with. It was never about is. It was always about what we wanted to do with the community. We didn’t always agree, but we respected each other and when decisions were made, we came together.

To the new people coming onto council, I certainly hope that the people in this room are part of this new council. We need experience, and we need people who have answers. This community has never chosen a Mayor that has not chosen a Mayor that has not sat around this table prior to.”

Reynard then threw his personal support behind Mayoral candidate and fellow current council member, Andrew Poirier. Reynard also took time to specifically thank staff members Heather Pihulak, Kerri Holder, Charlotte Edie and Marco Vogrig for their work in recent years.

Issues still on the agenda for Kenora’s next Mayors, councillors and senior staff include continuing to address the need for housing, twinning the Kenora Rec Centre’s ice surface, the reduction of policing costs, phase five of downtown revitalization, the Harbourfront’s redevelopment and the possible development of a casino at the former mill site.

Mayor Reynard confirmed he would not be seeking re-election this fall in August, saying the decision was a difficult one to make and he is keeping his reasons private.

The most important people I’ve left to last – that’s my family. They’ve allowed me to be part of this and supported me tremendously – and now it’s my time to support them. Thank you,” finishes Reynard.

Reynard was elected as Kenora’s Mayor in 2018, defeating Lydia Harlos for the seat. He succeeded Dave Canfield, who Reynard served under as a city councillor.

The lifelong Kenora resident and former KMTS Finance Manager and Municipal Treasurer has also been involved in minor hockey at both local and regional levels in a variety of roles for over 33 years and has been recognized as an RBC Local Hockey Leader.