The Mayor’s State of the City Address, 2012, Burlington Convention Centre
January 26, 2012
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all very much for coming this morning to the State of the City Address.
Last year there was record attendance for this event, and I am pleased and a little surprised that there is approximately the same number of people here this year as last. I thought the honeymoon would be over and the attendance would be less. Maybe the honeymoon is over and that is why we you are all here.
Thank you to the sponsors for your contribution to this event. Scotia Bank, Bell, the Certified Management Accountants Association along with the Burlington Youth Soccer Club – you are all great contributors to our community. I have great affinity for the BYSC as all 3 of my daughters played soccer at all levels in the club and 2 continue to play soccer as young adults.
I also want to thank TV Cogeco for being here this morning, providing many who cannot be here, the opportunity to see this event at a future date on TV Cogeco.
I also wish to thank the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for not only hosting the State of the City Address, but also for the efforts you expend in the areas of advocacy as well as providing educational and networking opportunities for your members. The net impact of your efforts is a significant contribution to prosperity for our city.
Before I go any further I want to introduce my colleagues from Burlington City Council: Councillors Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster. Councillor Rick Craven is away on a well earned vacation in the Caribbean.
I also would like to introduce the Senior Executive Team with the City:
Kim Phillips – Acting City Manager – General Manager of Corporate Services;
Scott Stewart – General Manager of Community Services – who also served as Acting City Manager while Council was in the recruitment process; and
Steve Zorbas – Acting General Manager of Development and Infrastructure.
Kim only has two more days in the Acting City Manager Role.
I want to publicly thank both Kim and Scott for the time that each of you served as acting city manager. You both did a superb job – we were in good hands.
At this point, I would like to introduce our new City Manager – Jeff Fielding – who is with us this morning, even though he does not start until Monday.
Jeff was the City Manager in London for almost 8 years and prior to that, was the City Manager in Kitchener. Jeff brings with him not only great experience as a municipal leader, but also an incredible amount of enthusiasm.
Jeff, welcome to Burlington. We are all looking forward to working with you.
There are a number of additional members of our senior management team and staff who are also here this morning. We are extremely fortunate to have a fine team of public servants serving the needs of our community.
This morning is my second opportunity to address the Chamber and the public through the press, and TV Cogeco and talk about our city. I have had the privilege of being the Mayor for just over one year now, and I must say that the opportunity has been everything I had hoped for, and at times more, and some times, much more!
The State of the City address can be a series of statistics and facts to prove we have done our job. However to me the state of the city is an attitude, a feeling, a level of confidence about how things are going. That is the foundation that allows us to focus on the hopes and dreams for the whole city.
This past year, I had the opportunity to speak to many residents. I attended more than 300 community functions and it often seemed that I spoke to every person present. In the Mayor’s Office, we had over 150 meetings with concerned citizens, groups and staff about the matters that were important to the community. I had the occasion to speak to and engage in dialogue with many service clubs, church groups, community organizations and business groups, including 10 CFOs from local businesses in a meeting that was arranged by the Chamber.
I was in arenas, art centres, halls, parks, libraries, schools, hospitals, churches, food banks, and just about any other facility we have here in Burlington. I visited local businesses regularly and met with several prospective Burlington businesses. During the year I hosted the Mayor’s Community Roundtable and invited about 30 community groups to attend and we have had great attendance. We established a series of Open Door sessions where residents simply show up to meet me without an appointment to discuss their issues. In fact there is one this Friday morning at City Hall.
Last week I invited some prominent citizens for dinner to talk about the city’s challenges and opportunities. This group of participants represented social services, culture, development and the business sectors. For me it was an inspiring evening. The level of enthusiasm and expertise we have in our community is an asset that we need to capitalize on more.
Many citizens also engaged me in grocery stores, shopping malls, on the street while out I was out walking, at the Y during my workouts, and sometimes even when I am out of town. This past Sunday I talked to a resident at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph while attending a Guelph Storm hockey game with my daughter.
In 2011 I had the opportunity to do Ward Tours with my colleagues. We drove through neighbourhoods, walked through parks and pathways, visited developing areas, areas of concern and areas of opportunity.
I am consistently impressed with the work of my colleagues on Council, with how in touch they are with the Ward’s they represent, and how hard they are working every day in little ways that few people see.
While the Mayor is the chief spokesperson for the city and the head of council, it is not the Mayor’s role to lead on every issue. The city is fortunate to have the blend of different people on council who are all community leaders.
So how are we doing?
In my inaugural speech just over a year ago, I spoke about the importance of rebuilding TRUST; the trust between council members, council and staff, council and the public and between City Hall and the public.
Elections can and often do end up creating at the beginning an interesting dynamic for municipal councils and the staff team they lead. It takes effort on all sides to meld together, different views, experiences and approaches into a cohesive team. I am pleased to report that the organization has come a long way in a year resulting in higher levels of trust and respect that allows us to focus on the issues in front of us more effectively.
I would like to read a quote from Kent Murdoch, President and CEO of the O.C. Tanner Company:
“If your workplace culture isn’t open and honest, it won’t create satisfaction, and you will experience turnover and a lack of productivity that will cost you money, ideas and time. On the other hand, if the work environment is ethical, productive and positive, people will stay – and stay committed. They will drive your organization forward”.
The result of a high trust organization will be a much better and more trusting relationship with the people we serve.
Having a high level of trust doesn’t mean that all decisions are unanimous. We all know that this is impossible. Trust is based on transparency, openness, an explanation of decision making, honesty and respect, including respecting alternative positions. This is true in our interaction with each other, staff and the community.
As we move forward to look at what happened in 2011 and what we look forward to in 2012, I hope you come away with these thoughts from today:
1. I believe you should feel positive about what is happening in Burlington and how your council and city staff are working on your behalf.
2. All municipalities have their challenges. We don’t have to look far to see examples. Burlington is in a better position than most. We have a very good and diversified local economy, we have a great quality of life and access to amenities and services and we are in a position to address our challenges in a professional and thoughtful way.
3. We are addressing our issues head on. We are “living within our means” and we will continue to do so.
Highlights of 2011
2011 was an eventful year.
Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital
As we saw and heard in the video we played earlier, on August 10th the Province of Ontario announced the go ahead on the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project. This project, with a budget of over $300 million will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.
We will see new operating rooms, new private rooms, a new cancer clinic and many more improvements. The progress that has been made on this project is remarkable. This redevelopment will provide the infrastructure needed to provide the healthcare that Burlington must have for this generation and the next.
The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender in Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.
We have members of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital here this morning and I would like to acknowledge Eric Vandewall and the team.
The re-development of the hospital is not the only thing happening at Joseph Brant. As most of you know, the city and Region committed $10 million several years ago to McMaster University as part of the DeGroote School of Business at the Ron Joyce Centre on the South Service Road. This project had a second component which related to the commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in the Burlington downtown area.
I would like to welcome here today Dr. David Price, Chair of McMaster Family Medicine and Dr. John Kelton, Dean and VP of Health Science. I am pleased to tell you today that McMaster has selected the Joseph Brant site as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre. McMaster anticipates taking ownership of two floors and about 15,000 square feet at Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project. All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.
We anticipate that a site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to our planning department in May this year. Through public consultation this will allow the public to more fully see and understand the plans at Joseph Brant.
Performing Arts Centre
The Burlington Performing Arts Centre opened this fall on time and on budget. This facility is absolutely magnificent. It is and will remain a centerpiece of our community for generations.
Burlington residents now have access to performances that could not previously come to our City. Our community cultural groups now have a place to perform and an environment to be inspired.
To build a city, attract creative people and have a vibrant downtown, you need the performing arts. The Prime Minister of Canada agrees, and as part of the opening week festivities Prime Minister Harper came to Burlington to celebrate with us. The Prime Minister spent most of the day here in Burlington, had an opportunity to visit one of our thriving businesses and to see Canada’s musical ambassadors The Burlington Teen Tour Band.
Education and Partnership
Our city building continued in education and partnership.
Ground was broken this fall for the new Alton High School, Library and Community Centre. This is a joint effort with the school board and public library to integrate high quality services on a more cost effective basis.
The city is also building Norton Park with soccer and football fields across the street and creating a campus to meet the community needs. This is a great example of partnership in action.
Life-long learning, innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to our prosperity and continued success. One of the very important institutions in our community to help us achieve this is the DeGroote School of Business. This is the home of the McMaster MBA program.
The program has expanded to 577 students for the 2011/12 academic year and continues to see an increase in International students which make up 20% of the class entering in 2011.
The program is in the top three in Canada for return on investment. 100% of the co-op students secured employment placement for the fall 2011 program. Since 2010, 17 Burlington companies have recruited co-op students. However, only about 4% of these co-op students are finding permanent employment opportunities in Burlington.
McMaster representatives are here today and I encourage local businesses to look into these opportunities. This is a win/win situation and if we can attract and keep leading graduates in our local economy, we will all benefit.
McMaster’s presence in Burlington also makes world class executive education available. Since 2010, 840 executives have participated in programs. Former Dean, and our good friend Paul Bates, leads this initiative. This is an opportunity for the community which we hope you consider.
I believe that innovation, entrepreneurship and keeping our young graduates in our local economy, is vital to our future.
To help achieve this, I am pleased to announce today that through partnership with the BEDC, McMaster, the Chamber of Commerce, and The Centre for Skills and Development Training, we are launching Innovate Burlington.
Innovate Burlington is a first step towards building a sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship program in Burlington.
Innovate Burlington will provide recent graduates the opportunity to work as interns, in Burlington, on meaningful projects to help local companies. We see this as a win for graduates and a win for you, our local businesses, who will have access to a tremendous talent pool. You may well find your future leaders through this program.
I hope you will seriously look at this opportunity for your organization. I would also like to introduce to you one company that already has. Here today are Ryan Djordjevic and Tim Sluy from Global Mobility Products.
There will be a formal launch for this program on February 16. I would like to thank Kyle Benham, the Executive Director of BEDC and Anita Cassidy, our Program Coordinator, for their efforts in getting this program off the ground. I would like to express my personal thanks to the Advisory Team that has contributed to this effort.
A new Strategic Plan was developed in 2011. The Strategic Plan focuses on three key areas: Vibrant Neighbourhoods, Prosperity, and Excellence in Government.
This plan was developed with unprecedented public input. It is a much more focused document than previous plans. For example, we reduced the number of initiatives from 107 to about 42 for the term. We have created a plan which is meaningful, focused, and attainable.
Niagara to GTA Highway
In October 2010, the province attempted to amend the Region’s Official Plan maps with a change that identified a corridor for a new highway right through the middle of rural Burlington. Council is committed to protecting this natural heritage for generations to come.
Through a tremendous effort by Councillors Taylor and Lancaster and the Stop the Highway coalition this corridor proposal was removed from the Official Plan maps and Minister Wynne announced in July that there would be no highway.
I spoke to Minister Ted McMeekin about this issue again last week. I am assured that the province is looking at all multi-modal options, including rail, road widening and public transit to address our long term transportation needs.
There are still challenges associated with this issue and we continue to fight to protect the rural heritage. We need 21st century solutions to our transportation challenges.
In addition to these major milestones in our community, there were many others were noting:
• Burlington Transit ridership increased by 7.0% in 2011.
• In 2011, construction value increased meaningfully. Residential construction value grew by 23% and Industrial/Commercial development grew by 30%. That translates to a total of $451 million in construction this past year. We hope to see job numbers reflect this investment in 2012.
• Some high profile retailers selected Burlington as a location of choice. Sail, an outdoor retailer selected Burlington in October and should be open later this year. And of course the Apple Store opened prior to Christmas at Mapleview Mall.
• In August, EcoSynthetix completed a successful IPO, raising just over $100 million. Congratulations to John van Leeuwen and his team. Prime Minister Harper was also impressed and visited EcoSythetix on December 2.
So where are we going in 2012?
In 2012 and beyond there are a number of challenges and opportunities to address.
Our new Public Involvement Coordinator, Christine Iamonaco is in the process of creating an Engagement Charter – a document that helps define the relationship between citizens and the city, whether it be staff or council. We need to demystify and enhance our processes to create an environment where our citizens can provide appropriate and timely input on the many initiatives and decisions that council is responsible for.
This year we will commence an Official Plan review. This is an exercise mandated by the province that must be done every 5 years. An official plan is a statutory document which sets out the land use policy directions for long-term growth and development in a municipality.
I believe that this official plan review is the most important in Burlington’s history for a number of reasons.
1. We have the lowest projected growth rate of any municipality in the GTA for the next 20 years.
2. We are committed to keep our 50/50 rural urban split, meaning that all new development must occur south of the Dundas-407 corridor.
3. After the Alton Community is complete, we have very little room left for “greenfield” development.
4. Up to 80% of future residential development will be intensification, redevelopment and infill.
5. We need to maintain an appropriate amount of employment lands for new business and new jobs to 2031.
Council will be having a workshop on the Official Plan shortly and just as the Strategic Plan had an unprecedented level of public input, we will also have a very thorough public process for the Official Plan review.
We continued to develop and protect our neighbourhoods in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012 and beyond. Over 80% of our neighbourhoods will see little change, while certain areas of the city will see further intensification.
A great example of this is Aldershot and the Plains Road Corridor.
Plains Road is in the process of transitioning from an old suburban highway to a vibrant urban main street. My compliments to Councillor Rick Craven, along with the Aldershot BIA and the Plains Road Village Vision, who have lead many of the positive changes we have seen along Plains Road.
A fundamental factor that is influencing the Village Vision is that Aldershot has insufficient population to attract new businesses.
The newer residential and commercial buildings have more cohesive design features that result in a more vibrant and attractive area of the city. There are many examples of this and the most recent is the brand new Aldershot Library.
The new 403 interchange, a new Kings Road Underpass (that will be completed this fall) along with the work of the Aldershot BIA and city staff, have all contributed to the tremendous level of interest and activity with regard to new development along Plains Road.
Under the Province of Ontario’s Places to Grow plan, our downtown is designated as an urban growth centre. It is expected, in fact it is mandated, that our downtown should add more residents and more jobs. We have seen some progress on this but progress has slowed.
There are 3 major development applications that were approved several years ago; however the shovels are not in the ground yet. When complete, these projects will add over 650 residents and over 500 jobs.
We need more of this. In the spring, council will be participating in a workshop discussing the potential for the parking lots located to the west of Village Square and east of Brant Street, south of City Hall. We see these lots as development opportunities that have the potential to add more jobs and residents without taking away parking spaces.
The success of a downtown is one of the major keys to a prosperous city. Development needs to continue in the downtown in order for our city to thrive.
I should mention that Councillor Meed Ward is taking me on a Ward Tour on Monday which will allow us to look at all of the opportunities we have in the downtown.
The economic climate has changed significantly over the last 5 years. The issues in the US and Europe have cast a negative pall over many in the world. Canada is fortunate, on a relative basis, but we cannot be too smug as we are still vulnerable.
The world is transitioning from an Industrial Age to an Information and Communication Technology Age, resulting in many traditional manufacturing jobs being eliminated or moved to countries in the developing world, like China and India.
We need to leverage our investment in McMaster to help foster innovation, job creation and life-long learning in Burlington. I believe a culture of life-long learning is critical to prosperity.
“In the 21st century literacy will not be about reading and writing but will be the about the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.”
The days of having only one job with one organization are over and the ability to be resilient and flexible in adapting to changing circumstances has never been as important.
Governments at all levels have to deal with issues differently. Yesterday’s approaches to the challenges of today and tomorrow will not work. We need to be creative, innovative and use ingenuity to address our future.
I am pleased to say that our staff has responded appropriately to these challenges in a very positive manner.
Last year, we had a City of Burlington tax increase of .9%. Obviously good news, but it is not sustainable to continue on at that level. The regular operations of the city require an annual increase to reflect increasing costs. On top of this, we have infrastructure challenges that all municipalities have. As much as the hospital announcement was great news for Burlington, we did not anticipate the timing of the announcement or the fact that the city taxpayers, along with donors, have to front-end $60 million each over the next 6 years.
I am confident we can deal with our financial challenges carefully and judiciously resulting in responsible tax rate increases and “living within our means.”
So what do I hope you take away from today?
1. I hope you feel positive. Our City is in very good shape and we are committed to keeping Burlington as a thriving prosperous inclusive community through strong fiscal management, innovation and partnerships and cooperation.
2. We all have challenges. Our City is changing. I propose to embrace this change.
• We have a meaningful Strategic Plan in place and you will see a more focused Council and a Council and Staff that better understands our priorities.
• We will continue to improve in how we work with the community as we work through the change that is taking place.
• Your City is focused on improving customer service, productivity through technology and decision making through engagement and measurement.
3. We will “live within our means.”
In closing, I would like to thank the Chamber for hosting this event.
I want to thank council and staff of the city for all their hard work.
I also want to recognize the efforts of our faith communities, services clubs, social agencies, sports groups, and arts and cultural organizations, for the major contribution they are to a city where people, nature and business thrive.
It is an honour and privilege to serve as your Mayor. I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with you to make this city the best it can be.
In my inauguration speech I closed with the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in this together and together we will continue to build a wonderful City.