Building Relationships With a New Federal Government

Photo by Ottawa Tourism

Photo from Ottawa Tourism

 

Yesterday’s federal election saw a changing in the guard, with a Liberal Party majority led by Justin Trudeau.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Trudeau on his party’s historic victory. I also want to offer my congratulations to Burlington MP elect Karina Gould and Oakville North-Burlington MP elect Pam Damoff. I look forward to meeting with you both at the earliest opportunity to discuss how we can work together to foster a vibrant and prosperous Burlington.

I also look forward to continuing to work with Milton MP Lisa Raitt, who I had the chance to get to know during my first term as mayor. Congratulations on your re-election, Lisa.

Mike Wallace, who was defeated in a close race, also deserves our sincere appreciation for his many years in public service. Mike has served Burlington with distinction as a city and regional councillor, as well as our MP since 2006. Thank you for your commitment to our city, Mike. I know that you will continue your commitment to Burlington in a different way going forward.

I also want to recognize every candidate who ran in Burlington and the surrounding ridings. It is a significant undertaking to run for political office, especially at the federal level. I know firsthand the commitment it takes to knock on doors and prepare for all-candidates’ meetings. You have done your communities a service by putting your name, and importantly, your ideas, forward for a better city and country.

Looking forward, there are important discussions that need to be had between municipalities and the new Liberal federal government. As Chair of the Large Urban Caucus of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, I look forward to serving as a spokesperson on a number of key issues affecting our communities.

Some of the many topics I, as Mayor of Burlington, will be looking to make progress in partnership with Mr. Trudeau and his government include:

  • Infrastructure and transportation: Long-term, sustainable, predictable and reliable federal funding that flows year in and year out and will allow us to eliminate our infrastructure deficit within a generation. While municipalities are very appreciative of federal gas tax funding, we need additional meaningful and predictable federal funding that will assist municipalities in addressing infrastructure and transportation needs, lessening pressure on municipal taxpayers.
  • Economy: All leaders at all levels of government want our economy to be strong and growing with the highest possible employment and productivity. We will be looking for financial investment in an advanced manufacturing hub in Burlington, bringing jobs to our city and bolstering the local economy. During the election, Stephen Harper announced a re-elected Conservative government would create a new advanced manufacturing hub in Burlington. We respectfully request the Liberal government be receptive to investigating an investment in this initiative.
  • Social Housing: We are seeking a commitment of federal funding for social housing. This is a significant issue that needs that needs to be addressed. Investments in housing are also effective at stimulating economic growth and employment.
  • Climate change: We would like to see Canada become a leader by taking action on climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. As a City, we have developed a Community Energy Plan, among a list of other environmentally-sustainable initiatives. We are also looking to the new government to help protect our communities from the challenges of climate change and grow the economy by making significant new investments in green infrastructure.

I am also buoyed by the voter turnout in yesterday’s federal election. More than 68 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Canada, which was the highest turnout since the 1993 federal election. According to Elections Canada, the voter turnout in Burlington was 73 per cent and 69 per cent in Oakville North-Burlington. Democracy functions best when we take the time to become engaged, especially during elections.

What issues are priorities to you? Please connect with me at mayor@burlington.ca to share your ideas on joint municipal-federal initiatives you would like to see our governments foster. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mayors and chairs request national party leaders to address the infrastructure deficit

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area mayors and regional chairs met in Toronto yesterday to discuss a number of key issues. I was pleased to have been part of this important conversation.

Among the agenda items at this week’s meeting hosted by Toronto Mayor John Tory were: economic growth across the area, transit and transportation, and planning for growth infrastructure.

The dialogue around deliverables for planning and infrastructure resulted in the signing and submission of the following letter to our counterparts in Ottawa.

While municipalities are very appreciative of federal gas tax funding, we need additional meaningful and predictable federal funding that will assist municipalities in addressing infrastructure, housing and transportation needs, lessening pressure on municipal taxpayers.

We are hopeful the following submitted letter will draw the appropriate attention and response.

A letter from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Mayors and Regional Chairs to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

October 6, 2015

Dear Federal Party Leaders:

We are writing you today as the leaders of the municipal governments of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Over the past years, we have separately and collectively expressed our profound concern over the infrastructure deficit in our region and our need for a fiscal partnership with the federal government to help eliminate this deficit. With a federal election approaching, we feel it’s appropriate and necessary to put our collective position on this matter forward and to seek a clear, unequivocal commitment from yourself and your party.

All of our communities have benefitted from the Federal Gas Tax initiative as amended to date. It provides certain, predictable long-term funding and allows local government significant discretion in how it is spent. Unfortunately, it is not sufficient to deal with our and the country’s needs. Other applicant-based infrastructure funds are generally unpredictable and are not long-term and sustainable. In some cases, these program processes have results that do not align with local governments’ priorities. In all cases, a process based upon project by project applications is the enemy of good fiscal planning to achieve efficiencies for the taxpayer.

All leaders at all levels of government want our economy to be strong and growing with the highest possible employment and productivity. The most significant contribution that local government can make is to ensure our towns and cities have advanced and well-maintained infrastructure that can efficiently move people, goods and information. Strong infrastructure is a magnet for international investments that, in today’s world, can and will go almost anywhere. The economy that can move its information, goods, services and people efficiently to market is the economy that can best meet the economic growth needs of its people. If we want the Canadian economy to grow significantly, we need to significantly increase our infrastructure’s capacity to move goods, services and people.

Additionally, lack of adequate federal funding for social housing represents not only a compelling social concern, but an economic one as well. Investments in housing are effective at stimulating economic growth and employment. For instance, it is estimated that each $1.00 increase in residential building construction investment generates an increase in overall GDP of $1.52 as the investment continues to cycle through the economy. To put it simply, investing in social housing is a true engine of growth.

Our municipal governments need a federal government that is a strong and reliable partner. We need long-term, sustainable, predictable and reliable federal funding which flows year in and year out and will allow us to eliminate our infrastructure deficit within a generation. We are pleased the topic is being discussed during the campaign and look forward to hearing the specific details of your party’s plans. We are of course willing to meet with you and fully detail our request at any mutually convenient time.

We are signing this letter on behalf of the mayors and chairs of all the municipalities listed on the front page who collectively represent some six million people resident in this region.

Yours truly,

Roger Anderson, Regional Chair and CEO, Region of Durham

John Tory, Mayor, City of Toronto

A copy of this letter sent to federal party leaders by GTHA Mayors’ and Chairs can also be found at Halton.ca/advocacy.

Burlington Flood 2014: Remembering one year later

It has been one year since the City of Burlington received nearly two months of rain (191 millimeters) in about eight hours. The record rainfall on Aug. 4, 2014, caused significant flooding and damage in parts of the city. Roads, highways and more than 3,000 homes were flooded.

In the days after the flood, thousands of people in the community came together to give their time, resources and financial support to help flood victims.

The city worked with Halton Region, the Province of Ontario and the Burlington Community Foundation Flood Disaster Relief Committee and has helped individuals and families rebuild and recover from the Aug. 4, 2014, flood.

On June 30 this year, 272 approved claims totalling $2.7 million were finalized for victims of the flood. That work is now concluded, and many of the families who have received payments have expressed their sincere appreciation to those who donated funds to the relief efforts. A total of $896,000 was raised by the Burlington community and matched two-to-one by the provincial government’s Ontario Disaster Relief Program.

City infrastructure investment

In one of its final acts before rising for the summer, Burlington City Council approved an additional $20.4 million to funds already budgeted for storm water infrastructure improvements as recommended in the City’s Flood Vulnerability, Prioritization and Mitigation Study, conducted after the Aug. 4, 2014, flood in Burlington. This is the comprehensive report has been promised to the community.

Council also voted to approve:

  • An extension of the City’s grant program, which helps eligible homeowners cover the cost of building permit fees related to flood prevention home improvements. The program has been extended to Dec. 31, 2016.
  • The addition of one full-time storm water management technician dedicated to storm water concerns, such as lot grading and drainage.
  • An amendment directing city staff to report back to City Council in the fall of 2015 with funding options to  finance storm drainage operations and capital costs, including a review of other Ontario municipalities that have put in place a storm water user fee.

The Flood Vulnerability, Prioritization and Mitigation Study, completed by AMEC Foster Wheeler, assessed the areas of the city impacted by the Aug. 4, 2014 flood to better understand how the City’s storm drainage system works and to look at other factors that led to flooding damage. The City has identified an additional $20.4 million in funding over the next 10 years for storm water management capital upgrades, such as larger creek culverts and creek channel improvements.

While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of flooding in the city, these infrastructure improvements will enhance the level of service provided by the city’s storm drainage system and reduce the risk of future flooding. The number of extreme weather events in Southern Ontario is increasing. Together, the city and residents have a role to play in protecting our homes and businesses from extreme weather events. A planned public outreach campaign will help private property owners identify flood mitigation opportunities.

For more information about the flood mitigation study and the recommendations approved by City Council, please visit Flood Reports and Studies.

Region infrastructure investment

At its July 2015 meeting, Regional Council, which includes all members of Burlington City Council, adopted the Region Wide Basement Flooding Mitigation Study: Final Report and Recommendations. The report is a strategic and operational plan for the development and implementation of the long-term program to reduce the potential of future basement flooding pending consideration during the budget process.

As stated in the report, in connection with the work already being undertaken within priority areas, the following recommendations form the basis of a sustainable, systematic, long term Region-wide approach to reducing the risk of basement flooding from sewer surcharging:

  • Deliver a $60 million dollar system improvement program.
  • Develop an Inter-Jurisdictional Basement Flooding Working Group.
  • Establish a Permanent Wastewater Flow Metering Program.
  • Develop a Voluntary Downspout Disconnection Program based on a 100 per cent subsidy for eligible residents.
  • Develop a Voluntary Weeping Tile Disconnection Program based on a 100 per cent subsidy for eligible residents.
  • Develop an Extraneous Flow Reduction Public Education Program
  • Establish dedicated staff resources to develop, implement, sustain and monitor the Region Wide Basement Blooding Mitigation Program.

A total of $9.1 million has been committed to date since the August 2014 City of Burlington flooding. This includes $4.3 million of ex-gratia grants and the expanded Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidy Program as well as $1.7 million for the Downspout Disconnection Program and $3.2 million for the system optimization program required to implement the Phase 1 work in the seven priority areas as noted above.

The implementation of the Phase 2 Region wide program will require a total of $88.9 million over the next ten years. Taking into consideration the previously committed cost of $9.1 million, the total investment of the program is estimated at $98.0 million.

Of this amount, $63.2 million relates to system optimization and capital improvements with the balance of the cost related to the implementation of a Region-wide full Subsidy Program for the Voluntary Downspout/Weeping Tile Disconnections; additional resources to monitor the program; and implementation of a communication plan.

The 10-year implementation cost of $88.9 million will be identified as a priority in the 2016 Budget and forecast for Council’s consideration.

To read the full region report, click here.

With thanks

The City of Burlington would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Samaritan’s Purse and the Canadian Red Cross whose dedicated workers spent hours helping Burlington residents most affected by the flood.

In August 2014, 139 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers worked 1,041 hours to assist with 51 clean up projects and the Canadian Red Cross mobilized its volunteers to visit more than 10,869 homes.

We would also like thank everyone who gave generously to the flood relief effort and showed such tremendous resilience and determination following the events of Aug. 4 2014.  We are so proud of the way this community pulled together.

Flood mitigation workshop

Planning is underway for my office to host a workshop of municipal technical experts in this area in Burlington in November. Ontario municipalities will share their experience and best practices with the goal of expanding knowledge and extending better flood protection to homeowners and municipalities. We will also be discussing overland flood insurance and the possibility of this product being offered in Ontario in the future.