State of the City Address 2017

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[Check Against Delivery]

Good morning. I would like to offer a warm welcome to the annual Mayor’s State of the City Address.

Thank you all very much for joining me this morning. It means a lot to have so many people here. I appreciate your ongoing support.

I would like to recognize the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event, as they have done for many decades.

In particular, thank you to Keith Hoey and his team, Marty Staz and the board of directors, along with the volunteers and membership. Together, you facilitate many different programs and events throughout the year that help bring the community together and build relationships that are essential to the prosperity of business in Burlington.

And thank you to today’s sponsors: Bell, Scotiabank, CN Rail, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, Union Gas and CogecoTV.

Today marks my seventh State of the City Address. Since the first time I stood before you, we have made significant progress, which I will share with you.

My colleagues from Burlington City Council are with us today. I am proud to work alongside these men and women who are deeply committed to our city.

Please welcome councillors Rick Craven, Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster.

Our City Manager James Ridge is also here today. James is a key part of the leadership at the city along with the Burlington Leadership Team and our staff. I am proud of the dedicated staff working hard every day to make this city the best it can be.

We continue to work closely with all orders of government. Joining us this morning is Oakville North-Burlington Member of Parliament Pam Damoff, as well as Burlington Member of Provincial Parliament Eleanor McMahon, who last year was also named Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

I want to recognize Burlington Member of Parliament Karina Gould, who was not able to join us today, on her appointment as Minister of Democratic Institutions.

I am pleased to see Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette and Milton Mayor Gord Krantz. It is great working with you as we build strong communities and a prosperous region at Halton Regional Council.

It is a privilege and an honour to serve as Mayor of Burlington. This community means everything to me.

I grew up in Roseland. I attended Nelson High School, Tecumseh and Lawrie Smith. I opened a business on North Service Road. I raised my family in Burlington. In short, my roots in this community run deep.

My wife, Cheryl, is here today. She has supported me every step of the way on my path in municipal politics. They say behind every successful man is a surprised woman. Thank you for not showing your surprise, Cheryl.

Every day, I am thinking about how to make Burlington better. There’s nothing 9 to 5 about being mayor or councillor. Our minds are working 24/7 on ideas and finding solutions to concerns.

Today, I want to talk with you about:

What we are doing to create more local jobs and strengthen our economy.

How we are growing as a city, and what we are doing to keep people and goods moving.

And what investments we are making to ensure the best quality of life for our residents.

This morning, you will hear more about some of our successes, our challenges and the hard work yet to come.

We are all in this together.

What are we doing to create more local jobs and strengthen our economy?

It goes without saying, economic development is critically important for Burlington.

The good news is that we already have a solid foundation.

Last year, MoneySense Magazine ranked Burlington as the best mid-sized city in Canada for the fourth year in a row. Burlington also ascended to the second best city in the country in the 2016 rankings, after Ottawa.

In 2016, Canadian Business and PROFIT listed Burlington as Number 10 on its annual list of Canada’s Best Places for Business.

It cited the fact we have a low unemployment rate, strong connectivity to major markets and a well-educated population as driving economic factors. In fact, 65 per cent of Burlington’s adult population has some form of post secondary education.

This independent recognition reminds us that we already have a thriving economy.

Burlington Economic Development Corporation – known as the BEDC – is leveraging these assets every day.

As a member of the board of directors of the BEDC and someone who has been involved in business, I know first-hand the importance of adapting to a changing market.

In a 2016 report, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identified a critical gap in Canada’s business growth strategy. Here in Canada we are starting many businesses, but they are not growing into large organizations.

We also know from Industry Canada that more than 40 per cent of new jobs in Canada come from companies less than five years old. This represents a significant opportunity for Burlington to strengthen the resources available, renew the entrepreneurial energy that exists locally and develop Burlington’s brand as a great place not only to start, but to grow a business.

Aligned with the City of Burlington’s Strategic vision of A City That Grows, the BEDC developed an innovation and entrepreneurship strategy in 2016. It is focused on strengthening local support for entrepreneurs across the region.

BEDC has invested significant time and resources to develop this strategy. Staff reviewed data, looked at comparable cities and their strategies, and connected with the business community. More than 50 stakeholders weighed in.

And this is what they said: the local ecosystem is alive and well. And they need a physical space in Burlington where entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and established businesses can connect to build new relationships and tap into shared resources.

As a result of this feedback, the BEDC is focused on three key areas for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship:

  • Building entrepreneurial energy. This is what happens when you bring like-minded people together who are focused on solving complex problems through innovation.
  • Providing the critical support that companies need to grow.
  • And helping provide access to capital.

As noted by the stakeholders, innovation and entrepreneurship is already thriving in Burlington.

Our city is home to one of Canada’s most active angel investing groups, Angel One Investor Network. Since incorporating in September 2011, Angel One members have closed 84 deals investing over $23 million.

Silicon Halton, a grassroots group started by local entrepreneurs eight years ago, hosts regular meetups and demo nights for technology entrepreneurs across the region. It provides peer support and mentorship.

Haltech, Halton’s Regional Innovation Centre, works with Halton technology companies to accelerate innovation for business growth. The City of Burlington is proud to be a community partner.

Burlington is ideally situated in the heart of the innovation corridor, which is the area between Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.

With these assets, Burlington has endless opportunity to strengthen innovation and renew entrepreneurship. This translates into new business in Burlington. And new jobs once those businesses succeed and grow.

The BEDC’s innovation and entrepreneurship strategy will take shape in 2017 through the development of an Innovation Centre right here in Burlington.

I am thrilled to announce that yesterday, the BEDC board approved the lease for this new Innovation Centre. It will be located across the road from us here at the Convention Centre in the Burloak business park at 5500 North Service Road.

A one-stop destination for new and growing technology companies, the space will be dedicated to connecting, developing and advancing entrepreneurs at all stages.

It will serve as a base camp for companies looking to access programming, support and mentorship to help them scale their business.

Leveraging the contributions and expertise of numerous partners, the centre will be home to more than 8,500 square feet of space dedicated to increasing the connectivity, visibility and vibrancy of innovation and entrepreneurship in Burlington.

This centre will help businesses looking to start up or grow in Burlington. It will also connect larger, more established companies to the start-up ecosystem.

The facility will provide event space, meeting areas, programming and incubation space to members of the start-up community.

The BEDC is proud to lead such an exciting new initiative for Burlington and hopes to open the doors in June 2017.

As the BEDC supports innovation and entrepreneurship helping new businesses, it remains committed to established companies.

For example, the BEDC helped Ippolito Produce with its recent expansion. The second generation farming company, which started from humble roots, has grown into North America’s largest supplier of fresh Brussels sprouts. Ippolito also has a full line of Queen Victoria and Coast King vegetables.

BEDC helped facilitate zoning and building permits for Ippolito’s 80,000 square foot reinvestment in a state-of-the-art food facility on Howard Road. The company also received a $1.7 million grant from the provincial government. This assists the company in bringing 40 new jobs to the area.

Partnerships are essential to strong economic development in Burlington.

The DeGroote School of Business is one of the leaders of academic innovation in our city, making it an ideal partner.

Last year, the school launched new programs based at Burlington’s Ron Joyce Centre, including the world’s first Executive MBA in Digital Transformation. It also established the Health Leadership Academy. This is an interdisciplinary venture created in partnership with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

These two programs help attract the best and brightest students in the world to Burlington.

DeGroote will also continue to work with BEDC and the City of Burlington in developing an innovation ecosystem that sets the stage for Burlington’s economic future.

And the BEDC is working with universities and colleges like McMaster and Mohawk to keep these great minds in Burlington.

How are we growing as a city? What we are doing to keep people and goods moving?

We made major advances last year on the first of the four pillars of our Strategic Plan – A City that Grows.

Our Planning and Building Department is leading implementation with Grow Bold, which is the theme of our new Official Plan.

Why are we choosing to Grow Bold?

The City of Burlington is at a unique time in its history.

With very little greenfield left to be developed for traditional suburban-type neighbourhoods, the city is essentially built out.

Making the decision to grow within our urban boundary gives the City of Burlington the opportunity to define the type of development we want.

We have identified where we want to see growth over the next 25 years. We have identified our traditional neighbourhoods that will see modest changes going forward.

We are committed that half of Burlington remain urban and the other half rural. The vast majority of people I talk with want to keep it that way.

In my view, as population density increases in Greater Golden Horseshoe area, it is more important than ever to ensure people have connectivity to natural spaces through places like the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System and our rural areas.

What does Grow Bold mean? Let’s take a look at the video.

Our mobility hubs – which are the areas around our three GO stations and downtown Burlington – offer significant opportunity for smart growth. Right now, staff is developing extensive plans that will show what our mobility hubs look like in the future. Along with that will be community engagement in the coming months.

Our new Official Plan will focus our growth at: our GO stations, in downtown Burlington, the Plains Road/Fairview corridor, Uptown area around Upper Middle Road and Appleby Line, at some aging retail plazas, and from an economic development perspective, our Prosperity Corridor along the QEW.

I want to take time today to talk about the whole issue of housing affordability.

When I say affordable housing, I am not talking about subsidized or social housing; I am talking about housing that is affordable for the vast majority of people, from millennials to seniors, and everybody in between.

As we all know, housing prices in Burlington and the whole GTHA have increased dramatically over the last number of years.

I have heard from many people, including my Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Committee and seniors, who are very concerned about the prospects of being able to afford to live in Burlington.

The most recent numbers from the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington show that for December 2016, the average sale price for all housing units in Burlington was just over $700,000. This is a 29 per cent increase from December 2015.

The average for a freehold or detached home was up 35 per cent to $840,000. If I include the sales in Burlington by Toronto Real Estate Board Members, the averages are higher by 6 to 7 per cent.

Why are our prices escalating like this?

  • Low interest rates.
  • People from outside Canada are inundating the market with cash, which we are seeing to a minor extent in Burlington.
  • Job creation in the GTHA is strong.
  • Home-buying millennials are an extremely large population group.
  • Immigration from outside of Canada.
  • Migration from within Canada, as Canadians are flocking to Ontario at the highest rate in 29 years.
  • The Provincial Growth Plan restricts where new home building can take place.
  • And in Burlington, as I mentioned earlier, we have no more room for traditional, suburban-type development. This is putting upward pressure on the existing housing stock. If we do not grow, the prices will increase at an even steeper rate.

The most recent Halton State of Housing report for 2015 identifies the maximum affordable purchase price of $357,000 for a household income of $102,000.

What do we do about this?

The work our planners are doing around our mobility hubs, particularly around our GO stations, is critical. This work will create neighbourhoods that will foster and encourage an appropriate blend of housing units, including rentals, in such a way that will assist in facilitating some degree of relative affordability.

Recognizing that there is virtually no room left for traditional suburban development, staff, working with the community, need to find a way to make living in dense, multi-unit development more desirable for families.

We also want to build housing that appeals to aging baby boomers to downsize into this type of development. As a result, this helps turn over our single-family-home neighbourhoods to allow families who can afford these homes to move in. And this will help keep our schools viable.

There are some people in our community, myself included, who are concerned with over-intensification of various developments. In fact, Burlington City Council recently voted against two development proposals – one in downtown Burlington and one in Alton – that we felt were examples of over-intensification.

I am also concerned about the risk of under-intensification, as this can contribute to housing that is out of the reach financially for the vast majority of people.

Transportation and traffic congestion is an issue I hear about from the people of Burlington.

There are three key factors we need to take into account when we talk about transportation.

The first is Burlington’s location within a fast-growing area.

Currently, the population of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, which includes the regions of Halton, Peel, York and Durham, as well at the cities of Toronto and Hamilton, is approximately 7 million people. That number is expected to grow to 10 million by 2041.

Halton Region alone is expected to grow from 530,000 to 1 million people by 2041. A meaningful part of that growth will occur in Burlington.

That’s a lot of cars.

And our city, like so many other North American cities, was built for the automobile at a time when both land and oil were cheap. As a result, we rely on the automobile as the primary mode of transportation without even thinking about it.

A second factor that must be considered when we talk about transportation is that Burlington is located at a point where several major highways intersect.

These highways are an asset. But during evening rush hour, and especially during a full or partial closure, these highways can clog some of our city streets.

Every day, 200,000 vehicles use the QEW to travel through Burlington. During the peak hours, there are 20,000 vehicles per hour.

Naturally, when there is significant congestion on the QEW, drivers look for an alternative route to bypass the congestion. Much of the issue we have in Burlington is really the result of cut-through traffic, especially during the p.m. peak period.

We will continue to invest in our street network to facilitate the movement of vehicles. Our capital budget over the next 10 years forecasts an investment of $300 million in our roads, with such projects as resurfacing and reconstruction, new underpasses and intersection widening.

And this brings us to the third factor for Burlington when we talk about transportation planning.

More than 90 per cent of all trips made within the city on any day are made by the automobile.

The average weekday we see 260,000 trips that start and end in Burlington. Fifty per cent of those trips are five kilometres or less. These are ideal distances to take the bus, where available, or ride your bicycle. Destinations two kilometres or less are ideal for walking.

We want to provide people with more transportation options. We want to make it more appealing, especially for those short-distance trips.

Our new neighbourhoods around our GO stations and in downtown are going to be mixed-use, compact, walkable, bikable and transit-friendly.

We are working with Brent Toderian and Jarrett Walker, who are leading thinkers on planning and transportation, to find a made-in-Burlington approach to transportation as we grow.

We will be hard at work on a transit strategy in 2017 and making key decisions around where we focus our resources. Recognizing we will have more dense development in the key growth areas I have identified, it is logical to invest more money on public transit there.

This year will see a new cycling master plan.

I want to see us establish a network that will allow people to safely get to more places on their bicycle. My preference is off-road, protected bike lanes, where possible.

We are now trying some new ideas when it comes to planning when it comes to alternative transportation.

Last fall, for example, we decided to give a one-year road diet a try on New Street. This fall, staff will report back to council about the results of this initiative. It will be up to council to decide how to use what we learned going forward.

I want to emphasize that some of our new ideas might work, and some might not. And that’s OK. We must be innovative and unafraid to try new transportation approaches if we want to attain the goals of the second pillar of our strategic plan – A City That Moves.

What are we doing to ensure the best quality of life for people in Burlington?

Everything I have spoken about today contributes improving the quality of life in our city.

A lot of the planning that takes place at Burlington City Hall is done with one goal in mind: we are building a great city.

An important part of great city building is strengthening our sense of community.

As Burlington continues to grow, this sense of community remains a priority. Burlington has a small-town feel and we want to maintain that as we grow in a responsible and planned way.

I recently read a book called Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, a respected National Geographic Fellow.

Dan has discovered certain places in the world that have the highest percentage of centenarians. People in these areas live the longest and are the healthiest. The three major factors he identified were: social connectivity, a plant-based diet and physical activity.

With respect to social connectivity, these people chose social circles that support healthy behaviours, belong to a group and have a sense of purpose.

So, how do we build on our sense of community in Burlington?

One way is the City of Burlington’s Love My Hood initiative.

Love My Hood builds neighbourhood connections through community-led events and activities. People get together to plan an event and invite the neighbourhood to attend. The Love My Hood program makes this easy by providing toolkits and other resources.

We are asking residents to organize neighbourhood events to build on our sense of community in 2017. The City of Burlington’s goal is to help facilitate 150 Love My Hood events to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.

Of course, there are many other events held year-round that bring people together and boost citizen pride. In fact, Burlington was named the Municipality of the Year for 2016 by Festivals and Events Ontario. This award recognizes the best in municipal leadership and festival and event partnerships in the province.

Fostering community building and a sense of belonging is also achieved through age-specific initiatives.

The City of Burlington has worked hard to make our community more youth friendly. No Socks for Ivan offers safe spaces across the city for youth to interact. This program has been very successful. Last year alone, No Socks for Ivan saw more than 10,000 youth visits.

Last year, the City of Burlington was also acknowledged, for the first time, as a platinum-level Youth Friendly Community. This designation is awarded to communities that demonstrate a commitment to youth 13 to 19 years of age.

We know that if we want to create a well-designed city that is green and healthy, with a variety of housing and transportation options, we need everyone to be part of the planning – especially our young people.

To connect with residents aged 18 to 35, I created the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Committee in spring 2016. We need millennials to be engaged now to help us create a community where they will want to live, work and raise their own families.

This new committee is developing initiatives focused on how to keep and attract millennial-aged residents. It also concentrates on creating opportunities to engage millennials with their community. I encourage you to read more about this group at Burlington.ca/millennials.

As with most communities across the country, we are experiencing significant growth in our older adult and seniors’ population. This demographic shift over the next 20 years means we must plan city services with a holistic approach.

As such, the city is working on a new Active Aging Plan to help keep older adults healthy, active and engaged in their community. Burlington’s Active Aging Plan will look at future needs and opportunities in a number of key areas, from transportation and outdoor spaces to social participation and making information easier to understand and more accessible.

Over the past year, city staff has conducted research and engaged the community. A citizens’ advisory committee was also formed to shape the direction of the plan.

We look forward to unveiling the Active Aging Plan later this year.

In order to invest in transportation improvements, increase services for our residents and develop more community-building initiatives, we need money. And we receive that money primarily from property taxes.

The operating budget for 2017 was approved this week.

When combined with the Halton Region and the school boards, the overall property tax increase is 2.56 per cent. That includes a 4.42 per cent increase in the city’s portion.

The increase means we can maintain and enhance existing services, add new services and help address our infrastructure deficit.

New investments in 2017 will allow us to add resources for managing our tree canopy, support the implementation of the strategic plan and improve the quality of our play fields.

Speaking about investing our tax dollars, the Joseph Brant Hospital expansion and redevelopment is progressing.

Burlington City Council, representing the people of our city, stepped up to invest $60 million. The province’s investment in this project is significant, as is the community’s investment, matching the city’s $60 million contribution.

Let’s take a look at the new update from the hospital.

Because we are creating more local jobs and strengthening our economy.

Because we are growing responsibly in alignment with our transportation network.

And because we are investing to ensure the people of this city have a high quality of life,

Burlington is ideally positioned for continued prosperity.

I ask each and every one of you to get involved in our community over the next year. There will be many opportunities for public engagement and community building.

Let us know if you have an idea you would like to develop at the Innovation Centre.

Tell us what amenities you envision at our new neighbourhoods around our GO stations and in our downtown.

And don’t forget to organize your Canada 150 Love My Hood event. Go to burlington.ca/lovemyhood. I want us to reach our goal of 150 events. I look forward to attending as many of these celebrations as I can.

Learn more about our initiatives and public engagement opportunities on the city’s website, burlington.ca.

You can also share your ideas for Burlington with me. Call me. Send an email. Write a letter.

Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. I want to hear what you think.

We can make Burlington the best place it can be today and for the future.

We are all in this together.

Thank you.

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