2010 Inaugural Address, December 6, 2010 - Finishing the Unfinished Town

Your Honour Mr. Justice Hourigan, MPP Flynn, Chair Carr, Members of Council, Chief Administrative Officer Green, Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us to usher in a new term of the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Oakville.

Our fellow citizens voted in record numbers in the recent town election. They gave 11 of us a renewed and strengthened mandate. They gave the two of us who are newly elected a chance to join in facing our unfinished work and any challenges the future may put in our way. But "Problems can become opportunities when the right people get together to work on them," Robert Redford said, and the next four years will show if we are the kind of people he was talking about.

All who labour to create a path to a better future for Oakville know ours is an unfinished town at a unique point in its history. Just as the last 30 years was shaped by the 1978 Official Plan, our new Livable Oakville plan will guide us over the next decades to build out. We will plan and create the future that will define Oakville long after us. Over the next four years we will complete the greenprint for our future. Then we will work to finish our town to the design we began four years ago and called Livable Oakville.

Our common good

We on Council work in concert with our community for our common goals in a town of people devoted to the common good. Oakville residents are uncommonly community-minded and volunteer-spirited. A friend recently sent me a photo of 60 boys and girls at a tournament we organized when they were 11 or 12 years old. My friend added this caption to the photo: "Every one of these kids is either in college or university now."

Isn't this what Oakville is really about: people coming together and taking responsibility for raising the next generations? Our safe and attractive town does not happen by accident. We make it happen. We take care of each other. We volunteer. We invest in civic facilities. We provide opportunities for good things to happen. We create and maintain a strong and resilient public realm, so the part of Oakville life that we all share in common is as livable as we can make it. We work to be part of something better than we can be by ourselves.

Four years ago, many of us remembered what the world famous urban planner Andres Duany had said about Oakville when he visited us in 2003. He commented on one of the ways that Oakville was an unfinished town. He said some in Oakville had figured out how to create wonderfully livable private places to live their private lives but we had not learned how to create correspondingly livable public places to live the public part of our lives.

And public places are the lifeblood of any society. We meet each other as equals in public places. When we gather at George's Square on Remembrance Day ... when we bring a new generation of children to the Santa Claus Parade ... when we encounter each other at the park, on the trail, on the bus, at the arena or field or theatre or library, we are all equals. We share in the activities of everyday life in safety and security and doing our best to reach our potential as individuals and as a community.

Four years ago, we set out to put Oakville on a path to become the most livable town in Canada. We invested in the public realm. We built a new, more expressive memorial in George's Square to commemorate the sacrifices made for the freedom we treasure today. We built a new library, new sports facilities, new transit facilities. We invested in public infrastructure. We built new roads, new sidewalks, and new sewer and water facilities. We created an aspirational plan for the future. And the voters endorsed us and our work.

Our common goals

The members of this Council campaigned for a number of priorities for this term. Let me highlight the objectives that you can expect we will achieve over the next four years.

  • Our priorities begin with controlling growth. We know we will grow. What matters is how, and how fast. In other words, how well will we keep up with the needs of a growing public realm to serve the growing private realm. The most urgent thing we have to do when we get our new Official Plan ordered by the Ontario Municipal Board is to bring our zoning by-laws into alignment with the Official Plan. This work will take up to three years, and it will complete the "Control Growth" agenda of this and our previous Council.
    We will work with the Province to create Greener Building Standards so we can reduce the environmental footprint of the new homes to be built in Oakville over the next 20 years.
  • Growth has not been aligned with our representation by wards on council. One ward, the northwest, is approaching nearly one-third of the town's population but has only one-sixth the representation. We will address this
  • We will work to create an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan -- a long-term strategic plan that identifies goals for sustainability and provides direction for how to get there.
  • We will protect our Health Protection Air Quality By-law and Do No Harm planning rules.
  • We will strengthen our Private Tree Protection By-law.
  • We will begin construction of our long needed modern new Hospital.
  • We will study creation of a unified Heritage District to unite our existing three districts.
  • We will update our Parks, Recreation, Culture, and Library Master Plan, and finalize our Harbours Plan.
  • We will work to create a new summer event to celebrate our waterfront.
  • We will nurture our local economy's prosperity. We will bring new employment lands on line. We will pursue new employment ideas suggested in the Creative Oakville Report. We will support our Business Improvement Areas. We will begin redeveloping the Bronte Mall and the Kerr and Speers Mall and the Midtown urban growth centre. We will encourage local employment by making it easier for people to get to work at local jobs as we complete the rollout of our Transit plan.
  • We will conduct the public consultation we have become known for in the creation of plans for re-use of public lands at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, Oakville Trafalgar High School, Brantwood, Linbrook, and Chisholm public schools, the old Oakville Arena, and Centennial Square.
  • The redevelopment of the old military housing lands on Dorval already is proceeding according to Council's unanimous plan and will be completed in this term of Council.
  • We will develop more new business revenues from our local utility with district energy systems, and solar panel power on roof tops across town.
  • We will continue our road renewal catch-up to get our road quality up to 100 per cent by 2022.
  • We will complete our catch-up on our deficit in community facilities with the opening next year of the Queen Elizabeth Park community centre & our new Transit Depot.
  • We will work to create more opportunities for Habitat for Humanity following on the success of our first two Habitat projects this year.
  • We will create more bike paths and more trails.
  • We will begin construction of our Oakville Harbour west shore plan, and complete it in five years.
  • We will acquire and open to the public more public waterfront.
  • We will implement a plan to achieve our goal of 40 per cent tree cover in 50 years.
  • We will continue to clear snow, remove leaves, mow parks, plant flowers, water trees and enforce bylaws to maintain the level of quality we achieved over the last four years.
  • We will create a Lobbyist Registry to increase transparency.
  • We will continue to work to attract and develop the high quality staff necessary to deliver these programs, services and facilities so the Town can continuously improve what it does and become more sustainable.
  • We will be facing a wave of retirements and a wide-spread labour shortage in the years ahead. We need to be sure we have the right policies so we can compete successfully with the private sector for the best employees. This responsibility is just like the core responsibility of any board of directors of any business corporation.

We on Council are the policy-setting component of civic government. The Province in its wisdom has created Oakville's government as a corporation. We are not managers - the law sees to it that we have a professional civil service to manage the programs and services we approve. We will repeat the highly successful seminars we ran last term for staff, Council, and the public to understand the what, how and why of our governance. This will reduce chances of lost time for people barking up the wrong trees.

These are our goals for the next four years. As we achieve them, the more livable Oakville will become and the more sustainable it will be.

Our common style

You may expect me to work with all members of Council to achieve our common goals. You may expect me to approach our collaboration with a style based on the words of Oscar Peterson in mind, who said, "You not only have to know your own instrument; you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That's jazz." The Jazz Festival is Oakville's most successful public event, and remember, the result you get in jazz depends on listening and responding to one another, not following a conductor.

You are entitled to expect all members of Council will be responsive to their constituents and each other, reflective of their election commitments, and responsible to the whole town. Oscar Peterson had advice for individual players, too, when he said: "It's the group sound that's important even when you're playing a solo." This is a Council with a strong foundation of working together effectively.

We find consensus when we engage with each other and expand each other's understanding of the facts each of us brings to a discussion. When we agree on what the facts and the opportunities and challenges are, the path is almost always obvious. This approach leads us away from unnecessary disputes and towards good, long lasting decisions. As the founder of the Ford Motor Company said, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success."

The future and what we provide for our children is what keeps me going. That's what seems to keep my colleagues going, too. Members of this council come from all walks of life. What we have in common is all of us are parents. Some are grandparents. Our passions and hobbies are as different as you can imagine. All of us have extensive records of community service and volunteerism. We bring different experiences and perspectives to our work on council, but share a commitment to keeping Oakville a great place to raise a family.

The things we need to do together for each other are the things that make us the community we are. That's what one of our greatest Canadians, William Osler, had in mind when he said, "We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it." We will work as hard as we know how to add what we can to life in Oakville.

Please give us your prayers, your good will and your patient understanding as we give the same to you. Together, when we work with vision, creativity and imagination we create a town capable of overcoming great challenges and achieving great goals. Together, we will make the future of our unfinished town brighter, cleaner, greener, more sustainable and more resilient. Together, let us work to make our unfinished town the complete community we all want our town to become.