2014 Inaugural Address, December 1, 2014

Introduction

Distinguished guests, fellow members of Council, staff, neighbours and friends. This date marks the start of the 126th term of Council since the incorporation of the Town of Oakville 157 years ago.

Eight years ago, Oakville’s voters chose me as the 38th person to hold this office. And in the just completed 2014 election, like the election before it, the voters gave me and the other returning members of Council a greater majority and mandate than before. It is a humbling and inspirational trust that you have placed in each of us.
This is a night of celebration and welcome – for our ten returning and two new members of Council. As we celebrate tonight, for me, our history keeps us company. Let us remember, when Oakville and Trafalgar Township merged in 1962, it was a time of great fiscal challenge, even danger. Oakville survived.

We should be proud of Oakville’s staying power. Even before 1962, we had weathered storms of challenging and hard times. And always we have done so while maintaining our identity, an identity you can see in our core values.

Our core values will guide us as we rise to meet the challenges that lie before us. Our challenges are not just local, but also national, provincial, and regional. We need to remember that problems can be opportunities in work clothes for the right people.

I am certain our town’s talent for working together with creativity and imagination makes us the right people to face what lies ahead. Let me share some of what I think these four groups of challenges mean for us.

Federal Challenges

First, there is a group of challenges that is national in origin with strong local impacts. They will be front and centre in next year’s federal election.

Will the federal government take up its responsibility to build the Infrastructure Canada’s cities and towns need?

Will the federal government manage the economy, immigration and growth to assure viable healthcare and a fair share for Oakville?

Provincial Challenges

The second set of challenges comes from our provincial government. Queen’s Park is working on or considering changes to 30 different things that impact us. We cannot be passive bystanders. We will actively engage and seek the best for Oakville in all these areas, and especially in the following 7:

  1. The Police Services Act is undergoing its first review in more than 20 years. Although crime is falling, police are busier than ever as calls to the police for non-crime-related services are rising at an unsustainable rate. As a result, all municipalities are looking for help in controlling the rising cost of policing.
  2. The Planning Act is under attack on the one hand by developers who want to reduce the amount of parkland they are currently required to give a municipality when they develop new homes. On the other hand, we, and others like us, are seeking changes that will allow us to make development better respect our local vision for our future.
  3. Changes to the Municipal Act are also being sought, to increase transparency and accountability and to give all municipalities the same powers Toronto has.
  4. The Building Code currently sets limits on what we can require of builders. We want a higher, greener standard of building that we can choose to require on new developments.
  5. The Municipal Elections Act has not been reviewed in a generation. The Premier has promised to give municipalities the option of choosing ranked ballots over first-past-the-post voting. We will see what other opportunities for changes will present themselves during the review.
  6. The Development Charges Act is under attack by a development industry that wants taxpayers to pay for more of the costs of growth. We are pushing back and trying to undo the harsh changes made by the Mike Harris government in 1997. We want development charges to contribute to all of the costs of creating a complete community.
  7. Finally, a key provincial challenge for all GTA municipalities will be the consolidated review of the four plans that implement the Places to Grow Act and the associated greenspace protection acts: the Greenbelt Act, the Niagara Escarpment Act and the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. It’s been ten years since these four plans were put in place or reviewed. Can they restrain sprawl better? Can they make development less costly? Can they improve mobility by promoting better transit and transportation?

Regional Challenges

The third set of challenges is regional. During this term of office, the Region of Halton will review its official plan, which governs our town’s official plan, as well as its transportation master plan and development charges by-law. Also, Regional Council will be looking at ways to provide affordable housing and to protect our AAA credit rating.

Local Challenges

Our local set of challenges is just as important as the others. We need to continue controlling growth and tax increases as we work to achieve our goals on six key priorities:

  1. We will preserve and protect trees, environmental quality, and precious green space, including all of the Merton Lands
  2. We need to revitalize our historic downtowns and the cultural and social facilities that anchor them.
  3. We want to finish renewing our community facilities such as Oakville Arena and prepare plans for the downtown cultural hub, streetscape and community centres for the old hospital lands and north park.
  4. We must improve traffic flow with transportation infrastructure improvements.
  5. We will make our contribution to the financing of our new Hospital without using taxes. We
    will use new revenues from business ventures created by our utility holding company, Oakville Hydro Corporation. These ventures are separate from our electricity distribution utility, called Oakville Hydro Electricity Distribution Inc., which is regulated by the province. So let me assure you our contribution to the hospital’s financing will have no impact on property taxes or electricity bills.
  6. We also need to keep improving communication so residents know about our challenges and
    can contribute to our success in meaningful ways. It’s not always clear to me if all residents understand that they elect the majority of us in this chamber to look after more than just the town portion of municipal services. The Region, the Police, and the Town take most of our property taxes. We manage all three together to keep the total impact on tax payers as light and as sustainable as possible. We’re doing pretty well, too. Province-wide statistics show that the cost of municipal services as a per cent of household income is lowest in Oakville. We aim to keep it that way.

Trusting in Oakville’s Core Values

To succeed with all our challenges and opportunities will require us to keep true, as I mentioned we always do, to Oakville’s core values. We hear these values every day in what we hear from you, our fellow residents. Four values stand out:

Our first value that stands out is the importance of community. We see our town as a place where people support each other in meeting their needs and achieving their dreams. This value is evident today in our vibrant social and cultural sector. It is also evident in our pride in our history as a key destination to freedom for slaves on the Underground Railroad. It is evident in our focus on families in all stages of life. It shows in our satisfaction in nurturing and launching talented young people who achieve great things beyond our borders.

Our second value is pride in our small town character. Oakville residents cherish our historic downtowns, our waterfront and forest trails, our trees, our gardens, our traditions, our peace and quiet.

Our third value that stands out is safety. Oakville sees itself as a safe harbour – a safe place to raise children, welcome newcomers and protect the vulnerable. Our safety is the result of the great sense of community and small town character we nurture and protect.

Our fourth value speaks to how we guard our first three values: with a quiet, business-like discipline. People tell me all the time that they like it when we all work together to run the town like a business. They mean cooperating, respecting and listening to each other. They mean basing decisions on evidence, not emotion. They mean being careful with our resources. They mean finding the right people to do the jobs we need done and developing their talents to make them even better able to serve us successfully.

Our four core values of community, small-town character, safety and business-like discipline allow us to create and strengthen Oakville as a place where people flourish and enjoy life. Our values give us the strength and confidence to adapt to changing times and design a future that is sustainable yet true to our identity.

Council Leads, but we Work through Others

Finally, a word about leadership. The Municipal Act sets out unique duties for the Mayor as Head of Council and CEO. It mandates the Mayor to represent and promote the town and to provide leadership to Council. My brand of leadership has always gratefully welcomed advice in being the best I can be to do the following five things:

First, to model the way so that everyone can see the most effective behaviours to achieve our shared vision.

Second, to inspire a shared vision so that we can all work together for the greatest possible common good.

Third, to challenge the process so that we are continuously improving our ability to achieve our shared vision.

Fourth, to enable others to act so that everyone’s passion and creativity can help achieve our shared vision.

Fifth, to encourage the heart in everyone so that we can persevere to success in our shared vision.

As for Council, we Members of Council set policies. Staff provide options. We Members of Council make choices. Councillors move and second motions here to give effect to those choices. As head of council, as your mayor, what falls to me is to conduct meetings to help people take turns being heard. With only one vote, no mayor can ever tell anyone what to do.

We have set a goal to be the most livable town in Canada. But we are not alone in seeking to be a better place to live. We have competition. Other people and places will always be challenging us for the lead. So we must always strive to be better than we are now. With this new, 126th term of council and its now even stronger mandate from you, the people of Oakville, I am confident that, working together, we can meet our challenges in a way that will allow us to successfully continue our quest to be the most livable town in Canada.

Thank you, Oakville, for your trust and confidence in us. You have chosen an outstanding Council that embodies your hopes and dreams for this Town of Oakville we all love so much. With your support and guidance for us, your chosen representatives, the only direction for Oakville is onward and upward!