2014 Chamber of Commerce Address

Thank you very much for the kind introduction. You are a very important audience because of your role in the health of Oakville’s economy. Speaking with you is a highlight of every year for me. Let’s thank the team at the Oakville Chamber for organizing today’s event.

To our sponsors this morning, Ford Motor Company of Canada, Cogeco Cable Canada, and Union Gas, thank you for all that you do to make Oakville so strong. And thanks for breakfast too!

Chair Carr, Town and Regional Councillors, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here today.

We’re at a time when we face new opportunities to move forward together in making Canada’s most livable town ever more livable and successful. We have a strong, diversified economic base. The foundation of our economic success is our livability. That livability is what Council and I focus on every day.

Our livability attracts new business here. As a Council, we work to enhance Oakville’s livability by challenging the status quo. We control growth, debt and taxes to just what fits environmentally and economically. We relentlessly create value and efficiency to constantly increase our fiscal strength.

Now, we don’t live in isolation. We have two fine cities as neighbours on either side of us. Since you’re going to hear some comparisons of Oakville to them, let’s call this talk: A Tale of Two Cities and the Little Town that Could.

Our story starts with Oakville getting its fiscal house in order beginning in 2006. In the 18 years before I became Mayor, the total property tax levy rose an average of 12% a year. It’s taken time to get this under control, but we’ve done just that.

We’ve brought in state of the art corporate fiscal management tools, most notably performance based program budgeting, “PB2”. And we are still the only government in Canada using PB2 to drive productivity and efficiency.

With our relentless focus on value and efficiency, we have cut the rate of increase of the total property tax levy.

In the four years before I became Mayor, the property tax levy increase averaged 7% a year. In my first term, we got it down to an average of 5% per year. This term, we’ve cut the total property tax levy increase to less than 3% a year on average. Everyone tells me that our 7%-5%-3% direction is the right direction for Oakville. And we did it while adding overdue facilities and improving services!

This year we also have brought in the lowest overall tax increase in 15 years, at just 0.7%! Yes, our final numbers are now in and they are great. As part of this Tale of Two Cities and the Little Town that Could, the tax increases in our neighbouring cities on either side of us are more than 2 times higher in one and 3.4 times higher in the other.

But that’s not the biggest difference between the two cities and the little town that could. We are on a steady and secure path of declining public debt and tax increases that stay under CPI. Our neighbours are on a different path. They have deferred much-needed infrastructure renewal funding for years and now have a massive shortfall on infrastructure renewal.

The deficit is about $49 million a year for the neighbour city on one side of us and $80 million a year for the other. In Oakville, the little town that could, we don’t have an infrastructure renewal funding gap, we have a fully funded Asset Management Plan.

Now, our two neighbouring cities already have higher tax rates than we do. They already have more public debt. And they will have to increase both their debt and their taxes to solve their infrastructure renewal deficit.

One neighbouring city chooses to collect and spend $30 million less than we do, while ignoring a $49 million a year infrastructure funding deficit. If they looked after their infrastructure funding like we do, they’d be spending and taxing $19 million a year more than us.

A great part of how we keep debt down and tax increases modest is maximizing development charges to make growth pay its way. Infrastructure for growth can only be paid for by growth or by taxes. Let me emphasize this: you have two choices and no others, ongoing taxes or one time development charges. I have never met a business yet that wanted me to raise their taxes.

Before 2006, Oakville and Halton were leaving out growth infrastructure from development charges in order to have DCs be lower. They were putting the rest of the costs of infrastructure on the backs of business and residential taxpayers. But not anymore. Residents and Business are getting a better deal. Our office and commercial development charges are at 2010 levels. We decreased them in 2011. We cut them again in 2012. They are lower than all other municipalities in Peel and York regions. Business taxes are lower too.

So how are we doing? Businesses are expanding here in Oakville. We have an increase in building permits for commercial, industrial and institutional expansions. The dollar amount, which shows the amount of activity, is up 42% over the last three years. And you don’t pay development charges for most expansions.

Now, development charges are only one part of the story. In this tale of two cities and the little town than could, one of our neighbour cities has a business tax rate of 2.15% and the other has a business tax rate of 2.03%. Oakville’s is 1.99%. Oakville business wins. Again. And your employees win, too.

Companies who put their headquarters in Oakville have made the calculation about where opportunity and total business value are greatest. And their answer is Oakville.

Ford, Siemens, Canadian Tire Financial Services, PwC, Cogeco, Union Gas, UTC Aerospace Systems, Manulife Security, Pelmorex Media, Shred-it, Procor, Alphora Research, Bot Construction, Cooper Construction, The Naylor Group, Dufferin Construction, and many more already here and plenty more yet to come.

People want to be connected to the great companies here and to the great quality of life that Oakville enjoys. Everyone is impressed by the way we protect both our environmental lands and our employment lands. We have a 40 to 50 year supply of employment land to develop. Many envy us this.

We will create approximately a 1000 jobs a year for the foreseeable future. We’re celebrating the strength in our business community by launching the Oakville Innovation Awards this year in conjunction with our good partners here at the Chamber of Commerce.

We’ve just released our Economic Development Annual Report. It highlights the success of our economic development plan.

When you read the report, you’ll find that we’re marketing Oakville both domestically and abroad - in places as far away and as important as China.

We work really closely with our biggest business, the Ford Motor Company. Last year, I revived and became chair of the Ontario Auto Mayors Caucus. The Auto Mayors Caucus conducted the first ever Ontario Auto Mayors’ Roundtable last fall.

We gathered all the key players in the industry to identify how our automotive sector can succeed in the increasingly competitive global environment. Today I’m announcing that the Ontario Auto Mayors Caucus will convene a national summit in June at Ford on the need for a Canadian auto manufacturing policy.

Also last year, starting just before Christmas, we began suffering the worst winter in living memory. We are now hard at work to develop measures to help shop keepers in our three Business Improvement Areas, Bronte, Kerr and Downtown, kick-start their recovery from a winter that made us all want to stay home and cocoon. And as a result of a comprehensive set of six measures that are going before Council this month, we will have the very best and most attractive small-town downtown business area in the country as a magnet for shoppers and businesses. We are also working with the BIAs in Kerr Village and Bronte to help improve the business environment for these merchants.

When our local businesses succeed, Oakville, the little town that could, succeeds. And when everyone succeeds, the companies who have chosen to call Oakville home and the people who contribute to the success of these companies, develop deeper, stronger roots in our community. They continue to invest in it, with their time and with their money.

We have an amazing group of corporate citizens who are committed to building our broader community by giving back. And this is something we all have in common. We are all invested in Oakville’s future. We have bright plans for the town’s future. Together we will renew Oakville’s downtown. We’ll rebuild our streetscape. We’ll revitalize our business district and cultural hub.

But that’s not all: together we will build three new community centres for the areas around Kerr Street, the old hospital and North Park. Together we will keep creating jobs, continue to ease traffic, and keep up the fit, finish and polish of our town’s infrastructure.

We’re committed to creating a future as Canada’s most livable town without sacrificing Oakville’s heritage.

We’re doing all of this, creating a successful future and respecting and protecting the past while making our progress affordable. I am fond of saying that Council leads, but we work through our great staff, with our businesses and with our residents. We depend on you. This is a town where we listen to each other.

What we're creating is a greener, cleaner, more livable town with lower rates of growth in population and taxes, and outstanding growth in jobs and our economy. Our steady focus on increasing efficiency, value and livability will keep paying off for everyone in this little town that we all love so much.