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.
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?
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!