2017 Chamber of Commerce Address

Thank you for your interest in our town’s booming economy.

Our sponsors for this event, CN, Cogeco, and Ford Canada deserve our thanks.

Special thanks go to the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. Oakville appreciates the work you do to support our businesses.

Please welcome Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette and Milton Mayor Gord Krantz. We attend each other’s speeches. We want everyone able to see our neighbourly spirit of cooperation.

The five heads of councils of Halton feel we share a mutual stewardship as leaders of the municipal government of Halton Region. We know all municipal power is exercised only by resolutions of Councils.

And by the way Mayor Krantz just celebrated his 80th birthday. He has now served longer than Hazel McCallion. That’s some staying power, your Worship! And Mayor Bonnette has 35 years of public service. You're on the right track, too, your Worship!

You know, Halton’s four municipalities are all on national lists of the best places to live.

Our economy is on a roll

The economy is booming across Ontario. The economy is on a roll in Halton and Oakville. So, this Economic Update has a lot to share.

First, let’s deal with three economic fundamentals at the Town:

  1. Oakville’s town finances are remain the healthiest in Ontario.
  2. Oakville’s unemployment rate remains below the Provincial average.
  3. Oakville has again met our job creation target of 1000 new jobs a year.

We have also found great success promoting Oakville around the world.

For five years, we’ve been building new relationships in China, to help Oakville businesses enter the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Now, I’m pleased to announce that I will be asking Council to add India to our global business development agenda.

I’m grateful to Harji Bajwa – a longtime Oakville resident and businessman, for his guidance with this opening to India.

Oakville has an edge in the global market thanks to many years of worldwide recognition through broadcasts of the RBC Canadian Open from our celebrated Glen Abbey Golf Course. This put our town on the world map. It also brings an estimated $25 million boost to our economy.

I want to acknowledge what a business success has been created by Golf Canada’s partnership with ClubLink since 1999. I'd like to recognize that the owner of ClubLink, Mr. Rai Sahi, is here with us.

Of course, Oakville’s relationship with Golf Canada predates 1999. This is our 29th Open.

Not only are Oakville businesses creating job, they’re creating highly-skilled jobs in knowledge-based sectors we target.

Our biggest ongoing success story is the high-tech star, Ford Canada. This year, Ford has announced it is investing more than $100 million in research and engineering in Oakville. Thank you, Ford, for your confidence in Oakville.

We also became the home of Loraxian’s global headquarters this year, attracted by our famous livability.

Now it’s delightful to make three exciting economic announcements.

First, the International Union of Operating Engineers has authorized me to announce that they are going to expand by 50 per cent their conference centre at their offices on Speers Road. They will become the largest such hall in the Halton Region. Our Hospital Gala will finally have a hall big enough to conduct its vital fund raising event back here in Oakville again. That’s the newest benefit to our hospital from IUOE. It was the all-trades, no-strike promise by the IUOE’s Business Manager, Mike Gallagher, that gave us on Council the confidence to make the donation that made our new hospital possible. Thank you, again, Mike.

Second, there’s big news from another labour group that also had something, something huge, to do with the success of our new hospital – because they financed it through their pension fund. The Labourers International Union of North America have authorized me to announce that they have decided to build a second office building on North Service Road, beside their first building.

And, third, I’m also pleased to announce the largest new company to make Oakville their home since Siemens chose Oakville for their Canadian headquarters in 2013. Aviva, along with their nearly 800 employees, will be opening a new office building in Oakville, too. Aviva is Canada’s fastest-growing insurance provider. In fact, Aviva’s executives are with us here. Please join me in welcoming Aviva to Oakville.

Considering all this success, it may not surprise you that Oakville is among the most business-friendly communities in North and South America. That’s what the recent Financial Times’ biennial “Cities of the Future” report says.

My experience in founding YTV and making it a success taught me that innovation is at the heart of success in business. As mayor, I have found that innovation is also required to successfully meet the challenges of local government.

Budgets and non-tax revenues

When I became Mayor, it was with the vision of making Oakville the most livable town in Canada. We’ve done that by focusing on three key priorities.

  1. We protect green-space and heritage.
  2. We improve our infrastructure, facilities and services.
  3. And we control growth, debt and taxes.

We on Council believe that livability is the essential ingredient for Oakville’s economic success.

We have looked for innovative ways to achieve our livability.

  • We’ve created thousands of acres of protected environmental green-space systems and grown our urban forest to over two million trees, with more to come.
  • We’ve drastically improved Oakville’s road maintenance and repair program to improve the way we move goods, services, and residents.
  • We’ve added more than 80 per cent to our total square feet of community facilities to keep us active and healthy.
  • And we made the make-or-break investment of $130 million dollars to make possible Oakville’s new, state-of-the-art hospital.

We are proud we did all that while keeping annual property tax increases at or below inflation, and cutting tax-paid debt by 75 per cent. As a result, Oakville enjoys by far the best fiscal health of any Ontario municipality.

All these achievements are good for Oakville’s livability and good for Oakville’s economy. We accomplished them with sound business principles of priority-setting and innovation.

We started by promoting efficiency in our budgeting. We adopted the gold standard of corporate fiscal management: performance-based program budgeting. “PB2” manages programs by outcomes for value and efficiency.

PB2 has saved Oakville taxpayers millions of dollars.

We made it a priority to develop new non-tax revenue sources to take pressure off property taxes.

We tasked Oakville Hydro to develop new revenues for the town through energy renewables and services.

Our Hydro Board of business men and women and our talented management achieved this goal in gratifying fashion. Their successes are carrying the cost of our donation to our brand new, state-of-the-art hospital.

The Board and its Chair, Marie Oswald, and Oakville Hydro & Enterprises CEO Rob Lister and staff deserve our thanks.

Now, Council is moving forward with another innovation for non-tax revenues.

It used to be we would just sell off surplus municipal land like the old public works site on Trafalgar at Glenashton.

There are at least two problems with this approach. Any developer who bought town surplus land could pick a fight over its use and require costly trips to the Ontario Municipal Board. And that developer could rake in big profits using the land in a way that might harm our town’s livability.

A Municipal Development Corporation will allow us to achieve a far better return for the taxpayers than a simple sale of surplus land could bring.

Our MDC will have the same public oversight and control by Council and just as good a board of qualified Oakville business people as Oakville Hydro has always had. There are provincial laws that require Councils to ensure full public awareness of land sales.

The MDC and Oakville Enterprises will make possible the new funding we could use to carry the costs of our plan for an innovative world-class Downtown Cultural Hub.

Our Downtown Cultural Hub will make our downtown the best downtown village business district in Canada.

Because of the MDC, I am announcing my personal commitment to seeing the new downtown cultural hub facilities open and energizing our downtown no later than 2026.

Livability is our competitive advantage

The foundation of Oakville’s economy is our livability. We’re committed to keeping Oakville the safest, healthiest, most livable community we can. That’s where you – as business leaders – can help us as well. You have a stake in the continued health and safety of the community you do business in. You should be involved in that work.

For coming on ten years, we have been Canada’s safest community. This doesn’t mean we have no problems.
It doesn’t mean we can’t work harder to make our community even safer and healthier. And now we have a draft plan to do that.

I’m pleased to announce our draft Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan is now public.

The plan is the result of groundbreaking work by the Halton Police, the Halton Health and Social Services Commissions and many helping agencies. This is a plan to help break the cycle of crime, improve lives and ensure everyone has a stake in our success.

I want you to consider this your personal invitation to engage in the public consultation and review of this plan.

If you share the idea that government should run like a business, here’s an opportunity for you to help share your business experience with your local government.

Successful business leaders recognize the importance of economic inclusion and participation. They know it’s bad for business when our economy leaves behind members of our society.

We are fortunate to have the business and community-building leadership we enjoy from residents like Ian and June Cockwell. Anyone who had made the contribution they and their foundation made to our new hospital might have felt they’d done their bit for Oakville.

Instead, June Cockwell turned up her efforts for Oakville and economic inclusion. She and her impressive colleagues are promoting four new concepts to enhance our community’s economic participation and inclusion.

These four concepts are (1) Community Benefit Agreements, (2) social procurement, (3) social enterprises, and (4) the importance of becoming Living Wage Employers. In response, we already have the purchasing departments of our municipal governments in Halton working with them to see if we can put Community Benefit Agreements, social enterprises, and social procurement to work for the benefit of our community.

These four concepts also offer solutions to the problems of job readiness and renewal of our aging labour force. So, we want to encourage businesses to look at what these concepts can do for you, too.

Inspired by June Cockwell and her group, as well as the encouragement I’ve had from IUOE’s Mike Gallagher, I am pleased to 7announce I will ask Council to certify the Town as a Living Wage Employer. I hope all businesses will join us in that commitment.

These concepts are good business ideas. They are consistent with this community’s values. And our values are what keep us a town and not a city.

As long as we stay true to our values, it won’t matter if people call us a town or a city. Dryden has a population of 7,000 but calls itself a city. Our population is nearly 195,000, and we will always call ourselves a town.

What makes us what we are, is how it feels when we say we're glad to be home.

How we care about and connect with our neighbours.

How safe our kids feel on our neighbourhood streets.

How does it make you feel when you tell people you're from Oakville? That's how you know if we are on the right path with ourselves, and our town, and our economy. You can tell by the way it makes you feel.

I hope you feel good about Oakville. I do, and I thank you for your time and attention and for the council you chose to make the decisions we’ve made for you. It’s great working for you.