2018 Inaugural Address, December 3, 2018

Welcome everybody to the inauguration of the 127th Council of the Town of Oakville.

I want to ask you to join me in a moment of reflection to honour former mayor Harry Barrett who passed away Friday. Many of us said farewell to him earlier today at a service held at St. John’s United Church.

Harry was able to capture what many of us feel about Oakville in one phrase:

“Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and acts like a village.”

Harry loved to say that and I hope that if we can keep that expression alive we will keep Harry alive among us.

His leadership and passion for our community has always inspired me and many others. We owe a great debt to him for championing heritage and waterfront protection. The Harry F. Barrett Waterfront Parks System ensures his memory will live on forever.

We can see both renewal and continuity in the results of our recent municipal election.

Here at the Town Council, we welcome four new members:

Ward 1 Town Councillor Beth Robertson, Ward 3 Town Councillor Janet Haslett-Theall, Ward 7 Town Councillor Jasvinder Sandhu and Ward 7 Town and Regional Councillor Pavan Parmar. They bring new eyes and new perspectives to the table.

They are joining returning town councillors Ray Chisholm from Ward 2, Peter Longo from Ward 4, Marc Grant from Ward 5, Natalia Lishchyna from Ward 6, and town and regional councillors Sean O’Meara from Ward 1, Cathy Duddeck from Ward 2, Dave Gittings from Ward 3, Allan Elgar from Ward 4, Jeff Knoll from Ward 5 and Tom Adams from Ward 6.

Our other council, the Halton Region Council will have 8 of 24 members who are new. That’s a fairly similar, not the same, but fairly similar ratio of renewal and continuity as we have here.

And so it appears to me that the direction of our split-level local government will continue in the general direction of the Livable Oakville and Sustainable Halton Official Plans, as we call our two intertwined official plans that guide our growth in this community.

We review our strategic plan and direction every year, to be sure we stay on course. As Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said, “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” And we can now see further than we could when we started to create the Livable Oakville Plan 12 years ago. Unfortunately, some of what we can see now poses possible threats to the Oakville way of life. I look forward optimistically to our ability to work together to keep moving forward because we have before.

In my time as mayor, we have solved at least ten great problems.

  1. We have slowed growth to half the rate it was 12 years ago;
  2. We doubled our community facilities;
  3. We held total property tax increases to inflation or less for ten years even though we added so much to our facilities;
  4. Our finances are the healthiest in Ontario;
  5. We have increased our green space and our tree canopy;
  6. We have kept the lowest crime rate among Ontario’s “Big 12” police services;
  7. We defeated a power plant proposed too close to homes and schools;
  8. We have held off and will continue to oppose a bid by ClubLink to destroy our most significant Cultural Heritage Landscape and our Livable Oakville Plan urban structure;
  9. We remain Ontario’s best place to raise a family; and
  10. We have risen within the MoneySense rankings from 30th to 1st place to become Canada’s best place to live and to be Canada’s best place for newcomers.

We can stay a leader in livability if we stay committed to five principles:

  1. Controlling growth to only what fits our environment and our economics;
  2. Protecting our cultural and natural heritage resources and greenspaces
  3. Providing high-quality facilities and services our residents need and want;
  4. Keeping our finances strong and healthy; and
  5. Engaging and expanding mutual understanding with our Provincial masters.

I believe these five principles of livability will allow us to continue to successfully meet the challenges we face as we move forward.

Together we will protect our community’s vision of itself as reflected in our Livable Oakville official plan and its associated strategic plan. And that includes defending our official plan and our decision to refuse the development application on the Glen Abbey Golf Course.

Fortunately, Oakville’s new MPP, Stephen Crawford, took the following position in his election in June, and I quote with pleasure: “The people of Oakville have rallied together against the potential development of the Glen Abbey Golf Course and I personally stand with them,” he said.

“I vow,” he said, “to work tirelessly with the Save Glen Abbey grassroots community coalition and to do everything in my power to ensure that this important part of Oakville's cultural heritage is preserved for its citizens and for future generations.”

MPP Crawford also promised, and this is really important and MPP Triantafilopoulos repeated it tonight and I’m very grateful, Effie, for your repetition of this.

What MPP Crawford said was, “After the June 7th election, an Ontario PC government's approach will be to respect the local decisions of municipalities.”

We are counting on you two to deliver on this promise. We really believe that what we have going for us in Oakville is based on these principles of local decision making and we’re thrilled you subscribe to the same principles.

We know we have six other significant work objectives before us:

  1. Relief of congestion with major road widenings and the Wyecroft Bridge;
  2. Reconstruction of Lakeshore road and its streetscape in downtown Oakville to reinvigorate our downtown;
  3. Completion of the needed recreational facilities in south and north Oakville;
  4. Development of an innovation hub downtown and the Dr. Joseph Dableh life sciences high tech business park in north Oakville beside the new OTMH. (Here again we will need the help of our MPPs to show that we can be open for business, because the Province’s Growth Plan is actually holding up this project and this is actually a project that is 60 per cent the size of the Amazon HQ2 everybody wanted and this project has already chosen us and ready to go. We don’t have to compete to get it. We just have to get out of its way and really be open for business);
  5. Using our Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan to engage the Province to fulfill its direct Constitutional responsibility for poverty in our community and encouraging local businesses to become Living Wage employers.
  6. The legalization of marijuana and whether we want to have private retail stores in our town.

In April there will be private marijuana retail stores in Ontario.

The Province has given all new councils an opportunity and a deadline of January 22 to opt out of having private retail stores. Our new council will wait until our meeting on January 14 to decide if we opt out of having private store fronts in our community. Oakville values public consultation, and this way we can maximize the opportunity for public consultation, starting tonight. Before our next meeting, December 17, Council and the public will have a Staff Report with the very latest developments from the province’s on-going and evolving roll out of the cannabis market. This will give time over the holidays to everyone to consider the information. You can delegate at the January 14 Council meeting or connect with your Council members. Let me ask you to copy me, too.

An even more important public consultation is already underway.

The Ontario government has circulated a public consultation document called, “Increasing Housing Supply in Ontario”. We in the public are asked to let them know by January 25, 2019 how they can get a big increase in the speed and the number of houses being built. They want the public’s input on four things:

How to make housing approvals faster.
How to cut development charges that builders pay toward the costs of infrastructure, to make housing cheaper to build, presumably to motivate builders to build more.
How to add new housing in our stable established neighbourhoods.
How to get new housing opportunities in our heritage districts, areas and properties.

These four points go right to the heart of the Oakville way of life and our small town values and everything we have worked so hard at for the last 12 years.

So MPP Triantafilopoulos you now understand why I’m so thrilled to hear the renewal of the pledge to respect local decisions because I believe the average person in Oakville thinks we grow fast enough already thank you very much. In the rental market the government has already announced it will increase the supply of rental housing by removing rent controls on new rental housing to let rents go higher and that is to incentivise the construction of more rental units.

So I call on the residents need to clearly tell our MPPs how fast they want growth to be in Oakville. To tell our MPPs clearly how much of the costs of growth we want to pay on our property taxes. Already almost ten per cent of our property taxes goes to  subsidize builders.

We also need to be clear about how much we value our heritage areas and our stable established neighbourhoods. The nub, the essence of this property tax verses development charge dilemma is that any dollar that we can’t collect from builders from development charges winds up on our property taxes and that means you’re helping to buy people houses and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you came here for.

We need to be clear on what we want our Town’s future to look like for our children, their children and beyond.

So share your thoughts, residents of Oakville, with your MPP and copy me and your members of Council.

Here’s a suggestion for you to make and I will make it now to MPP Triantafilopoulos, how about the government remove the HST from housing instead of shifting more of the costs of development of new housing onto existing property tax payers. Development charges go only to needed growth infrastructure. HST goes to provincial general revenues.

I’m pleased that we have initiated regular meetings with MPP Crawford and his colleague who represents part of north Oakville, MPP Triantafilopoulos.

The first thing we’ve talked about is the government’s consultation on housing. We need the rest of Oakville to add your voices.

My colleagues and I are 100 per cent committed to serving all of our community.

I know that we will never shy away from our challenges.

And there will always be obstacles, twists and turns, and difficult situations to overcome, that we must be prepared to tackle what may come.

Winston Churchill once said, and it’s very inspirational, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

I am here to stand up for our town, its beliefs and its values. I am also here to listen. I hope to engage and expand what we know and can learn.

With your engagement I am confident Council and I can continue to help advance our community’s shared goals.

Oakville’s identity is shaped by the spirit of our residents and our thriving industries and by our relationship and connection to the land – just as it was with the First Nations who preceded us.

Oakville’s history and traditions, including those of the Mississaugas of the Credit, part of the Anishinabe Nation, point us to the path we follow to respect the land.

We should credit Harry Barrett for the start he gave us on the path we follow. If we continue to cherish our heritage it will help us keep moving forward, as we extend the path for those who follow. Harry’s spirit lives on in the Livable Oakville plan, of which he was so very proud. Let’s resolve to keep making Harry proud.