2018 Chamber of Commerce Address

Let’s congratulate the chamber for the smooth leadership transition they’ve had. They went from long-serving John Sawyer to ready-to-serve Drew Redden. I have to say a special word of thanks to our sponsors. You really are setting a great example for our business community.

My Halton Regional Council colleagues Chair Gary Carr; Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring, Milton’s Mayor Gord Krantz and Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette also set good examples. We five work together as leaders of regional and local government in our communities. And they’re good to work with. Right now, we’re sharing leadership of the defence of our community’s jurisdiction over CN’s plan to create a train-to-truck container-offloading hub in the center of Halton – an incompatible place. In all we do, we depend on our councils and our staff. Please join me in appreciating the work they do for you.

And thank you for your interest in the message I have for you now. This is a story of how we are working together in Oakville to grow our economy and why that’s vital. We do that first of all, and most of all, by growing our famous livability.

We aim for “Goldilocks” growth: not too hot, not too cold. Now, as of today, we can look forward to stable growth that we can live with. We can be masters of our growth. That’s thanks to success we had in the campaign I led to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board.

Starting today, April 3, we will get deference to our local land use planning decisions that follow our made-in-Oakville rules. For that to work, you have to have a provincially-approved official plan and some of my colleagues are working hard at getting to that stage, but as long as you’re compliant to the province’s growth plan, you’re in charge now of your future and I think that’s worth celebrating. If you appreciate this success, you may want to show your appreciation to MPP and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn for the crucial role he played for us at the cabinet table in winning this victory.

We must promote economic growth because business needs growth to survive. Our businesses and jobs keep our municipal economy healthy. We want new businesses to create new jobs.

Our children and newcomers will need jobs. And new businesses and jobs increase our tax base revenue more than they increase our costs. Lucky for us the City of Toronto charges businesses a tax rate 30 per cent higher than we charge our businesses. I think of Toronto as one of our best salespeople. They motivate businesses to prefer us to Toronto. Toronto is certainly not hurting our success.

This year, we will welcome 700 new employees at Aviva. We will welcome the completion of the new Metrolinx facility at the Oakville GO station soon after that. The new Melrose Business Park Industrial Development on South Service Road near the Burloak plaza on the QEW has occupancy targeted for the fall.

Several other new businesses call our town home.

Let’s say welcome to Virtual Logistics, Taiho Pharma, Loraxian Strategic Infrastructure Solutions, ROMCO Corporation and PCL construction.

PCL is Canada’s largest construction contractor. They are building our library at Neyagawa Boulevard and Dundas Street somewhere else. PCL has a factory that builds these things in modular slices. We’ve got to come and see it. You’re going to deliver it in seven pieces and bolt it together if I understood you correctly.

Thank you for locating your Toronto District office here with 500 jobs.

Mark Buzzell tells me that Ford’s got many great and exciting announcements to make later this year and he swore me to secrecy so I can’t tell you, but he did say something that I’m going to fearlessly quote. He said, “Our assembly plant has a long and secure future ahead of it.”

Ladies and gentlemen, they are our biggest employer, how do you feel about that?

Ford has also selected Oakville as one of its new Connectivity and Innovation Centres. We thank you for your faith in us and I want you to know if you ever need anything, I’ll come running.

Other companies are expanding: Takeda Canada, Indellient, Entripy, Omnitracs, SteriMax, Eurofins and The Sky Guys.

When Autnhive CEO Devi Narayan came to Canada and created an innovative business of mobile app authentication, he was happy to choose Oakville. His answer to my “why Oakville?” question was our livability.

Our livability attracts a diverse pool of highly skilled and innovative professionals. They make us a very creative town. Oakville residents create 250 new patents a year. I’m told that’s more than Toronto and Los Angeles combined. Oakville is a strong part of what we could call Creative Halton.

So, no wonder the Toronto Amazon bid includes three locations in Halton. No wonder we made the shortlist to host the Amazon second headquarters. The location in Oakville will win it, of course.

The Toronto Amazon bid brags about Oakville using World Council on City Data information that highlights our town in three categories.

First, did you know Oakville ranks highest for secondary school completion rates and higher education degrees? Now you do.
Second, did you know Oakville ranks among the lowest levels of poverty?
And third, Oakville ranks highest among comparators for greenspace per 100,000 population.

Another project that is 60 per cent the size of the Amazon project comes from our own community. The Life Sciences High Tech District proposal was inspired by our new $2 billion hospital. This is a homegrown project by Oakville’s own Dr. Joseph Dableh. Dr. Dableh believes in his hometown. Just like we do.

I’m grateful for the way MPP Kevin Flynn is being so helpful with the Province to make this possible for our community.

I am determined that Dr. Dableh’s vision of a high-tech life sciences district with the features needed to attract good paying jobs will succeed. Meanwhile, work on our economic growth success story continues.

InvestOakville, our economic growth office, has produced a two-minute video to attract more new businesses. I’d like you to see it.

[Video played]

When I was creating YTV, our motto as entrepreneurs had to be, “Promote, promote, promote!” I think the video shows InvestOakville has caught that spirit. That’s good because the spirit of life is competitive.

Our neighbours in Halton region are some of our best competitors. I’m glad they are friendly competitors. Burlington, Halton Hills, and Milton all rank with us in the top 10 places to live.

Our four communities are growing up together in a friendly, competitive, and thank goodness, cooperative style.

So, we must always be lifting our game. We’re updating our Oakville economic growth strategy.

I hope Chamber members will help align our economic growth priorities with our town’s current economic landscape – and opportunities we all see in the global economy.

We’ve certainly listened to the Chamber’s call for increased spending on infrastructure, especially to keep business moving. When traffic doesn’t move well, it reduces productivity and livability – and adds another barrier to everyone’s success.

When traffic doesn’t move well, it reduces productivity and livability – and adds another barrier to everyone’s success.

So, Oakville transit is getting an increase of $66 million over the next 10 years. Canada is contributing $26 million. Thank you, MPs John Oliver and Pam Damoff. That’s a promise kept.

Ontario is contributing $22 million in the new Provincial budget. Thank you, MPP Flynn.

And to trigger these grants, the town is putting up $18 million of our own funds.

With this funding we could start having electric buses by 2019.

The rules for this transit funding encourage community benefits agreements to be included in contracts for the work.

So I thank the Halton Poverty Roundtable for their steady vision of job opportunities for all. Community benefits agreements mean this transit funding can create new business opportunities for our businesses as well as for our job seekers.

And we know transit needs good roads as much as cars do. This year, we will improve more than 30 kilometres on 70 of our roads through our annual Road Resurfacing Program of $10 million a year.

We’re starting the multi-year work to add capacity to major town and regional roads on Kerr Street above the QEW, and on Cornwall, North Service, Speers, Dundas and Trafalgar roads.

Later this month, the much-needed underpass project for Kerr at the Metrolinx railway line will be going through a public consultation process – like the Burloak Drive Grade Separation project last year.

On major arterial roads, traffic lights will communicate with each other and adjust themselves to changing traffic conditions to make transit and cars move better. We are getting Oakville moving.

That will make it easier to get downtown and enjoy our community’s new downtown Oakville streetscape in 2020. We will have the best downtown community gathering place in the country.

The old post office building will become an Innovation Hub.

There will be waterside gathering places, new public spaces to engage us, wider sidewalks, more parking, and more and healthier trees.

After that, we will get to work to bring our old downtown cultural facilities into this century with increased capacity, efficiency, and accessibility by 2026.

There will be no vacant storefronts in our community’s new downtown. There will be a waiting list.

We will fund it all from continued success by the Oakville Enterprises Corporation and Oakville’s new Municipal Development Corporation.

As part of its work, I expect our Municipal Development Corporation will produce new affordable housing on surplus town lands on Trafalgar Road.

Our economic health depends upon it. Let me tell you why this matters to the story of our town.

We need affordable housing to retain and attract back our young people and others as they form families, to keep the town’s social fabric strong. Our seniors need affordable housing, too, when they downsize and make room for growing families to thrive in the homes where seniors raised their families before. Our Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan helps us focus our resources on social stability.

Did you know the Conference Board of Canada points out that investment is attracted where communities are stable because of a shared commitment to prosperity? And I’ll just say here, prosperity is a “we” concept, not a “me” concept.

Our economic vitality also needs new opportunities in the form of new relationships outside and inside our town.

We’ve created relationships between our town and China for six years now. To do business in China you need guanxi. Guanxi is a word for having a network of working relationships. Guanxi can only be gained over time. It is based on implicit mutual obligations and trust. I’d like to see us develop relationships for doing business with India as well. We would have strong support from Devi Narayan and other Oakville residents who have roots in India.

It’s important to nurture cooperative relationships here in the region and the town, too. I’ve told our friends and neighbours in the City of Burlington that I’m open to cooperating to make a bigger success of TechPlace. TechPlace is on our border in the QEW jobs corridor.

Canada's most livable town, Oakville, and Canada’s best mid-size city, Burlington, must continue to be places where we grow new businesses.

Did you know 40 per cent of new jobs come from companies in their first two to five years of development? That’s why it is important that we can welcome and even incubate new businesses – to create those jobs.

With a forecast to increase the number of jobs in Burlington and Oakville by a combined 21,000 by 2031 there is work to do over the next 13 years and beyond.

We have nurtured a strong relationship with Golf Canada, too, for more than 40 years.

It is delightful to have Golf Canada’s RBC Canadian Open return to Oakville this year for its 30th year.

I’m hopeful we will play host for years to come, as the Tournament’s permanent host. Broadcasts of the Open from the beautiful and historic Glen Abbey Golf Course have created a world-wide identity for us. Our global image gives us an advantage, an edge, in attracting investment to our community.

The Glen Abbey cultural heritage landscape is a defining part of our community’s identity. I know we made the right decisions for the Glen Abbey Golf Course. Now, our decisions are being appealed. Appeals take time – and patience. I’m hopeful we will have the necessary continuity on Council to see it all through to victory by the end of next year. On that note of continuity, Council has 60 days to fill the vacancy on Council that occurred last week.

So, I hope this story about Oakville’s economic success shows you why I believe we are and must be the go-and-get-it people who understand the need to get-out-and-go engage with the world.

I believe we can work on a great future for our town and still stay true to our character.

I believe our town’s character is best described by 92-year-old former Oakville Mayor Harry Barrett. Harry says, “Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and feels like a village.” Harry was one of the youth of Oakville who came home from winning World War II to a town of less than 9,000 people, about 5 per cent of what we are today. When Harry and his generation were told Oakville was too small to have the arena and the hospital they wanted, they built them, themselves, anyway. Their attitude was, “Don’t tell us what we can’t do, we just won a world war!”

That’s the forward-going spirit – and story – of Oakville. We need to continue to engage the future with our founder’s attitude, embodied in his one-word motto: Forward!

I want to thank you for being so forward-thinking and engaged in our town’s future. Oakville can have as good an on-going success story as we’re willing to work together to make come true. It’s great working with you. I look forward to our continued success!