Chamber of Commerce Address

A record of Mayor Burton's Chamber of Commerce addresses over the years. 

2022 Chamber of Commerce Address

Thank you for joining us here and online for this 2022 Oakville Economic Update. It’s a pleasure to be back in person with you.

Thank you for your interest in the economic health of our community.

Together, we should thank the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, our sponsors, and the Conference Centre staff for making this event possible.

I thank the Mississaugas of the Credit for their stewardship of our shared lands.

I congratulate France Fournier for becoming Chamber President and CEO on January 1st of this year. I love your unflappable style.

We’ll all need all the unflappability we can find as we face the challenges ahead, the better to seize our opportunities.

Our Oakville economic development opportunities exist in a global framework. Our global backdrop includes a worldwide pandemic and savage war in Ukraine.

Recession is on the lips of financial leaders.

The war Russia is waging in Ukraine is already causing supply chain disruption inflation around the world.

The scale of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is huge. The allied invasion of Nazi-held Europe was 78 years ago yesterday. Some 156,000 soldiers landed.  Russian forces totaling about 190,000 invaded Ukraine February 24. We can hope economic sanctions may hurry the end of the war in Ukraine. The war and the sanctions and the pandemic are being felt around the world. This week, major financial leaders have changed their story and begun openly forecasting recession in Canada, the United States and the world.

About 100 years ago, the world had a war, a pandemic, and a recession.

If history is repeating itself, let’s hope we also get the extended recovery and boom times that followed and are now known as the “Roaring 20s”.

Oakville’s economic conditions are strong.

Oakville is ready to roar economically.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, I formed Oakville’s Economic Recovery Task Force.

The economic recovery task force was a strong 4-part team for us:

Oakville’s Economic Development department, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, Visit Oakville, and the three Oakville Business Improvement Associations: the Bronte Village BIA, the Downtown BIA, and the Kerr Street Village BIA.

The economic recovery task force advised targeted measures to support Oakville business.

As a result, Council approved:

  • free parking in municipal lots and
  • on-street parking in commercial districts,
  • deferred property tax payments for local businesses (and residents),
  • free extension of business licenses,
  • waivers of application fees for expanded patios and
  • lobbying successfully for the Province to do the same for patios.

Patio life seemed to agree with Oakville. Patio life is growing the livability of our Town.

The Task Force helped win changes to the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program and a moratorium on commercial evictions.

The Town of Oakville and the Chamber of Commerce were among the first in Canada to distribute free rapid antigen test kits to our businesses. By the end of 2021, 136,000 tests were distributed to the 1,140 businesses who needed them.

Before the pandemic, we were helping our businesses grow by innovating and going digital. Since launching in 2019, Oakville’s successful Digital Main Street program has helped more than 450 businesses.

They now have enhanced their digital presence. They sell more thanks to being online. Digital Transformation Grants totaled $102,500 last year. This year, we’ve extended for another two years our Digital Main Street program. One of our merchants tells me she increased her business by 20% over pre-pandemic levels.

Oakville’s business community kept moving forward through the adversity of the pandemic.

We saw businesses adapt and advance.

Six of the firms who grew their work force were: ASL Distribution, Farm Boy, Geotab, Questica, SteriMax, and Terrestrial Energy.

Two of our big new companies are: HealthPRO, a hospital equipment and supply company, is the newest tenant at 360 Oakville Place Drive.

Oakville also welcomed Wiseacre Studios, one of Canada’s leading television program production companies. Hollywood in Oakville.

In total 1,000 new jobs in 2021 were reported by our award-winning Economic Development team.

Our economic growth is still strong.

It feels as if I attend a ribbon cutting or welcome a new business to Oakville or congratulate a business on their expansion every week.

Some are in our revitalized Downtown. It now enjoys non-stop foot traffic and business expansion.

Later this year we will see the results of an RFP for a waterfront restaurant on the existing TOWARF site. It will be a walk-to place with harbour and lakeside views.

I think we should call it the “Worth the Walk” pub.

Our revitalization plans for the business districts in Bronte and Kerr village are working, too. Kerr Village’s BIA President Doug Sams tells me that the vacancy rate in Kerr has kept itself at healthy pre-pandemic levels of 4%.

One measure of economic success for a district is if people think there isn’t enough parking. By that measure, Bronte Village’s restaurants and businesses are good, too.

The demand for industrial space in Oakville has grown so much it has outpaced supply. At the end of 2021, the vacancy rate fell from a tight 2.4 per cent in 2020 to 1.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, the pandemic’s impact on office life is still sorting itself out. Office vacancy rates have risen across Ontario and here.

To address Oakville’s office vacancy rate, the Economic Development department launched an investment attraction campaign called, Where Living Works.

The Where Living Works campaign won a Marketing Canada Award from the Economic Developers Association.

Oakville’s commercial space market remains highly competitive. We rank in the top five for best value.

Site Selection Magazine, an international business publication covering economic development, listed the Town of Oakville in the top 20 of Canada's Best Locations to invest for a third year in a row.

We have competitive tax rates because we only increase property taxes at or below the rate of inflation. Council is determined to keep Oakville in a strong financial position. We all want to be and remain the most livable and fiscally healthy community in Canada.

The property tax increase in Budget 2022 was the lowest in the entire GTHA.

Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings have affirmed Halton Region’s Triple A credit rating.

This is one of Gary Carr's most prized accomplishments as Chair of the Region, and I just want to call that out because, Gary, it makes every part of Halton so strong when we achieve that together, and 16 years in a row of steady Triple A is a pretty good brag, isn’t it?

Now, Halton’s credit rating is based on the health of its parts – and Oakville is the biggest of Halton’s four parts.

Oakville is praised by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the U of T. The IMFG cites Oakville as the municipality with the healthiest finances.

Your Town has also been recognized by its annual independent audit with another clean audit by KPMG, the auditors of Oakville and its agencies.

That’s a verdict on the professionalism and quality of our Staff. The independent audit findings report confirms that the Town continues to have transparent and accurate reporting and that key internal controls are in place and working. In my 16 years as mayor, the town has always got a clean independent audit opinion.

I think that record says something about the professional quality of our staff.

Six other things are worth your attention:

  • We have the strongest financial reserves in Canada. The IMFG especially likes that.
  • Oakville has higher rates of labour force participation than the Province of Ontario.
  • Our strong economic fundamentals ensured that we survived the pandemic better than anyone I can think of.
  • The Ontario and Canadian governments gave strong support to the cities for the costs of the pandemic, so Oakville was able to keep moving forward during the pandemic.
  • Later this year, we will have a ceremony for the early start for the construction of the North Park Community Centre.
  • When it opens in 2025 or 2026, we will finally have a community centre in every ward, which was a dream of mine. We had three community centres for six wards when I started 16 years ago. We will have community centres in all seven wards.

The Town has adapted as well, our Strategic Plan Refresh and our Recovery Action Plan address the impacts of COVID-19 on our town. The Recovery Action Plan focuses on strategic actions in five key areas:

  • Supporting our local businesses;
  • Growing our community livability;
  • Keeping our community safe;
  • Keeping our corporation resilient;
  • Preserving our financial health.

To help business, the Town is going digital for services starting with:

  • Online property and development permits including residential rebuilds, pool installations, and driveway works.
  • Online property survey request certified tax statements.
  • Work will continue this year that will enhance and expand online acquisition of permits, applications, and licenses.
  • Through our Digital Oakville Plan, smart city technologies, parking sensors and free public Wi-Fi have been installed in downtown Oakville.
  • We launched a real time parking availability page on, the town’s website.

And I was thrilled the other day when I was downtown and overheard two visitors telling each other about this and enthusing about how helpful it was.

Another element of our town’s success is having federal and provincial representatives who work together across partisan divides with our Council to ensure that Oakville continues to be Canada’s most livable community.

I want to congratulate MPPs Effie Triantafilopoulos and Stephen Crawford on their re-elections. 6 things they helped us with that really mattered that I would like to call to your attention:

  • In their first term they helped to secure Ontario funding to not only save the Oakville Assembly Plant but safeguard its long-term viability. Our MPs Anita Anand and Pam Damoff did the same with the Canadian government, who matched Ontario’s support.
  • They ensured the Province contributed along with the federal government and the town to begin converting our existing bus fleet to electric buses.
  • Our MPPs secured funding for five new schools.
  • They helped get us 700 long-term care beds. That goes a long way towards ending the deficit of long-term care beds that we’ve had in our town as long as I’ve been mayor.
  • I was most impressed in how they fought alongside our community against amalgamation.
  • Their help was crucial in winning the fight to conserve the Glen Abbey Golf Course cultural heritage landscape.

I look forward to continue working with our MPPs and Premier Doug Ford on other priority files.

Our Federal Members of Parliament Minister Anita Anand and MP Pam Damoff have also been very responsive to our community. To be even-handed, here are six of the things they gave collegial cooperation on with their Ontario MPP counterparts:

  • Our MPs delivered the federal part of funding for our switch to electric buses.
  • Federal funds improved our trails.
  • Our EV charging infrastructure enjoyed federal funding support.
  • The child care agreement that will help Oakville families was made possible by both levels of government working together.
  • All of us who care about child poverty were impressed when the increase to the Canada Child Benefit payment cut child poverty in Canada by 30 per cent.
  • Look at how the crisis of rising prices for housing evaporated when the Bank of Canada began raising rates. House prices are falling fast enough now to cause dismay among people who are selling.

All of this has proved our two senior governments have the really big powers that can really make a difference. The town has for sixteen years now, operated very carefully in understanding what is the municipal lane, what is the provincial lane and what is the Canadian government’s lane. And when we all do our own jobs, everything works better.

The Town’s economic outlook is strong because the fundamentals are strong for more growth. Both Canada and Ontario are prescribing strong growth in population, jobs, and housing.

We asked residents what their top issue is. The top issues divided into 4 groups.

Some said affordable housing; some, urban sprawl; some, rapid development; and some said COVID-19 in our survey.

Affordability and slower development are economic contradictions, of course, so one of those two groups may be happier with the orders that we have from the higher levels of government. Council and I will work hard to grow our livability as we work to follow the orders from the Province of Ontario. Perhaps we all can be happy then.

What I know this will mean for business and our town economy is increasing harmony and prosperity if we get the growth right.

In business it’s customary to do a bit of self-evaluation, to check and adjust as you go.

We on Council do that, too. I’ll give you 5 checkpoints:

  • Our 2022 Citizen survey found that COVID-19 has been one of the top-of-mind issues for residents. 8 in 10 were satisfied with the Town response to the pandemic. That’s in contrast to a national survey that found just 57 per cent are satisfied with how their local government managed the pandemic.
  • 93 per cent of Oakville residents report satisfaction with town services. In the rest of the country 60 per cent are satisfied with the quality of services provided by their local municipal government.
  • Livability in Oakville ranks highly when compared to the rest of the GTA.
  • The town exceeded the national average of 55 per cent satisfaction with local government when we scored 80 per cent with our residents.
  • More than 8 in 10 residents think they receive overall a good value for their tax dollars considering the programs and services provided by the Town.

You can count on Oakville to keep working well, thanks to, let’s call it, Team Oakville.

Take our 15 Members of Council, our 4 Members of Provincial and Federal Parliaments, our dedicated professional staff at the town and the Region, and Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr and there you have Team Oakville. Team Oakville is focused on keeping Oakville, Canada’s most livable community and Halton, Canada’s most sustainable region.

We’re succeeding in attracting and keeping talent and new employers and business leaders who want to invest and live here.

Our record on job creation and retention is good. How good? We have ten per cent more jobs than Ontario says we are required to plan for.

Judging by the recent results of our Citizen Survey and our economic successes, our Town is running along a rising path and enjoying results to be proud of.

The members of our Council share credit for our success. I know from meetings with the other mayors of the GTHA that I can count myself the luckiest mayor for the Council we have.

It is great to be able to work alongside with Tom Adams, Ray Chisholm, Cathy Duddeck, Allan Elgar, Dave Gittings, Marc Grant, Janet Haslett-Theall, Jeff Knoll, Natalia Lishchyna, Peter Longo, Sean O’Meara, Pavan Parmar, Beth Robertson, and Jasvinder Sandhu.

These fourteen individuals have represented their residents and businesses well and diligently throughout a global pandemic and kept our Town advancing.

Together, we have struck the right balance of fiscal discipline and investing in the services, programs and infrastructure that residents and businesses tell us they want.

I am proud and lucky to serve with them.

If we keep working together, I’m sure the best is yet to come.

Council and I look forward to continuing to serve you. Please keep well, stay safe, and let us know of any chance to be helpful to you and yours with any level of government. Sometimes you need the municipal voice to help you with Ontario and Canada.

We would like to hear from you when you have ideas to make Oakville more livable.

A core value for your Council is continuous improvement and we find that the residents of Oakville are full of ideas.

Together, we can make Oakville the kind of place where everyone can enjoy life in an atmosphere rich in mutual respect and opportunity.

Deep down we all know what makes us greater together than alone is the sum of the differences we bring to the work of our community.

Our growing diversity will grow our livability by increasing the choices we have in our town’s talents and tastes and culture.

Thank you for your time this morning. 

Chamber of Commerce Address archives

Thank you for your interest in Oakville’s future. It’s a great privilege to be with you.

One way or another, everyone owns a piece of our future as a community.

Our community has chosen a diverse team of leaders to work on the future we want.

Before we recognize them let me say how great they are to work with: Council members Tom Adams, Ray Chisholm, Cathy Duddeck, Allan Elgar, Dave Gittings, Marc Grant, Janet Haslett-Theall, Jeff Knoll, Natalia Lishchyna, Peter Longo, Sean O’Meara, Pavan Parmar, Beth Robertson, and Jasvinder Sandhu. That’s a record-breaking 43 per cent of Councillors who are women. We also work with our Regional Chair Gary Carr and our MPPs, Effie Triantafolopolous and Stephen Crawford.

We all have a shared, constructive approach that lets shared community interests take priority.

This is the “Team Oakville” spirit. Our MPs, Pam Damoff and John Oliver, round out “Team Oakville”. (I wish MP Damoff a speedy recovery from whatever was behind her brief fainting yesterday in the House of Commons.) And I’m sure we all wish MP Oliver well in his retirement from his work as MP.

Working together across levels of government is the way you expect us to work for you and our shared future. And today I have a lot of examples for you of how well that’s working for you.

So our generous sponsors and the Oakville Chamber of Commerce deserve our thanks for their hard work in organizing this event. We can certainly appreciate how Chamber President Drew Redden and his team organize events such as this.

Since my speech here a year ago, we’ve had voter-led job reviews (also known as elections) for our provincial and municipal team members. The results gave us a lot more change at the provincial level than there was at the municipal level. A recent statistically valid, large-sample citizen survey in January tells us our community is very happy with the way things are now. And why not? Oakville residents, business and employers, town staff and Council have all earned together as a community the honour of being designated by MoneySense Magazine as “Canada’s Best Place to Live”. That’s up from 30th 12 years ago.

Oakville’s industry-leading companies have also been celebrated as Canada’s top employers, fastest growing companies, and greenest employers by Forbes, the Globe and Mail, PROFIT 500 and other business publications.

We can also celebrate the talent that won and that was nominated at the Chamber’s Awards for Business Excellence, and not just this year but previous years as well.

The factors that earned the town top ranking in MoneySense Magazine and that attract quality employers are important indicators of the health of our local economy.

Quality jobs, household income, community safety, high performing schools and our livability are all drivers of our new investment.

When I became Mayor at the end of 2006, it was with the vision of making Oakville the most livable town in Canada. We achieve this goal by staying true to five key principles:

  • Controlling growth to only what fits our environment and our economics;
  • Protecting our cultural and natural heritage resources and greenspaces
  • Providing the high-quality facilities and services our residents need and want;
  • Keeping our finances strong and healthy; and
  • Engaging and expanding mutual understanding and cooperation with our Provincial counterparts.

MoneySense Magazine also recognized Oakville as the best place for New Canadians, the third best place to retire and the fifth best place to raise a family (and best in Ontario!).

Our neighbours across Halton were also recognized. Burlington, Halton Hills, and Milton enjoyed success in various categories and in the overall MoneySense Magazine national rankings.

2018 was also a year of strong economic growth in Oakville.

New employers commencing operations in town since my last speech created more than 1,600 new jobs in the community.

In last year’s Economic speech, I announced that we would be welcoming 700 new employees at Aviva Canada. Aviva Canada moved into their new Canadian headquarters on North Service Road last June.

Oakville’s manufacturing sector experienced significant growth with the emergence of a new cluster of business doing innovation in additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing.

Additive manufacturing enhances the manufacturing supply chain locally, and has broad applications across several key sectors. Burloak Technologies, a division of Samuel, Son & Co. opened a 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence on South Service Road.

Weight Watchers’ new corporate office location on Joshua Creek Drive is around the corner from Farm Boy’s new 23 000 square foot fresh market location.

Thankfully, we have not had the plant closures or reductions being seen in Oshawa and Whitby and Windsor.

I’m happy for the way the Ford Motor Company, Oakville’s largest employer, remains committed to our town. At the recent Auto Mayors Meeting in Oshawa we heard from General Motors and industry experts and they painted an exciting picture of a new world of mobility from the auto sector, and all cities and towns are going to have some work ahead of us to get ready for it.

We also welcomed more than 560 000 square feet of new commercial and industrial development in Oakville’s employment lands. Until this gets absorbed we are about 17 per cent overbuilt in commercial business space on a town-wide basis. By contrast, the vacancy rate in downtown Oakville has been holding at about 13 per cent ever since the reconstruction of the main business street became required due to the inevitable debilitation of the road bed after so many years.

Downtown Oakville is the heart of our community and the reconstruction project is an opportunity to ensure the viability of the area in the long term.

Construction will be completed in two six-month phases over a two-year period. Phase one will take place on Lakeshore Road between Navy Street and Dunn Street.

We will see and enjoy the benefit of the completed Phase One section this November with all its new features. I encourage everyone to head downtown and support our local restaurants and shops.

Last fall during the municipal election the Oakville Chamber outlined the business community’s priorities through their “Roadmap for Business Success” campaign.

The Chamber said its key priorities are: Transportation, Talent Recruiting and Retention, Innovation, and Business Competitiveness.

On the transportation file we are expanding our major arterial roads in Oakville. We will continue to work to improve traffic congestion for residents and businesses with our new smart traffic technology.

You can wish for better, but please remember we have less congestion that the rest of the GTA!

Our livability continues to attract and retain employers, innovators, and people who want to live here and is a key part of the Oakville advantage.

To the extent that housing affordability helps recruitment and retention, consider our record on this need.

The province requires at least 30 per cent of new housing units produced annually in Halton must be affordable or assisted housing. Oakville has consistently exceeded this requirement with 51 per cent of new sales below Oakville’s provincially designated affordable price of $470,000.

For innovation, we rely on innovation to create efficiencies that allowed us to double your facilities and improve your services with such low tax increases.

Oakville’s high standard in performance data collection also reflects the Town’s commitment to innovation and transparency as we continue to improve Canada’s most livable town. Our performance data collection helps us measure how well we’re meeting the needs of our citizens, track our progress over time, and benchmark our performance against other world-class cities.

As for business competitiveness, Chamber members identified the elements of business competitiveness as being taxation, red tape, and cost of housing. We’ve cut Oakville’s tax rate each year since 2008. As part of our continuing efforts to improve Oakville’s business competitiveness, at its meeting next week, Regional Council will be considering a report I prompted, recommending we reduce the industrial tax rate by almost 14%.

I hope this reduction will be welcomed by Ford and our other industrial companies across Halton as a good business competitiveness move.

Council’s prudent Performance-Based, Program-Based budgeting has allowed us to keep property tax increases for residents in line with or lower than inflation and trending downward ever since we adopted it – reversing the previous trend before our budgetary reform.

At the same time, we improved services and doubled our community facilities – literally spending efficiencies more than tax hikes.

Now, looking to the future, the Town is currently developing a new five-year Economic Development strategy with the goal to further strengthen and diversify the local economy. The new Economic Development strategy will be available for review on the Invest Oakville website after Monday.

Your advice and ideas are welcome on how to reduce red tape and ensure that our goals and priorities are in line with the needs of the business community. The draft was developed in consultation with local businesses, community partners like the Oakville Chamber, Sheridan College, Halton Healthcare, and residents.

Even before we renew our Economic Strategy, our award-winning current plan is still delivering results.

I am happy to provide an update on our results:  LL Bean announced that its first Canadian location will be opening in the Oakville Place Mall; and Goodlife Fitness and other stores will also be joining LL Bean there.

An exciting new anchor tenant will soon be moving into the 360 Building on Oakville Place Drive along with 500 to 600 jobs. And that’s not all.

Samuel, Son & Company will be moving its operations from Mississauga and is investing in a new 55,000 square foot facility on Ironoak Way, which will bring approximately 200 jobs to Oakville. This will be their second major project in Oakville over the last two years.

With several other major investments in the works, 2019 is shaping up to be another year of new company arrivals and job growth.

Our 2019 Citizen Survey identified “attracting new companies to Oakville” as a top priority for economic growth. I hope the citizens notice that we’re delivering results.

The 2019 Citizen Survey had other interesting findings: 81 per cent of Oakville residents surveyed expressed overall satisfaction with the government of the Town of Oakville.

The Oakville Beaver noted that our 81 per cent compares to a 61 per cent average province-wide and only 68 per cent in the rest of the 905. These positive survey results could not have been better in light of the province’s regional review panel now examining Oakville and Halton Region’s governance structure, decision-making, and service delivery. As part of the review, the government website and online survey are asking:

“Are two-tier structures appropriate for all of these municipalities?”

This question is about amalgamation.

In my meeting with the two-person panel leading the review I was asked if I favoured “any structural changes?” For example, moving to single-tier municipality or “amalgamating” existing municipalities? All the other Mayors I spoke to were asked the same questions across the province.

Halton’s five Heads of Council (Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, Oakville, and the Region of Halton) wrote to the review panel and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and informed them that the existing governance structure in Halton can be credited for:

  • Keeping regional property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation
  • Consistent strong growth in jobs
  • 98% resident approval rating on customer service.  
  • And a AAA credit rating, the highest possible rating that can be assigned by a credit rating agency – higher than the province’s AA.

At our most recent Halton Regional Council we received a report that Moodys had reaffirmed Halton Region’s AAA credit rating. Moodys also noted the provincial government’s ongoing regional governance review and stated that it “will be monitoring the outcome of this process and any impact it may have on the region's credit profile.”

If you’re in business, you understand this language as the warning it is.

We value our high credit rating because it signals to businesses that we are a stable environment for new investment. It also lowers the cost of our borrowing when we do.

History has shown us that previous amalgamations have resulted in higher costs for municipalities and higher taxes on businesses, and residents.

We would not be able to build or improve the infrastructure we need and businesses would lose the Oakville advantage. Forced amalgamation or any drastic and disruptive changes will harm our credit rating and there is only one direction it can go from best.

The Town would also lose its ability to protect our Livable Oakville Plan and the character of our neighbourhoods.

Since the review was announced concerned residents have joined together like the community we are and started letter-writing campaigns to our MPPs and the government in support of Oakville and the existing governance structure. You may have also noticed the lawn signs across Town that say “We Love Oakville, Stop Amalgamation.” In the last four weeks I’ve been copied on 1,000 emails to the government against amalgamation.

As Mayor, I have never seen this volume of letters or emails on any other issue in any amount of time. This is the sense of community and level of engagement that makes Oakville the city that calls itself a town and feels like a village. Our community’s efforts and position on this issue have been noticed by other municipalities, our MPPs, and even the Premier.

Earlier this week, I was able to join some of you in Burlington for Premier Ford’s speech.

When asked about the provincial review, Premier Ford answered:

“I really believe, and it goes back to my roots of being a councillor, we have to empower the cities and the towns themselves. Nothing is worse than the province, you know, dictating this, that and the other thing. That’s why we always say, “Opt in or opt out.” And that’s what we’re focusing on more. Let the communities decide.”

I liked the sound of that.

The province has also now extended the deadline for their online survey and added brief opportunities for a few public deputations with the review panel. If you want Ontario’s new Government for the People to do what you, the people, want, doesn’t it stand to logic that you’ve got to let them know?

The business community carries a lot of influence with this Premier and his Cabinet.

I invite Oakville’s business community to join our citizens and submit their opinions to the province and voice their views or concerns on this issue facing Oakville. Some of our biggest businesses have done so.

When will the Chamber take or voice a position on the amalgamation question? Presumably there’s no Oakville Chamber if there’s no Oakville, eh?

Curious minds want to know, where’s the Chamber? Don’t be a Waldo. Let us see where you stand.

On a lighter note, I always wanted to go down in history, but not for being the last Mayor of my hometown.

So let’s be optimistic now that we have Tuesday’s commitment by Premier Ford to let communities decide their own destiny.

I look forward to more details about what we’re going to have the chance to “opt” in or out of.

There are things we should all prefer the provincial government to do to benefit Oakville much more that this review ever could. Just fulfill one of the main commitments that they campaigned on: be open for business. How?

The new provincial government can demonstrate that they are open for business in Oakville by updating their growth plan so that the Life Science Innovation Business Park next to the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital can become a reality. This is a project estimated to create upwards of 12 000 jobs. The province can also assist us in Midtown Oakville with its own Urban Growth Centre (UGC).

The province could bring to market its land in the UGC so developers can transform this area into the urban mixed-use community it’s supposed to be for about another 8,000 jobs.

The Province did help us in yesterday’s budget. The new Halton Courthouse announced by the last government was confirmed. That will attract office developments.

On the other hand, the budget yesterday cancelled the previous government’s commitment to increased provincial gas tax for municipalities.

But, thanks to the Federal Budget, Oakville will receive an extra $5.9 million of federal gas tax for infrastructure. Speaking of federal money for municipalities, last week the provincial minister of infrastructure called me with great news.

He said that when he opens his application process for the federal money for cities and towns, there will be about $50 million for Oakville. No other Minister of Infrastructure ever gave me a call, let alone such a pleasant one! It will be even better when it comes true!

Let’s continue our focus to keep Oakville the most Livable Town in Canada.

Let’s make Oakville not only the Best Place to Live but also the Best Place to Work and operate a business.

I’m here to listen to and help you. Thank you for your time this morning. It’s great working with you and the Town we all love. We built this town with love of our past and courage for our future. Oakville is forever, you can just feel it. May God continue to bless our Town.

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!

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:

  • Oakville’s town finances are remain the healthiest in Ontario.
  • Oakville’s unemployment rate remains below the Provincial average.
  • 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.


Every year for five years now, the Chamber of Commerce has given me a chance to offer what we may call a report card on our town’s economic status. Today you’re going to get something new, too.

You’re still going to get my report on how we’re working to make Oakville a great place to live and make a living and grow our economy. Today, you’re also going to hear how we all can work together as partners to grow the economy even more and improve this Town’s livability for years down the road -- for everyone.

An outstanding fiscal health foundation

First, let’s talk about what Council has achieved for you and what that makes possible. Our municipal government is different than the rest. We have a system of budgeting that seeks and achieves efficiency. We focus on end results. That means we act the same way your businesses do. We, like you, always look to find the most efficient way to get the best possible outcome for each dollar.

In fact, our fiscal health has been catching some attention.

Dr. Enid Slack is the Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the University of Toronto. In her recent book, the professor ranked Oakville number one in fiscal health, 32 per cent stronger than our nearest competitor. What’s that mean for you?

For eight years in a row we’ve kept property tax increases at or below inflation. We’ve kept our triple-A credit rating secure. We’ve done all that without cutting the services residents and businesses value.

In short, we do more and increase taxes less than those before us and less than those around us.

Livability for economic development

Now, Oakville’s economic outlook has never been better. We are attractive to global industrial leaders. Ford’s employment level is at amazing levels. And we’re creating an environment where more small- and medium-sized businesses can survive and thrive.

Council makes it a goal to attract and support four key sectors as part of our economic development strategy. Those are advanced manufacturing, life sciences, knowledge-based industries, and digital media.

Now, there are more than four types of industries in Oakville. We know that. We target these four to create a strategic foundation. That’s because these four sectors in particular spark so much of the innovation and productivity advances that help grow the whole economy.

Council’s plan for Oakville’s economic growth works. Every year we attract new businesses and investment. Council has done its part to be part of a climate where your business can increase success. You don’t have to take my word for it. Let me show you how some leaders in Oakville’s tech industry feel.

Now you can see why I have such confidence in our town's future. Oakville is a place where a business can grow. This is recognized in our Town, around the GTA, and as far as our sister city in Huai‘an, China.

I believe the key to Oakville’s success in attracting and retaining investment is our livability. In today’s economy, businesses have to compete for talent. Oakville has the education facilities it needs to train new talent, and the livability we need to attract and retain talent.

Livability for all

Over the last ten years we’ve always looked for new ways to improve our town’s livability. And we’ll keep at it.

But over the next ten years and beyond I think we can do more to make our economy work for everyone.

According to 2011 data from Statistics Canada, the percentage of Oakville’s population living below the Low Income Measure sits at 8.6 per cent. That’s well below the provincial average of 14 per cent, but I don’t see this as a reason to be satisfied.

You know, around the world, national and provincial governments seem to treat poverty a lot like they treat their debt.

Just as the world’s national governments only pay the interest on their debt without reducing the principal, they have been only providing the bare minimum of support for those who need help. And only when you hit bottom.

That approach reminds me of only paying off the interest on the national debt. It’s just scratching the surface!

Now, keep in mind that in the Town of Oakville, we do better than that. Our tax-supported debt was more than $24 million ten years ago. This year we will have it down to $6 million.

The only debt we like on the town’s books is debt that’s paid for by other sources than taxes. So we have steadily paid down the principal on tax-supported debt to reduce the interest we pay and free up revenue for your services. Our success everywhere else makes me believe Oakville has what it takes to be able to deal with the principle causes of poverty, too.

Our poverty rate is two-thirds the provincial average. Our finances are the healthiest in the Province. So if our problem is smaller, and our ability to deal with it is greater, doesn’t it make sense that if Oakville can’t fix poverty, nobody can?

I bring this up today with you because I believe tackling poverty will stimulate our economy.

And the business community can participate and benefit from reducing poverty. This is another opportunity for the public-private partnerships that the Chamber is such a big fan of. This week the Chamber said its members want to participate in public/private partnerships to deliver health services. Well, it’s not so very big a step to partner for social services, too.

The next ten years

It is difficult to discuss our next ten years in just ten minutes. But what I can assure you is that Council and I have a plan for Oakville for the next ten years and beyond. It’s called Vision 2057. Like any good business, we believe in long range planning.

What’s new today is I’m asking you, the public, and Council to help improve our vision and help explore new ways to make Oakville move livable for everyone, including those whose life has hit storms they could not weather and left them with little hope and little participation in the success of the Town.

Over the next ten years, local government can do even more for the economy than build bridges to new markets outside Oakville, or among the BIAs and their customers, as we have been doing with great success.

Local government can and must help create new partnerships between business and community groups -- to benefit us all.

My optimism flows from seeing how business engages with our community. Look at the $3 million dollars worth of solar panels HATCH donated to the new hospital, to earn on-going annual revenue for the hospital. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! Look how local businesses help fund the Oakville Arts Council.

We all see and appreciate what businesses do to make Oakville a more livable place.

So just as I set a goal ten years ago, today I’m asking if we can set another goal to show we can do more to make Oakville work for everyone.

Ten years ago, I saw no reason to believe Oakville shouldn’t aspire to be Canada’s most livable town.

I saw no reason to believe we couldn’t control growth.

I saw no reason we couldn’t grow a strong, successful economy.

I saw no reason we couldn’t have the healthiest municipal government finances in the Province.

With the help of you, Oakville businesses, and Council, and our fantastic town staff and our vibrant volunteer sector, we are doing all that.

Today, I see no reason why Oakville couldn’t be the first town in Canada with a comprehensive plan to fundamentally change for the better our approach to poverty and community well-being -- for everyone, including those who dreamed their lives would be so different than the despair they’re living with.

This surely will require partnership and consultation and time. But it surely will make us able to do more for all. Ultimately, the most fulfilling work we can do together is to make the place we live and love so much a better place. I like to say the meaning of life is to find the meaning of life.

And for those whom the unlucky breaks of life have killed the dreams they dreamed, let’s aim to make it possible to restore their chances at finding dignity, hope, and meaning for their lives. Thank you.

Thank you very much for the kind introduction. It’s most impressive, the efforts the Chamber team puts into their events every year. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our business community. Our sponsors deserve our thanks, too: Cogeco Canada, Ford Motor Company of Canada, CN, Empire Communities and Union Gas. You are so much of the strength of our community. We appreciate you. We appreciate the breakfast you’ve made possible, too.

Distinguished guests, my fellow members of Council, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for your interest in this economic update on our town. Updating the Chamber each year is one of the things I look forward to most of all. It provides the opportunity to describe our challenges and opportunities on our path forward. It provides the opportunity to look at where we are now. And it is a chance for a report card to date of trying to make this Canada’s livable town.

All of you play a pivotal role in the economy of Oakville. You are the leaders and innovators that drive our economy. You know the true value of hard work and creativity and I’m proud to tell you that your Council knows it too. Our creativity and hard work have allowed all of us to build a solid foundation for success for our town. Council and I believe that Oakville’s livability is what creates our success and our success helps create more livability. It’s a virtuous circle. Businesses want to be here. People want to be here. People want to raise their families here. People want to retire here. I believe that everybody, everywhere in Canada wants to someday call Oakville home. Everybody knows we have something special here.

Former Mayor Harry Barrett caught the essence of that when he taught people to say, and I hope that you’ll allow me to teach you to say, “Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and feels like a village”. He liked to say it and I like to say it, to stress that we will never change our title from town to city. There’s absolutely no difference in status or finance or rules or powers between the two words – there’s just a feeling, the Oakville feeling and that’s why we stick to the word town. That saying also captures the essence of our livability, it’s our small town feel and Council and I work very hard to protect that.

We continuously work to improve our livability by challenging the status quo. How we challenge the status quo is by controlling growth, debt and taxes to just what fits economically and environmentally. We continuously increase the efficiencies of what we do. We know that this town doesn’t want to spend a penny more than it has to to enjoy the fine services that it wants to have from its municipal government.

I’m going to make it clear in my remarks that we have two municipal service corporations and most of your Oakville Council and I are on both of them. We all have the same power on each, which is just one vote. We focus on controlling growth because growth causes new taxes, and that’s because of the way the Development Charges Act forces taxpayers to subsidize developers. We’re focused on keeping finances strong and stable even if some of the Province’s laws make that challenging. We’re focused on building facilities that promote our health and our vitality. We’re focused on creating a cleaner, greener and safer Oakville. Our finances are strong. Our economy is booming. Our personal health is great. Our green space is the healthiest you can find in any community anywhere and that’s because we fight so hard to keep it and enhance it. And, our safety is the envy of everyone in the country. Let’s look at each of these four areas, finance, economy, health, and safety.

First, town finances.

Before you elected me as your mayor, your total tax increases averaged 65 per cent more than inflation. Over my last term as mayor, your tax increases averaged 20 per cent below inflation.

In a country that mandates two per cent inflation, and that’s our country, you cannot freeze taxes without having to give things up and I have not met any Oakville residents who want to give up anything that they’ve received from their town or for that matter, in their own lives – we like our services. This year, consistent with Council’s promise to keep total tax increases at or below inflation — the total property tax increase is 1.7 per cent. Inflation stood, for the GTA, at 1.8 per cent last month when we adopted the budget. It’s a promise kept, again, five years in a row.

Now, when we look at our neighbours, Burlington’s tax increase is 2.06 per cent, Mississauga’s is 2.2 per cent, Toronto’s is 2.5 per cent, and Hamilton’s increase has just come in at 2.7 per cent. All these comparisons are on the same apples to apples basis, the total bottom line, the total cost of paying taxes. We manage the finances of the region, the town and the police comprehensively. We fit together the taxes that are required to support the town, the region and the police to keep that total of that tax increase at or below inflation. When any element needs to go up, we seek offsets in all other elements to keep to our target and I’d like to think that’s just what any other business would do.

More than half of Oakville’s Town Council, as I’ve said, has the same power over the finances of each of the town, the region and the police – one vote. So you should not be surprised that we like to report the changes in financial position of the town, the region and the police both as a consolidated total result and also by the individual parts. We want you to know how the individual parts are moving but we also want you to know how they fit together.

Our commitment to controlling taxes helps businesses as well. Oakville’s business tax rate is 1.9 per cent, while our neighbouring cities are at 1.95 per cent and 2.1 per cent. What you get for your taxes is more than just an ever more livable town that attracts the kind of people businesses want to hire to be successful.

Your taxes also provide improved mobility. We continue to strive to make it easier for residents and businesses to move, invest and shop in our community. Transit helps employees get to work. Transit reduces traffic congestion. I try to remind myself when I find myself stuck in traffic that I am traffic. Transit helps alleviate traffic congestion.

With our investment in our new Intelligent Transportation System, this year, people will be able to easily track the bus they want on their smart phones to move around town with ease. If you are worried about catching the bus, you no longer have to go stand and wait in the rain or the cold hoping that you’re there in time for the bus – you’ll be able to know and go efficiently and expeditiously to the bus stop.

We know people need enhanced mobility all across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA). The mayors of the GTHA are working together and have been working together for some years now, to create the improvements we all want to see. We know there is plenty of room to improve mobility, housing and the rest of the economy. But still, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area is recognized as one of the very best places in the world to live and do business, so we start in a very good place. The Premier’s cooperation with municipalities can help make us even more successful.

This Premier has already collaborated with Mayors to do more. This Premier is already working collaboratively with the Auto-Mayors on legislation for the automotive sector, for example. On March 24, 2015 an historic meeting took place with the Premier and every Mayor and Chair in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. We discussed ways, in a very candid meeting, to improve the ways we work together to improve our residents’ lives. We are now, in my opinion, on the threshold of an exciting new time of cooperation and collaboration among municipalities and the Province. Businesses and residents will be the beneficiaries. We want to make everything across the GTHA work better, for you. If you live here, you may work somewhere else. If you have a business here, you may ship your goods somewhere else. If you provide services, you may travel across the GTAH. We know that business needs efficiency and that productivity is very important and we are out to make a significant difference in this area.

This means the year ahead will see review and coordination of the plans by which we run our cities and towns and the province. Any successful business needs to always check and adapt its plans in response to changes in its environment and customer’s needs.

A critical component of our review of municipal and provincial plans is public impact — we will be seeking public feedback and we’ll come to you to get it, that’s how much we want it.

One plan that we don’t need to review is our Economic Development Strategy here at the Town of Oakville. It’s relatively new, and our economic development plan seems to be working.

This leads me to the second area of this report, our economy. Our local economy is firing on all cylinders when you look at the big picture. We are especially successful in attracting high quality new jobs to town. We focus on attracting new companies and growing established companies.

Our four targeted sectors are advanced manufacturing, professional services, life sciences and digital media and we’re doing very well there. Oakville businesses created 1,700 jobs in 2014, exceeding our annual goal of 1,000 new jobs. Creating a positive environment at the town and region to attract investment and jobs is working.

We have a much lower unemployment rate than the GTA and Ontario. In 2014, our unemployment rate was 4.4 per cent. My undergraduate degree is in economics and economists consider 4 per cent to be full employment. If you had zero unemployment – that would be very hard to find a worker when you need one. There is a concept of a certain amount of flexibility required in economy with regards to work. This rate, at 4.4 per cent was the lowest in Ontario. With these numbers, we receive the respect attached to the work we’ve done to create winning conditions, so you, our businesses can produce these new jobs.

Oakville’s automotive sector is an especially strong driver of employment, innovation and productivity that stimulates our community’s economy. Across the province, it has that same effect and it has a huge multiplier effect – every direct automotive job is said to be worth 9 or 10 indirect jobs. The automotive sector is strong, it is not a thing of the past or to give up on— we should fight to keep it and I hope together we will do that.

As Chair of the Auto Mayors Coalition, it’s been great to see the municipal and provincial levels working together to strengthen the automotive success story. Our goal is there to promote awareness, advocacy and strategic policy initiatives to keep the automotive sector strong and grow it. Oakville will host another industry stakeholder and Auto Mayor Roundtable on May 15, 2015 to keep moving forward on this front. Ford’s leadership in the auto industry has been crucial to get this initiative going. Thank you Ford.

Our economic results include new construction. Last year, the total construction value of commercial building permits issued increased over 39 per cent from the previous year to over $148 million. New construction of $105 million accounted for 71 per cent of the permits issued— almost double the previous year.

As good as our economy is, we have some rough patches, and I don’t want to look away from them. Council is working to create more winning conditions for businesses in our historic main street shopping areas: Bronte Village, Kerr Street Village and the Downtown. We look forward to our next Council meeting on April 13, 2015.

Staff will report on the Downtown Transportation and Streetscape options. This report will help shape the next steps of the revitalization of Downtown Oakville. We appreciate how the Chamber has volunteered to be of help in this process, stepping forward as soon as it became clear that all of us needed to pull together to make this part of our economy, so I thank you.

The third area of this economic update report is our health. We are, quite simply, the healthiest community in the country. And our new state-of-the-art super hospital can only make our health better. Our new hospital is set to open at the end of this year. Your Council made this possible without raising property taxes or electric bills.

This state-of-the-art hospital will add close to 1,000 additional new staff for the hospital. When it opens this year, a whole era of new and improved healthcare services will be available to our community. We are already the healthiest community in Canada. Our residents already live the longest of any community in Canada. And, our health infrastructure is going to pay dividends in increases to our health, and our longevity. Our new hospital will also pay dividends to our economic health. A Life Sciences Technology Park is planned adjacent to the new hospital.

The Life Sciences Tech Park will be a $1.5 billion health sciences campus. The campus will have 4.5 million square feet development of a medical centre, research incubator, hotel, conference facility, office buildings, residential tower and shopping district. It will result in thousands of new jobs, upwards of 12,500 jobs.

The fourth area of this economic update is our safety. We are the safest community in the country for the eighth year in a row. In Ontario, the Police Services Act calls for policing to be effective and efficient. As Chair of the Halton Regional Police Services Board, it is my pleasure to tell you that we are the safest and most efficient. We are the safest community and the most efficient force.

With a very high and climbing success rate for solving crime, our police are also among the very most effective. You will not find a better police force anywhere. Everyone benefits from outstanding policing. Business benefits from outstanding policing, too. Our police force works diligently with business on many fronts to guard against fraud and other kinds of crime that could hurt your bottom line.

So. Town finances. Our economy. Our Health. Our Safety. We can be and we are proud of what we are achieving together in our town with our hard work and our innovation and creativity.

In business, if you are a leader you stand out from the rest. Look at Apple — they are a stand out success, a top brand. Apple has high consumer approval. Well, not to compare Oakville to the success of Apple as a brand, but Oakville is a top brand in communities. People aspire to live here. You should be proud of that, you should be happy about that to if you own a house here because it means it’s likely to go up not down. Satisfaction with the town’s programs and services is extra ordinarily high. Eighty-seven per cent of Oakville residents surveyed last fall stated that they were delighted with their municipal government. Eighty-five percent were elated with town services. We would like to ensure that 100 per cent when we get those results and we dedicate ourselves to working hard to achieve that outcome. We want everybody to be happy. If you have an idea, this Council wants to hear from you. We are a Council that listens. The proudest moment of my career as your Mayor was the evening when we passed the new Official Plan, when a resident leader stood up and said these words, “it feels so good to live in a town where Council listens.” We have dedicated ourselves on Council to keep that spirit and that feeling alive.

We are continuing on our path to create a greener, cleaner, safer, healthier and even more livable town — with lower rates of growth in population, taxes and tax-paid debt than we used to take for granted. There is only one Oakville and it is our commitment to our livability that drives our success and will keep Oakville the place that it is. We owe much of this success to you – the businesses, our residents, town staff, our Council and the many wonderful residents who volunteer to keep strong our charities and other volunteer groups who are working with people in need and social help. These sources create the livability that we are known for in everything we do.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s ask all the members of Council to stand up for a moment of recognition. These are the people who are working so tirelessly and effectively for you. You’ve just heard my report of how well they are serving you and our town we all love so much.

If you like what you’ve been getting from your elected representatives, you should tell them, a little appreciation goes a long way to encourage people to continue to give you the results you like. As for me, I applaud all of them and all of you for making Oakville all that it can be and I know that together that we will continue on the upward path that our town has been on throughout its history.

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.

My deepest thanks to the team at the Oakville Chamber for today’s event. John & the Chamber team do a fantastic job, don’t they? Our sponsors this morning have earned our thanks, too, not just today, but many times over. Ford Motor Company of Canada, Sheridan College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, Carttera, and Cogeco. They make a difference, every day, for our town. Their on-going contributions to our town create a stronger community for us all.

MPP Kevin Flynn. Halton Region Chair Gary Carr. My Council colleagues: Ralph Robinson and Alan Johnston, the Ward 1 Bronte team. Pam Damoff and Cathy Duddeck, the Ward 2 South Central team. Dave Gittings and Keith Bird, the Ward 3 southeast team. Allan Elgar and Roger Lapworth, the Ward 4 northwest team. Jeff Knoll and Marc Grant, the Ward 5 north central team. Tom Adams and Max Khan, the Ward 6 northeast team. Old friends. Future friends. Ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for coming out today. We need to talk. We need to talk about our town’s present opportunities. We need to talk about our town’s future challenges. There are two kinds of challenges: threats and opportunities. I’m going to tell you about two of each kind. We in Oakville know how to face both kinds – and succeed. Our residents are resourceful and successful. Our community has many strong ties that bind us together. We volunteer. We give back. We love our town.

And now that the Town of Richmond Hill wants to call itself a city, we will be Canada’s largest town. Lately, the media often ask me when will Oakville call itself a city. I always give the same answer: never! Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and acts like a village. We call ourselves a ‘town’ because ‘town’ sounds warmer and friendlier than ‘city.’ Our warm and friendly welcome speeds newcomers to successful places in our livable community.

Oakville is known for livability because in everything we do, Council and I believe in challenging the status quo to find continuous improvement in efficiencies and amenities. We want our families to enjoy life in Canada's most livable town. We challenge the status quo by controlling growth, debt and taxes to only what fits environmentally and economically. We save green space. We plant trees. We’ll reach our 40% urban forest canopy goal by 2057.

We add community facilities we lived without for too long. Council and I have added 800,000 square feet of new community facilities to the 2006 total of 1.1 million. By 2017, we'll complete the next phase of our facilities needs. We’re able to do that because we constantly strengthen our finances to make our progress affordable. For example, we cut tax-paid debt by a third, by making growth pay its costs to the limit allowed.

We're focused on continuing to move down the rate of increases of both the residents' total property tax bill and the total property tax levy by relentlessly working to increase efficiency. From 2002 to 2006, the four years before I was mayor, the total property tax levy increased an average of 7% a year. In my first term as mayor, it averaged 5% a year. This term, the total property tax levy will increase an average of 3% a year.

What’s really amazing is we haven't sacrificed our valued town and region services in achieving our 7%-5%-3% direction. We do it by managing the finances of the town and the region together so as to keep the total of any increase at or under inflation. Half of town council and I are on the region’s council as well as the town’s council. What we're creating is a greener, cleaner, more livable town with lower rates of growth in population and taxes.

Our steady focus on increasing efficiency, value and livability will keep paying off for everyone. And it will keep us strong. So strong, that we will make our 2015 donation to the cost of our new hospital without using taxes for it, thanks to new revenues we’re earning from renewable energy projects.

Oakville’s Fiscal Strength

We can never take our strength for granted. We have to continue to make Oakville strong – and competitive.

There are clear signs that we’re making significant progress on all levels. A recent provincial economic update forecast Ontario’s economy to grow at a rate of roughly 2% in 2013. RBC suggests it’ll be closer to 2.4%. RBC optimistically expects Ontario economic growth to expand to 2.8% in 2014. Even if you’re not as optimistic as the bank is, I know from my business experience that one always prefers an optimistic bank to a pessimistic bank when one needs credit to expand.

And business is expanding. Ontario creates close to half of Canada’s new jobs. The provincial unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been since 2008. A 2012 report for the Financial Times ranked Ontario third among US states and Canadian provinces in winning foreign direct investment projects. More than 350,000 net new jobs have been created since the recessionary low point in June 2009. Ontario has weathered the storm. Some businesses retooled. Some people retrained.

My economics professor taught us the only positive way to look at a recession. “Recessions,” he said, “are nature’s way of saying, try something new.” Our resilience and our comeback as an economy are our reward. Oakville has a positive piece of this good economic trajectory, too. In 2012, we’ve seen the creation of 1,200 new jobs in Oakville. Our unemployment rate is less than 6%, which is well below the provincial average of 7.8%.There was over 1.1 million square feet of non-residential construction. The total value was greater than $221 million.

And you can be proud of how your municipal government is doing, too. With all we’ve done for the last 6 years, as of 2012, Oakville had the 6th lowest tax rate of the 84 largest Ontario municipalities. And our trend is for continued lower tax rates.

By 2014 our tax rate will be at least 12% lower than it was when I began in 2007. This, while Oakville enjoys one of the highest levels of services and facilities in the country. There are places with a lower tax levy per capita (and a lower assessment base per capita), and they all have fewer services and facilities. Council and I are trusted to provide the services and facilities that Oakville families voted for and continue to tell us they want. And we’re doing it with an unrelenting pursuit of value.

At the town and the region, we passed our 2013 Budgets in December. Our 2013 budgets are the best we've done on the tax control front. Our tax increase is less than 1.5%, and it’s 15% lower than Toronto’s, without any cuts to vital services such as police and fire, and with the added cost of our new QEPCCC. In fact, Oakville has the best financial position per capita in the GTA. And no one in Ontario of our size or larger has more. Maybe you’re wondering, how are we accomplishing this?

I learned during a long career in film and television and while creating and launching YTV, continuously working to make your operations leaner and more efficient allows you to do more. That’s why we adopted performance based program budgeting, or PB2. Of all Council and I have done and achieved together, this business-like conduct of the town's work is what I am most proud of. PB2 pays for outcomes of programs and services and replaces departmental budgeting.

It's a culture shift. PB2 creates a corporate culture of value, performance and efficiency-seeking. We always ask: what are we making happen? How can we do it more effectively and more productively? Since implementing PB2, we have achieved nearly $7 million in annualized operational efficiencies. That’s $7 million of taxes we didn’t have to raise. That’s $7 million a year that helped us provide the increased facilities and services voters wanted.

We freed up existing funds to put toward the costs of the things we said we’d do. We increased services and facilities while steadily bringing down the annual rate of increase of taxes from 7 to 5 to 3%. So although our tax levy per capita is greater than average, we get above average services and facilities for it that others don’t have.

We have faster fire response times. We have more road maintenance and road quality. We have more and faster transit. We increased the care of, and the amount of, our parks and open space. We have a more beautiful, better-kept appearance for our town. We increased resources for our public libraries. We have earlier snow clearing. We mow our parks and boulevards more often. We pick up household leaf collections in more areas. We have fully funded infrastructure renewal. These are what makes Oakville, Oakville.

These are the above average things you’d have to give up to have an average levy per capita.

To have an average levy per capita, you would have to be happy with only average services. People in Oakville think of themselves as better than average. And if anyone can name us another municipality that's better run, our philosophy is to learn from it – and be better! The biggest part of our culture of continuous improvement seeking is the mindset of creating value, performance and efficiency. That’s let us reduce our facilities deficits with new facilities while lowering the rate of tax increases.

These new facilities enable the more active lifestyle Oakville families have told us that they want. We’ve also slowed down population growth as well as the annual growth in the property tax levy. And if we’re going to continue to grow, we’ve made sure that growth pays for itself everywhere possible. We increased development charges to maximize the revenue we collect for growth. As we speak developers are taking us to the OMB to fight us. For the fourth time.

This is a threat type of challenge. Threats are challenges that could make things worse. We face two threat challenges. The first threat is, developers want to make us finance them like York Region does. York finances infrastructure for residential developers. We don’t. York has levels of debt that we can’t imagine taking on. And the debt the developers want us to take on would be at our risk, not the developers’.

Our municipal debt for Oakville is 6% of revenues. Debt on a consolidated basis for Oakville and Halton is 28% of revenues. Halton alone is 36%. York is 117%. Ontario is about 200%. The federal government is about 250%. We have a triple A credit rating. Ontario doesn’t. Those developers don’t. That’s why your Oakville and Halton councils and I don’t like fiscal advice from Queen’s Park or Ottawa – or from developers. Oakville is financially strong and stable.

We’ve been more prudent in our financial planning. If we are resolute and win, our future is ours for the making.

That’s not to say the future will be without challenges. The developers are challenging us now. The second challenge that we need to talk about is Ontario’s Big Move GTA transit plan. The Big Move plan has a $34B hole in its funding. Let’s call that the Big Money. The Province will reveal on June 1 how it thinks we’re all going to pay the Big Money for the Big Move.

For the last two years, the Toronto Board of Trade and John Tory have been working on the Mayors of the GTA to get us to support new taxes to come up with that Big Money for the Big Move. Now, the budget chair and the mayor of the City of Toronto have come out and said they’ll fight any taxes or tolls to pay for the Big Move. “Adamantly,” the Mayor said. This means that the Toronto Board of Trade and Mr. Tory have not been able to bring their own city and their own Mayor to the table.

Tomorrow, the Mayors of the GTA are meeting with Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, to decide what to do. I can tell you that if Toronto doesn’t want to pay its own way, I have trouble imagining any of you wanting to subsidize them. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Do you want to give Toronto a free ride again? I say “again” because we only just got out of subsidizing Toronto taxpayers ever since 1998. Oakville sent Toronto $17 million a year.

We and the rest of the 905 were subsidizing Toronto property tax payers with hundreds of millions of our property tax dollars, while Toronto had and still has the lower tax rate! Worse, they didn’t even have any awareness of it. And when they were told, they never so much as said, thank you. And look, this really is Big Money that’s wanted for the Big Move. It’s $2 billion a year for 20 or 25 years. How much is $2 billion a year in the GTA context?

We have 2.1 million households in the GTA. Let’s do the math. Spread $2 billion a year over 2.1 million households. You’re talking almost $1,000 a year per household. Take Toronto’s households out of the equation and you’re talking over $1,600 per household per year.

I heard former Toronto mayor David Crombie speak the other night. He made me think of Toronto as a very hungry neighbour. Toronto’s record, he said, going back in all its history, is a history of constantly trying to absorb the resources of its hinterlands. Toronto has extra tax powers that were supposed to help it keep down their property tax rate. We don’t have those tax powers. And Toronto has a lower tax rate than any of us in the 905. Doesn’t take too much imagination to see Toronto positioning itself for another tax grab from its hinterlands – us – for the Big Move. Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

Toronto’s hunger for our money and the developers’ desire to turn us into their bank are our 2 big threat challenges. Now, let’s look at our 2 challenges of opportunity. We need to focus on asset performance. We have almost $2 billion of assets. Our ability to drive better asset performance will make a huge difference in everything we do in future. We have blocks of parking in Downtown Oakville. Land goes for $14 million an acre. Our asset earns us very little as parking.

We could add parking and office space above it. We would create more customers for downtown shops. We would all be better off. This might be something the Chamber could help get behind. Let’s turn to our 2nd challenge of opportunities. Opportunities are challenges that could make things better. This 2nd challenge is – what kind of economy do we want?

Economic Development Update

We are at a major point of inflection in our economic life. We have a wonderful opportunity to grow our Oakville economy in the best possible direction. 120 years ago we claimed we were the basket-making capital of this province. Seriously. Now we are on the threshold of being a head office park for the GTA and beyond. We have a made-in-Oakville economic development strategy that is award-winning – and working.

International industry leaders are noticing our livability. Livable Oakville is our civic brand. When business leaders move here, they tend to look for ways to bring their businesses here, too. When the business leaders who come here are with corporations with household names, so much the better. They’re bigger attractors. In my conversations with these leaders who are residents, they appreciate that we have a plan for Oakville and that it’s about our livability.

Oakville is an attractive place to live, to work and to do business – above all, to raise a family. We are a priority destination for new investment. We have a talented labour force. We have opportunities to partner with international industry leaders. Our economic development strategy focuses on companies in the businesses of Professional and Financial Services, Advanced Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Digital Media and Animation.

Our strategy was adopted by Council and is executed under the town’s Director of Economic Development, Dorothy St. George. All indications are that Oakville’s business community is thriving.

Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning is continuing to forge ahead, bolstered by $1.1m in federal funding and the creation of a research chair to leverage Sheridan’s leadership role in mobile computing. Sheridan students are even creating a world class mobile app for me.

This year, Pricewaterhouse Coopers will open its new offices in Oakville. Siemens celebrated its 100th anniversary in Canada here last year. Both companies are incredibly well respected internationally. I know they’ll add their knowledge and outstanding corporate citizenship to Oakville’s growing business community.

In another good news story, Ford turned an increased demand for its cars into a third shift at its Oakville assembly plant, creating 300 jobs.

First Canadian Title celebrated its 10th anniversary in Oakville. They’ve made many solid contributions to our community.

Our strong, caring community is home to strong, caring companies. Ford Motor Company of Canada. Tim Hortons. UTC Aerospace Systems. Pelmorex Media. Shred-it. Procor. Alphora Research. Bot Construction. Automodular. Cooper Construction. The Naylor Group. Dufferin Construction. Canadian Tire Financial.

These are just a few of the companies that have set down roots here and have set the tone for our business community. These companies have provided a foundation for our economic prosperity. We value their innovative thinking and their commitment to building the broader community of Oakville. The industry leaders that choose Oakville next will be inheriting a foundation built by the companies that chose Oakville before and showed the way.

We really have, and you really are, a business community that competes successfully and gives back generously. As your town and region councils, we want to ensure that our local businesses are poised to compete both domestically and globally. We’ve made it a priority to preserve and protect our town’s E-lands. We protect our environmental lands and our employment lands from inappropriate development.

Preserving our environmental lands keeps us green and more livable. And livability is what attracts jobs to our employment lands to benefit our future economic health. Our job zones are our employment generators and key future property tax revenue contributors. Non-residential tax revenue helps reduce pressure on residential property taxes. We have 1900 acres of employment land left to develop. This is about a 40 to 50 year supply at present rates of job creation. This land is our economic future. Our economic development legacy. That’s room for up to 180,000 jobs in up to 36,000,000 square feet of business places, and tax revenues of up to $163M at today’s rates. If we stick to our Economic Development Strategy, Oakville in 2057 at our 200th anniversary will be quite a prosperous town. Protecting our E-lands, our employment and environmental lands, is vital to ensure our community can prosper locally, and compete globally.

So asset performance and high-end economic development are our two biggest opportunity challenges. This year, we’re working in six innovative ways to help create winning conditions for Oakville business. First, we implemented a Business Leaders Forum to bring together leaders from Oakville’s largest companies to discuss the important issues facing Oakville companies and advise us. Second, with that base, we’re marketing Oakville globally – and getting good investment leads.

Third, we’re putting together community improvement plans for the Kerr and Bronte village business areas in consultation with their local businesses. We will continue to see real economic progress in both these parts of our town. On a more national level, we’re launching industry specific moves to promote two industrial sectors very important to our town’s economy, and Canada’s.

Auto Mayors Roundtable

The Prime Minister was recently in town to announce the $250M renewal of a fund to stimulate research and innovation in Canada's automotive industry. We can build momentum on this positive move. In our fourth initiative, and in cooperation with Ford and the CAW, I’m calling together an Auto-Mayors Roundtable. This will be a solution-seeking discussion about sustaining and growing the Canadian automotive industry in our global environment.

We will involve mayors whose local economies have a stake in the auto industry, as well as economic development departments, automakers, suppliers, the CAW, federal and provincial representatives, economists and academics. The desired outcome is an action plan for a path forward for a national auto-making policy.

CANDU High Technology Mayors Group

Our fifth initiative focuses on another high value part of Oakville’s economy. We have many high tech engineering companies who work in the field of nuclear energy. There are at least 800 such companies across the GTA. At least 80 of them are in Oakville. The mayors of the cities and towns where these companies work and employ thousands are coming to Oakville in April to consider ways we can strengthen winning conditions for these companies.

China Business Opportunities Forum

Our sixth initiative to keep making our local industry stronger is to promote more of a strategy of “Going Out”. It has been three years since I told the Chamber we need to expand Oakville’s business horizons to include the huge opportunities now burgeoning in China. When I heard the Chamber is organizing a tour of China later this year, I was very pleased. As a result of my trade mission to China last year, I now want to help move us to the next level.

To help you be open to opportunities when you are there later this year, I’m inviting everyone to the first Oakville-China Business Opportunities Forum later this year. It will be a forum for our local business community to learn about two-way business opportunities with China. It will include presentations, panels and networking with people already successfully doing business with China. You’ll hear how they did it. You’ll see the opportunities and challenges they faced.

There will also be officials from Ontario, Canada and China who can help pave the way for you to succeed with China. My goal is for Oakville businesses to participate and share in the coming economic boom that China's new five year plan will produce. China’s drive to modernize is taking place on a scale that is so vast, it may be impossible to picture. To paraphrase Scotia Bank’s trademark phrase, they’re richer than you think.


These are just a few of the measures we’re taking to help Oakville businesses succeed. Your municipal government gets it when it comes to business and the entire community will benefit from your success. At the town, we will keep working on continuous improvement and challenging the status quo by controlling growth, debt and taxes to only what fits environmentally and economically, by saving green space and by adding community facilities we lived without for too long.

Our work on our financial strength will allow us to complete the next stage of our community facilities catch up program. In the next term of Council, I look forward to cutting the ribbons on three new community centres. One will be a new community and health centre where the old OTHS is. First, we have to acquire in 2016 the site of the old hospital and the old OTHS. Then we have to complete public consultations and designs.

The second community centre will have a revitalized and expanded Oakville Arena at Trafalgar Park with a seniors centre. The third will be Phase 2 of North Park, next to 16 Mile Sports Complex on Neyagawa. I see a library, a 50 metre pool, exercise and meeting rooms.

Let's get our town budget chief up here to give you the first advance look at what he sees happening with the 2014 capital and operating budgets of the town and region.

He's also the long serving chair of the regions planning and public works standing committee. When you're lucky enough to have an MBA Finance like Councillor Tom Adams on the council team, who are you going to call for positions like those? Tom, what can we expect from you?

(Tom Adams) Thanks, Mayor. People can trust us to do as we said. People can trust us to keep leading the way on value and quality.

This Council has a firm position of keeping total property tax increases in-line with inflation. The 2013 Budget tax increase of 1.47% that we passed back in December was in-line with the CPI forecasts for 2013 (which according to the February RBC Economics forecasts are heading towards 1.6% for headline inflation and 1.7% for core inflation. Now we are planning for the 2014 Budget to also come in at or below inflation for 2014. Forecasts are currently in the 2% ballpark.

We are doing all of this while reducing debt, maintaining services, and renewing important community assets and infrastructure. Oakville’s financial flexibility is strong and growing. We are managing down our tax supported debt each year in order to maximize Oakville’s flexibility into the future. As of the end of 2012, our tax supported debt level was $14 million down from $17 million at the end of the previous year.

Unlike the province and federal governments, we expect to knock more off our total debt over the course of 2013. And by the way, because our asset management plan is fully funded in a pay as you go kind of way, Oakville will not need to borrow money to do basic repair work like many other municipalities are being forced to. I draw your attention to Mississauga where there is a plan to raise substantial amounts of debt, hundreds of millions, over the next decade to fund regular maintenance.

Oakville has a fully funded asset management program. We are funding our infrastructure renewal at the same rate as our assets are depreciating about $41 million each. We are not letting our infrastructure crumble as some places have and are continuing to. In fact, you may notice that our local roads are getting better each year, instead of worse as they are in other municipalities. That’s part of our asset management plan.

This year we are spending $5.5 million on road resurfacing, which you may be interested in knowing is our largest capital project in 2013. Next year, it should be more than $6 million.

Now, as budget chair, I meet with every group, organization and individual I can throughout the year to consult about the budget. One of the most thoughtful discussions usually comes from the group at the Chamber. This past year I heard 3 key things from you.

First, you wanted us to keep working at keeping our tax increases down in a sustainable way, which we have with our inflation based policy through our drive for internal efficiencies. Second, I heard a desire for us to help expand economic development in Oakville. I want you to know that we listened to you when you asked for better transportation to employment areas. We added the new North Service Road transit route. And this year you will see work on the widening of Ninth Line. This new road that will bring the Winston Park West employment lands on stream. Third, you also asked us to keep fully funding our economic development department. And we did. You've just heard from the mayor how much the Economic Development department is doing. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the active collaborative way I and the entire council team believe in, over the next year as we develop our 2014 Budget. That about covers what you asked me. Thanks.

(Mayor Burton) Thanks, Councillor Adams. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time and attention. Council leads, but we work through others, our great staff, and with our residents. We depend on you. This is a town that listens to each other. We do careful, responsive public consultation. We get better choices and decisions. We value the feedback we receive from our vibrant business community, our active residents associations and our engaged community groups.

Your feedback will make us successful in our vision of Oakville being the most livable town in Canada. When we work together with creativity and imagination, the only direction for a town like Oakville is onward and upward.

Mayor Burton’s remarks made at an Oakville Chamber of Commerce event on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thank you so much for the very kind introduction. I want to thank John and Wendy and the team at the Oakville Chamber for organizing today’s event. Thank you for all the work you do to ensure our Oakville businesses are so well informed and so well represented. Let me thank the sponsors of this morning’s event, too, before John does. Ford Canada, Sheridan College, Carterra and Union Gas. You are stalwarts of our business community. You are civic treasures.

Distinguished guests, MPP Kevin Flynn, Chair Gary Carr, Councillors Tom Adams, Keith Bird, Pam Damoff, Cathy Duddeck, Allan Elgar, Dave Gittings, Marc Grant, Alan Johnston, Max Khan, Jeff Knoll, Roger Lapworth, and Ralph Robinson, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here today. We’re at a unique point in Oakville’s history.

We have big decisions ahead of us: 20 to 40-year decisions that will shape our future and let us become Canada’s most livable town. These are decisions we will take seriously and carefully. And they’re decisions we will take together.

Before becoming Mayor, after enjoying a long career in film and television and creating and launching YTV, it had become clear to me that success in business, in sports, in life, goes to those who work hard with creativity and imagination. The kind of effort only fully engaged people can achieve. Last Friday, kicking off the Ontario Minor Hockey Association tournament at our spectacular new 16 Mile Creek sports complex with Ron Maclean, we told the boys and girls no matter how good you are, you are better with a team, and teamwork gets the big things done. Friends, life is a team sport.

The residents of Oakville are the kind of hard working, creative and engaged people that we need to succeed. And when you have engaged citizens and strong leadership, anything is possible. Today, let’s talk about what’s happening and what’s possible with Oakville’s finances, economic development and a new technology developed by Siemens.

Oakville’s fiscal reality

Last month, Premier Dalton McGuinty was the featured speaker at an Oakville Chamber event. He talked about Ontario’s economy and our future success.

He spotlighted the need to build our economy in a way that lets us compete and win in the global economy. He talked about a competitive Ontario. His vision of Ontario is an Ontario that wins and prospers.

And he’s on the right track.

The latest numbers have the provincial economy growing at a rate of 2.7 percent. 120,000 net new jobs were created last year and over 305,000 since the recession. And Oakville is moving in a positive direction, too. Our tax-supported debt is low relative to our capacity – and falling. For the fifth year in a row, we’ve received a clean audit from our auditors.

During the municipal election 16 months ago, I promised we would manage municipally, at the town and the region, so that total tax impacts would not exceed the CPI track. This year’s Budgets passed unanimously by Town and Regional Councils, do just that. Our total tax impact, including the recently opened Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, is just 2.9% this year.

Statscan reports the annual CPI for February is 3.1% for Toronto. Oakville has the 6th lowest tax rate among the 26 GTA municipalities. It used to be 8th. In the last term of Council, from 2006 to 2010, the average annual total property tax levy increase was 5.1%. In this term, we expect that the average annual increase will be 2.8% or less. For the four years before becoming your Mayor, from 2002- 2006, the average tax increase was over 7% annually. We promised we would manage the town and region portion of the property tax to keep the total property tax increase within CPI. And we have. That was the unanimous direction by Council to Staff last year. And municipal Staff and the budget committees (I’m on both) have delivered.

Now, we knew our ambitious catch-up plan on community facilities would cost money to operate. So the first thing we did almost 5 years ago as we planned to catch-up on a facilities deficit, was to shift the town to performance based budgeting (“PB2”) or Budgeting For Outcomes. Our intention was to reduce the tax impact of catch-up costs by increasing efficiency and value.

PB2 focuses on programs and services and results instead of departments. It's a culture shift. We ask, what are we making happen? How much of it do we need? How much does it cost? How can we do it more effectively and more productively? PB2 has helped us find millions of dollars in operational efficiencies. We’re the only government in Canada on any level using it.

Maximizing efficiencies allows us to meet part of our needs by making each dollar go farther. This ensures that we meet our objectives and we keep tax increases more affordable. Town Council and Staff have embraced this shift and there’s a very real focus on value, efficiency and performance, as well as on the environment and livability.

As an example: the Town of Oakville worked with Oakville Hydro on an energy reduction program at Town Hall, resulting in an energy savings of over 35,000 kWh this past summer. My fellow Councillors and I have taken a conservation pledge presented by Oakville Hydro to promote conversation programs for homes and businesses on the Ontario Power Authority’s

I’m asking you as citizens and business leaders, to take the same pledge and visit to learn about ways that you can conserve – and save your money. 

Together, we can accomplish great achievements. Together we have accomplished great achievements. I campaigned on a platform of controlling growth. And we have controlled growth. Growth is now a far more tolerable 2%,not 3% a year anymore.

Our town and regional development charges get the costs of growth off of taxes to the limit allowed by the Mike Harris amendments in 1997 to the Development Charges Act. And our Official Plan allows us to be masters of our own destiny in designating growth to specific areas. Our finances are 1st class. Our Budget Chair, Councillor Tom Adams has an MBA-Finance.  He’s a former Senior Risk Manager at BMO. No surprise, he has stressed and we have built up strong fiscal reserves. Where cities around us are borrowing to deal with infrastructure renewal, we are meeting our renewal needs on a pay-as-we-go basis. We are just about the only place in the country that matches depreciation with transfers to capital infrastructure renewal. Our “gap” is gone.

While almost everyone else is worrying about how to complete and how to fund an Asset Management Plan by the deadline set by the Province, our Asset Management Plan is already done – and funded. Our AMP provides for the renewal and replacement of our existing infrastructure and facilities. 

Our AMP covers a lot, too. We have added 800,000 square feet to the Town's 1.1 million square feet of community facilities. That’s more than a 70% increase. And total taxes only went up less than CPI. This year’s big catch-up project in the town’s budget is the operation of Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, which opened this past weekend.

If I look elated and exhausted, it’s because I spent most of my weekend there, with about 6500 residents seeing it for the first time. What an amazing space! It is Oakville’s first community and cultural centre. It’s our biggest community centre and the only one south of the QEW. And there’s every indication that it will do for arts and culture what 16 Mile Arena has done for sports.

So we’re catching up on our facilities deficit. And we’re doing this while cutting tax-funded debt. Over the next ten years we are on track to cut tax-paid debt out of our financial picture. Our tax supported debt was $24 million in 2006. Now, it now sits at $17 million. Within 10 years, it’ll be gone. We will have our full financial capacity and strength at our disposal should we ever need it.

Our unused debt capacity is over $500 million. We are one strong little town. And we have done all this while weathering the Great Recession. So now that we have caught up with our community’s needs as much as we have and now that we’re controlling growth, what’s next? I don’t want to leave you with the impression that our work here is done. We have important work left to do.

We have a downtown whose future vitality and success would be enhanced by renewal of Centennial Square in time for Canada’s 150th Birthday in 2017. We have important questions to answer with the extensive and direct public consultation for which Oakville has become known and celebrated. What will be done with the old hospital site whose future uses we will control when it closes in 2015? What future uses will we permit on the surplus school sites and on the post office site? There are community centres and other town facilities yet to build across the north to keep up with our future growth. There is a donation to make in 2015 or 2016 for the new Oakville hospital on Dundas. It will be carried with non-tax revenues from our unregulated businesses.

We will manage all of these and stay within our means. And while we’re demonstrating great fiscal strength and integrity, we’re planning with the future in mind. We are creating a plan called Vision 2057, to guide our town to our bicentennial in 2057 without ever falling behind again, fiscally, socially, environmentally or economically.

Economic Development is always of interest here at the Chamber. And our news is good.

New businesses are moving here. Industry leaders are investing here. In my conversations with residents they appreciate that we have a plan for Oakville and that it’s about livability. Oakville is an attractive place to live, to work and to do business. We are a priority destination for new investment. We have a talented labour force.

We have an enviable quality of life. We have opportunities to partner with international industry leaders.

Since 2007, we have made it a priority to prevent any future conversions of employment land to residential uses. Our new Official Plan does just that. Before 2007 more than 500 hectares of employment land were converted to residential. There have been no conversions in my time as Mayor.

In part, this is thanks to a well thought out and well executed economic development strategy, the dividends of which are clear. New businesses continue to set up in Oakville. Established companies are leaving other places to settle here. Recently, Siemens Canada, a corporate giant and household name, decided to move their Canadian head office to Oakville. It’s a 115,000 square foot, Gold LEED Certified building.  800 good jobs are coming to Oakville. It is a clear endorsement of Oakville as a winning place to live, work and raise a family. It’s a validation of Oakville’s increasing livability. And don’t sell short the importance of livability. One company that’s coming tried to bargain for cheaper taxes and fees, saying it was cheaper in another city. I said Oakville’s worth it. And they came.

Other corporate leaders like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Canadian Tire Financial Services have made similar decisions in relocating their head offices to Oakville. CTFS moved here in early 2011. They brought 300 new jobs. Later they transferred an additional 100 employees to their facility in the Great Lakes Business Park.

In total, company relocations accounted for 639 new jobs in 2011, as well as absorption of over 400,000 square feet of commercial and industrial facilities. 2011 was a strong year for Oakville. In addition to the construction of a new corporate head office for Siemens Canada, two other major non-residential development projects are underway: Phase II of the Great Lakes Business Park and Joshua Creek Corporate Centre. These and other office developments will bring 2,200 high quality jobs to Oakville. They will strengthen our non-residential tax base. They are joining 300 other head offices. This trend is set to continue in 2012 with the development of over 600,000 square feet of new office space with a capacity for 4,000 new employees.

Our economic development strategy focuses on companies in the business of Professional and Financial Services, Advanced Manufacturing, Life Sciences and Digital Media and Animation. We draw on the excellent support and competent stewardship of our friends at the Halton Region, led by Chair Gary Carr, in offering greater investment marketing and attraction services.

And it’s precisely because we’re on course and have planned ahead that industry leaders are investing here. In September, Ford Motor Company of Canada announced a $2.5 million investment. This research initiative will develop new powertrain systems for hybrid vehicles. Partnering with McMaster University and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, funding is spread over 5 years. They aim to establish an industrial research chair in hybrid/electric vehicle powertrain diagnostics at the university. Goodrich is another example of a company that is investing in Oakville. A $3.3 million provincial investment in Oakville’s Goodrich Landing Gear was announced in December by our local MPP, Kevin Flynn.  The funding will go towards R&D in developing and manufacturing more advanced and reliable landing gear systems in a sustainable manner. The end result is more jobs in Oakville and a high level endorsement of Oakville as a preferred place for investment.

For our part, we’re at work on a Life Sciences and Technology Park, a Digital Media and Animation Hub and positioning of the Winston Park West (WPW) employment lands to attract a significant share of Oakville’s total office and industrial demand.  The Life Sciences and Technology Park will sit adjacent to Oakville’s new hospital. The hospital and the technology park will have a synergistic relationship. We’re in the process of a visioning workshop, concept rendering and an investment market analysis. Staff will report later this year to Council outlining options on the best way to proceed. If the MP for Oakville was serious when he promised to get $10 million to help develop the hospital area, it will be welcome. But we’re not waiting for him to show up and deliver.

We’re also working with key partners from the Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, Haltech, Silicon Halton and local companies on the development of a digital media hub or cluster in Oakville. Our intention is to strengthen connections between students, faculty, private industry and outside organizations as well as attract mature companies from this sector to the Midtown/QEW employment areas.

And while we’re on the subject of employment lands: the Winston Park West (WPW) employment lands are an area of focus for us in 2012. With nearly 250 net acres of developable land and a strategic location at the junction of the QEW and Hwy 403, WPW is well positioned to attract a significant share of Oakville’s total office and industrial demand.

Our Halton Region Council members have won approval of servicing of this area and we will continue to work with key stakeholders throughout this year to ensure an end result that is beneficial for everyone.

Siemens People Mover Transit

Now, let me share something Siemens showed me that presents opportunities for communities all over the world to solve the problem of getting around. And it traces back to one of those serendipitous coincidences in life that make you think things are meant. A personal and professional relationship between Councillor Max Khan and the leaders of Siemens led them to Oakville.

As we plan for full build out of our town in 2031, and the growth that will occur between now and then, we anticipate the need to move residents more freely between our major urban centres and places of business and industry.

The video captures a forward thinking focus on environmentally friendly design and moving people in a sustainable way. The ability to wirelessly optimize integrated movement of people and goods, matching capacity to demand, and respond to transportation needs as they arise paints an exciting future. My grandfather was born in 1888. When he was a boy he had a pistol and a pony. He lived on a ranch. He died in 1988.  He liked to tell me how amazed he was at the great progress of the human race in his life time despite two world wars, one of which he fought in. Automobiles. Jet travel. Radio. Telephones. Television. Moon landings. Siemen’s makes me hope I’ll see as much progress in my 100 years!

Until then, we will keep moving forward together in creating, preserving and affording the livability that we are always working to increase for our town.

We’re controlling growth, saving green space, and keeping up with the town’s needs; all while keeping increases to taxes and debt paid for by taxes lower than before.

Our fiscal house is in order, we have an outstanding team led by Dorothy St. George who is working with Council to realize the town’s economic development goals and our vision for Oakville to become the most livable town in Canada.

Because we are a community who can picture our future with such inspiration, passion and engagement, when we work together with creativity and imagination our only direction is onward and upward!