Thank you for that kind introduction.
Today I am joined by some of my colleagues on Council, many our senior City staff, and some very special guests from out of town
I want to especially thank Todd Letts and all the members of the BBOT –over the last year you have become even greater champions for our City – between participating in the trip to the UAE, the leadership role you played in developing a regional working group along Canada’s Innovation Corridor and the Canadian Global Cities Council has been greatly apprecaited.
As well I know that your Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster bid for the Toronto-Brampton-Waterloo Corridor has been shortlisted by Minister Bains.
Most recently, you’ve been in the news for the work you’ve done with 26 other Chambers of Commerce to advocate for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
This is important work not only for Brampton but for Canada. Keep it up.
As I was preparing what I was going to say to you today – one theme kept coming up in my mind.
These days’ cities like ours face a growing range of challenges in the 21st century.
From the effects of climate change, to high growth, to inadequate infrastructure to pandemics.
Resilient cities are those that can survive, adapt and thrive.
Resilience is what helps us adapt and transform in the face of these challenges.
Over the past three years our city has shown remarkable resilience.
We have made tremendous progress on several issues that demonstrate to me that our residents, businesses and government are prepared to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Last September Amazon unleashed a frenzy of excitement when they announced their search for a new head office location in North America.
Within hours of the news the City of Brampton stepped forward.
We worked for weeks on a joint bid for Amazon’s second headquarters through our partnership in Toronto Global.
This was the first time we, as a City, took on such an ambitious project – why did we pursue it?
Because it was time – it’s time Brampton started acting like the big city it is.
Cities like Markham, Vaughan and Mississauga have, over the last decade, planned for and attracted job creators much more effectively than we have.
But things are changing - during this term of office, we have seen over 6.5% growth in the number of business calling Brampton home – far outpacing our neighbours like Markham, Vaughan and Mississauga.
This fall I travelled to New York City to promote Brampton as a place to do business.
Again, we leveraged the presence of Toronto Global to help us with lead generation.
We worked with the Province of Ontario and the Canadian consulate to learn about the investment climate and opportunities in the U.S.
Our immigration policies, competitive tax rates and diverse and deep talent pools especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine and math give us a clear advantage.
We had an extremely productive first meeting with the President of a global digital health company located in New Jersey.
The owner expressed interest in visiting Brampton in the near future – so, as a result of this visit the potential exists to land this firm in our city as a potential start up location growing their footprint into Canada.
What we learned on this trip, is that collaboration is important, staying in touch with companies, organizations and partners in order to share information about Brampton’s key sectoral advantages.
However, we need to work harder to sell Brampton’s value proposition – which, I believe, we were able to strongly articulate in our Amazon bid
Did you know that to date Toronto Global has had a 400% increase in visits to their website and over 12,000 downloads of this bid book.
This campaign will now help inform future lead generation efforts for us.
Brampton is one of the youngest, most educated and diverse cities in Canada, and we happen to be right in the middle of the Super Innovation Corridor and in close proximity to the Pearson International Airport.
I want to see business grow and prosper but I am concerned that without a plan to protect employment lands in Brampton we are risking our future prosperity.
Since the 80’s successive Councils have usually agreed, when asked, to convert large tracts of commercial/industrial lands into residential housing in Brampton.
And over the years Brampton’s employment lands have shrunk replaced by sprawling residential neighbourhoods.
Does anybody here remember the old Kodak lands?
Back in 1988 the City received an application to convert the former 187-acre Kodak lands which were employment lands to housing.
Located between Bovaird Dr. and Williams Pkwy., and between McLaughlin Rd. and the CPR line.
Once converted – these lands are gone forever.
These types of decisions have impaired our ability to compete with our neighbouring municipalities when it comes to local employment.
It is in our collective interest to retain as much of the City’s remaining employment lands for business and economic activities and to promote an intensified form of development.
Recently my colleague Councillor Dhillon spearheaded a strategy that will give Council the ability to protect our current supply of employment lands in order to increase our activity rate of 33% to approximately 37% by 2041.
During our recent New Year’s levee many residents spoke to me about their property taxes.
I fully understand and appreciate their concerns.
One of the biggest challenges of being a municipal politician is the fact that every year we must develop municipal budgets and set property tax rates.
When it comes to raising revenue, under current rules, municipal governments have three choices – ask the provincial and federal governments for more, raise user fees, or raise property taxes.
Planning decisions of the past have tied our hands and limited our options.
I am fully committed to protect the existing supply of employment lands and to ensure we have adequate lands to serve our long-term employment forecasts.
This City needs every square inch of un-used employment lands to attract more economic development opportunities which will ultimately help us achieve a better proportion of residential to employment balance.
When I first took office, I had been told the City’s finances were in good shape.
I didn’t believe this was accurate.
As anyone who runs a business knows, you need good information to make sound decisions.
That’s why I put a motion forward for the former Ontario Auditor General, Jim McCarter, to review Brampton’s financial situation.
We listened to his advice and over the last three budget cycles have implemented most of his recommendations.
It hasn’t been easy to implement all the changes he suggested – but our actions have resulted in an improved Standard & Poor rating.
Our CAO, Harry Schlange spearheaded a massive corporate restructuring to address our skyrocketing payroll costs that accounted for two thirds of our total cash operating expenses, a truly unsustainable situation.
Addressing the city’s finances was a task that was long overdue but necessary to make Brampton a more responsive and nimble organization.
I felt from the very beginning of this term that it was critical we got our financial house in order.
In May 2015 Council passed a motion which directed me to approach the Premier to appoint the Ombudsman of Ontario to conduct an inquiry under the Public Inquires Act on how we conducted planning approvals, real estate and procurement practices at the city.
The Ombudsman of Ontario a year later finally announced an investigation into procurement practices which account for $29 million of city spending.
Mr. Dube’s team focused on the administration of our purchasing by-laws, policies and procedures regarding non-competitive procurements.
The Ombudsman found no evidence of maladministration by the time he arrived, but he did identify several ways Brampton could improve its practices.
He was aware that the City of Brampton’s recent past has been filled with controversy, leading some members of the public to lose trust in the city.
He suggested we establish an independent, permanent auditor general to help re-establish the public’s confidence in the city and ensure that the public trusts the city to act fairly, accountably and transparently.
Unfortunately, Council chose not to implement this advice.
Over the last year our CAO has hired some new internal auditors and they have, over the last few months tabled some reports I found shocking.
They highlighted the fact that regular policy reviews were not taking place.
There appeared to be no policy guide or rigour on how over 133 policies were developed, evaluated and reviewed.
Some of our bylaws haven’t been updated in nearly 30 years.
They told us that our existing delegation authority by-laws resulted in risk of exposure to liability for both the corporation and our city staff.
It was clear to me that for the effective and efficient operation of a modern and fast-growing municipality we needed to act swiftly.
Since receiving this news we’ve begun to systematically restructure, modernize and seek best practices throughout the corporation.
We are now moving to a 100% paperless process and electronic submission and approvals that allows better expense control and policy compliance through on-line reporting.
These changes will improve productivity and increase consistency – thus reducing costs.
I knew when I became Mayor, residents would expect me to show leadership in addressing the situation at City Hall.
Within days of arriving I put forward a motion that reduced my salary by $50,000 annually for the term of Council.
To date this reduction in salary has delivered approximately savings of $184,000.
In addition, I chose not to accept the 7.4% increase provided to members of Council.
My total budget spending is less, year over year, in my first term compared to my predecessor.
Last week I had a small business owner casually ask me at a breakfast – so how are things going?
What he really wanted to know is – how are things going with Council?
This individual had been reading some of the social media where my critics claim that I don’t or won’t work with Council.
That’s just a false narrative.
As Mayor, I have a responsibility first and foremost to you, the people who elected me.
I think debate is healthy and my 27 years of experience at both the Provincial and municipal level have given me the knowledge and experience to challenge some of the decisions that come before Council.
I will not be a rubber stamp just to get along.
I was elected to serve as Mayor with a mandate to do things differently and every now and then I may ruffle some people’s feathers when I don’t agree with them - they need to just get over it.
I am prepared to do the heavy lifting, to see our city survive, adapt and thrive and my door is always open for those that want to meet and work together in our city’s best interests.
Collaboration does occur – I just want to remind everyone of Council’s collective efforts to land a university.
In 2015 I spoke about our dream to attract a university campus to Brampton and how these institutions transform the cities that host them – I spoke about how I had created a Blue-Ribbon Panel to assist us in achieving that shared goal.
Since then there has been significant progress - in October 2016 the Province announced funding for a university facility in Brampton, and in March of 2017 the Province announced that Ryerson University in partnership with Sheridan College had applied to establish a new site in Brampton.
In September of 2017 Council made an historic unanimous commitment, to invest $150 million in the university and a center for education, innovation and collaboration as well as a new central library.
Our university will be a game changer.
It will be a catalyst for significant investments and initiatives to transform creative and commercial space, to inspire generations of residents and provide the high skilled jobs of tomorrow.
We are now waiting for the Province to announce the details.
President Lachemi from Ryerson has assured me that our Brampton campus will disrupt the status quo and prepare our students and businesses with 21st century learning.
So, in the face of many critics who doubted, and still doubt, we will ever be able to land a university in Brampton, – look what they have done in Calgary - Imagine what we can do in Brampton.
A university is important to the future of Brampton but so is health care.
Many of you know one of my main motivations to run for provincial office back in 2003 was to improve health care in Brampton.
I spent the next decade fighting to open Brampton Civic, to build a revitalized first phase of PMH and to make sure a new consolidated site for ErinOak kids became a reality, (ErinOak kids is now opening their new state of the art facility in May)
When I spoke to you in 2015 we were waiting, impatiently for the first phase of PMH to open.
Despite our best efforts to sound the alarm around the explosive growth our city has experienced it has unfortunately not been matched with growth in our healthcare infrastructure and funding models.
This past year many of us either saw first hand or read about the overcrowding at Brampton Civic hospital.
In early November I wrote a public letter to the Province on behalf of our residents outlining my concerns around emergency room gridlock.
I advocated for increased hours at PMH, an immediate commencement of the building of Phase 2 and the need for a third hospital.
As a result of these efforts, a week later we welcomed the Minister of Health, Dr. Eric Hoskins, to our City to announce additional beds for Brampton Civic and pledging support for Phase 2 of Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.
It was a welcome announcement but there is more work to do - because we continue to grow – by 2041 we will be a city of nearly 1 million residents.
At Planning Committee, I introduced a motion which Council supported which has now initiated the planning necessary to identify, protect and zone the 45-50 acres we will need for our future third hospital in the western part of Brampton.
As our city grows and attracts new businesses, opens a university campus and expands our health care offerings we need to address the pressing issue of gridlock and transit.
In past remarks to the Brampton Board of Trade I told you that transit and transportation issues would not be solved in isolation and that we needed the cooperation and funding of our partners at all levels of government.
There is some good news on this front.
This past year, after years of advocacy, all day two way GO rail transit received unprecedented funding from the Province.
The historic agreement to build a freight bypass along the CN rail corridor will now enable electrified GO Train service all along Kitchener Corridor in Brampton.
The new Airport Road ZUM transit line is well underway having secured significant federal funding earlier this year.
At last year’s State of the Union I was part of the unveiling of the concept rendering for Toronto Pearson’s Regional Transit Centre.
The GTAA is a significant employer in our region - 11,000 Brampton residents at last count and they have been looking at ways to improve transit services.
They are now poised to make the service more frequent and convenient, instead of a 20-30-minute service they are working on a 10-15-minute service.
They have recently firmed up a contract with design consultants for the regional transit hub at Pearson International.
I look forward to working with the team to help to better connect Brampton residents to jobs, educational institutions and more.
Recently the province opened new lanes on Highway 410 following years of advocacy with two more lanes to open in the fall of this year.
And in August Council delegated the Ministry of Transportation to share with them our plans as a City to increase access to 110 acres of our lands at the corner of the 410 and the 407 ETR lands.
We need permission from the Province for another off ramp to support a mix of uses including office, retail commercial, residential and potentially a major recreational facility that will draw tourists from around the GTA and beyond.
We’ll keep you posted as to how these negotiations proceed.
And only last month TVO wrote an article about Brampton’s thriving local transit system.
They tried to explain why at a time when public transit ridership is stagnating across North America ridership in Brampton was exceeding expectations.
In 2016 our annual ridership rose by over 9%.
Between January and October of 2017 our ridership rose by nearly 19% over the previous year.
The secret to our success?
You need to be disciplined about investing in your transit system and you need to have a vision.
One of the issues I haven’t addressed in previous speeches, but I would like to speak about today is public safety.
As a representative on the Peel Regional Police Services Board I work with six other representatives to develop policies that deliver effective police services, law enforcement and crime prevention.
We meet monthly with the Chief, Jennifer Evans and her team to determine the objectives and priorities with respect to police services within our Region.
For the last four years Peel Regional Police have consistently met budget targets despite the extraordinary growth of our region.
After seeing the Chief’s original budget submission earlier this year, I was concerned.
In a citizen satisfaction survey carried out in September 2017 one issue was consistently raised by our residents as a problem facing Brampton today – crime.
The public felt that violent crimes, including gun violence and home robberies were increasing and they shared the fact that they were concerned that there weren’t enough front-line police officers.
In my role, as a Board member, I am part of shaping the capital and operating budgets that are ultimately approved by Regional Council.
I felt that rising crime statistics and increased calls for services as well as other operating pressures made a spending increase necessary to properly equip our police services.
I asked Chief Evans to rework her initial budget proposal to present to Regional Council.
Once Chief Evans shared the extreme pressures our Peel Police board budget was faced with considering the fact that 93% is spent on salaries and benefits – my colleagues at Regional Council unanimously agreed with the Police Board’s recommendation.
As a result, we approved 37 additional police officers, 10 call dispatchers and five prison escort officers – I feel proud that we as a Board understood the need, listened to the public about their safety concerns and acted accordingly.
I am particularly pleased that Constable Manjit Basran is being honoured here today at this luncheon – I’ve seen him out many times over the last year with his food truck – I even got to sample some of the cooking. Congratulations on being recognized.
I began my speech talking about how important resilience is to what we need to achieve in order to have a successful future.
I want to conclude with a local story of resilience.
My friend Karl Wirtz runs a privately owned custom co-packaging company WG Pro Manufacturing – they’ve been in Brampton for 25 years in three locations.
They are a world-class co-packaging facility with products like food, cosmetics, confectionaries and household products.
I’ve visited his location many times and last year I was excited to see that they had added an industrial baking facility to their existing plant here in Brampton.
A gourmet bakery from London decided to partner with Karl and brought their 15 employees – their products are on shelves in Canada and across the U.S. – many of you would know this brand because many of our schools sell their cookie and muffin dough for school fundraisers.
Karl was having a very
Then Bill 148 – the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act was tabled.
Karl came to see me shortly after he learned about the legislation. He told me he was absolutely in favour of raising the minimum wage, but if this legislation was to be implemented immediately it put him in a difficult situation since he had already signed contracts that were locked in for the next two years.
He told me that this proposed legislation had turned into a real threat on his businesses ability to survive particularly since the changes came into effect in January.
He didn’t see it coming.
At the City we were hit with similar challenges – we were in the midst of creating our budgets and the increase to the minimum wage to $14 an hour had an immediate bottom line impact.
We estimate a hit of about $800,000 2018 and 2019 to our budget.
Our Treasurer estimates the impact just with the change in minimum wage will be a 1.3% hit on the city portion of the property tax bill.
Like Karl, we needed to figure out how we were going to navigate with a constrained budget.
So, we understand your pain – we worry too about how we will be able to compete and deliver our services when things beyond our control happen.
I’m pleased to say that Karl is a fighter – he hasn’t given up and he’s trying to find creative ways to meet the challenge.
He is determined and resilient.
He’s diversified his products, now he’s working with an inventor on a product that minimizes slips and falls.
In January they launched the product on the Shopping Channel.
He just doesn’t give up. I have no doubt he will be successful.
Most people see resilience as the ability to bounce back after bad things happen.
I see resilience as being more than that – when bad things happen to us as a City I want us to be an even better and stronger city than we were before.
Resilience is learning from adversity and how you bounce back.
That’s what makes Brampton special.
We take whatever is thrown our way and learn to survive, adapt and thrive.
We are resilient, adaptable and forward-looking and I am honoured to be your Mayor.