I would like to thank the Board for inviting me back.
Today I am joined by some of my colleagues on Council.
This morning I want to speak to you about three things: strong fiscal management, economic development, and thinking bigger about Brampton’s future.
Innovation is all around us and it is changing the way we do business and how we see the world.
I have just returned from a nine day long Health Sector trade mission to the United Arab Emirates.
This was my second global trade mission, my first being in May of last year to Israel where we visited a number of life science companies and education institutions as part of a Provincial health and human sciences mission.
The UAE is a study in contrasts – one of the most ancient parts of the world yet incredibly modern and cosmopolitan.
The Toronto and Brampton Boards of Trade and other delegates from the education and health care sector explored a wealthy high demand market that we believe could result in economic benefits here in Brampton.
We learned when we were there about the ambitious vision of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – the Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE – to transform a desert into a global hub.
His big ideas are forward thinking and disruptive.
By 2020 the Dubai future foundation will enable all government to become paperless by using blockchain – an online encrypted data base.
By 2030 – 25% of all buildings will be 3D printed.
And in the same year 25% of all trips will be driverless as part of their autonomous transportation study.
Trade missions help build bridges and explore opportunities for collaboration.
We were surprised at how almost every person we met either had a business, a personal, or an educational link to Ontario.
The moment they realized we were from Canada, everything changed and that connection opened doors quickly and fast tracked our business conversations.
We also learned businesses in the UAE want more detailed information about us before they are willing to invest.
As is often the case in the business community, fiscal order and stability goes a long way in signalling to job creators that Brampton is serious.
The same is true for residents of this city - they want City Hall to respect their tax dollars.
It has taken time to restore confidence in the City’s finances.
You will recall before I even began my term Standard and Poor had ranked our credit as AAA Negative and the CD Howe Institute rated our budget and financial reporting at a B-.
At the time the former bureaucratic leadership of the city was under the delusion that our city was a model of good governance and fiscal prudence.
Before enacting my vision for attracting jobs, I needed a roadmap to put our City’s fiscal affairs in order and restore good governance to City Hall.
So, when I put my motion forward to invite Jim McCarter, the former Auditor General of Ontario, to independently audit and review our books this was seen as being extremely disruptive to the status quo.
Mr. McCarter told us that we needed to tackle the challenge of taking care of our aging and growing infrastructure.
We made the bold and fiscally responsible move to reinstate a 2% infrastructure levy to help fund infrastructure repair and replacement into the future.
However, the issues with our finances did not end with our infrastructure budget deficit.
In the past Brampton’s payroll expenses had skyrocketed at a faster rate than both inflation and the growth in the City’s population and households.
This was completely unsustainable.
In May of last year Council hired our new CAO Harry Schlange, someone we chose because of his reputation of bringing sweeping changes to inflated and beleaguered bureaucracies.
Mr. Schlange has spearheaded a massive corporate restructuring which will save taxpayers over $2 million a year moving forward.
More importantly this will help make our City Hall more responsive to the people of Brampton.
Addressing the city’s finances was a task that was long overdue.
I am pleased to say we have been very successful in implementing my vision for stronger fiscal management at City Hall.
Last year we saw our City’s Standard and Poor’s credit rating improve to AAA Stable – highlighting our strong economic fundamentals.
Furthermore, this past November we received the highest municipal ranking from the CD Howe Institute for financial reporting, being one of only five municipalities in all off Canada to have received this recognition.
In May of 2015, I along with Council requested the Province to appoint the Ombudsman of Ontario to initiate an inquiry into the potential past misconduct at City Hall in procurement, real estate, and planning approvals.
The Ombudsman is currently investigating procurement at the City of Brampton, and should be releasing a report later this year.
We need to continue to be shining daylight on our processes – before the end of this term I plan to invite, hopefully with Council’s support, Mr. McCarter to revaluate the steps we have undertaken to date and how we can continue to improve.
I kept my promise to restore accountability and transparency at City Hall - I kept my promise to repair our fiscal management – now, it is time to start thinking bigger, to start believing in a better Brampton.
Someone recently shared a story with me that I believe resonates with a lot of our youth.
This individual went to Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School and during his final year one of his teachers, Malcolm Hamilton, asked his post-secondary bound classroom a very simple question.
“How many of you think you’ll move back to, or continue to live in, Brampton once you are done your post-secondary education?”
Out of 30 students, only two hands went up!
We have failed to disrupt the status quo in this city.
We have failed to effectively sell the value proposition of our city.
We have failed to take advantage of our city’s full potential.
Under my leadership, this has changed.
We are an inclusive city – our median age is ~35 years old, we are incredibly diverse, and we have a highly educated workforce.
Our strength is our people, and cities around the world would give anything to have what we have here.
By 2041 our population is projected to be almost 900,000.
Think about that for a second - Our city is at a tipping point, we are on the cusp of something truly great.
The only thing stopping us is our collective vision of what that future could hold.
My vision is that we start acting like the big city we are.
We are not a small town that happens to have over half a million people.
We are poised to build a dynamic and bold future.
We are a cosmopolitan city.
Brampton has the advantage of being located right in the centre of the Innovation Super Corridor.
Brampton, Guelph, Waterloo Region and Toronto combined employ over 200,000 tech workers, second only to Silicon Valley in North America.
This corridor provides us with a great opportunity to further develop innovative industries through Two-Way, All-Day GO rail service between the established innovation hubs of Toronto and Waterloo.
A key element of our intensification planning is connectivity with technology and innovation hubs in the broader regional economy, but more specifically connecting Canada’s Innovation Super Corridor.
And let me be clear – Brampton will not be a simple pit stop along the way – I envision that Brampton can be, and will be, a destination for innovators, job creators and visionaries.
My plan is to think big and intensify economic development opportunities surrounding Brampton’s three GO stations.
We have the ability to connect 13,000 companies, attract 3,000 start-ups, and create over 40,000 new jobs by connecting knowledge workers and creative talent with reliable all day two way GO rail.
The potential for growth in Brampton over the next 10 years is substantial – it is no surprise fDi American Cities of the Future ranked us in the top 10 for Business Friendliness and Connectivity.
My vision is to develop the over 1.5 million square feet of new development in the Central Area.
For every tech job created there are another five jobs created outside of the high tech sector in that city, both in skilled and in service occupations - a multiplier three times larger than manufacturing.
And I don’t want to steal Howard Eng’s thunder, as you will be hearing from him next, but we all know that the mega zone around Pearson airport is only going to grow – and will further bolster’s Brampton competitive advantage.
Improved regional connectivity is critical to Brampton’s ability to attract greater foreign and domestic investments to our city.
We have already seen new private sector investment as a result of the planned two-way all day GO rail service.
A residential development by Redwood Properties/Preston Homes for 45 Railroad Street was approved by Council last June for 2 high rise mixed-use developments on top of a 3 storey podium with more than 10,000 ft2 of commercial space – construction starts this Spring.
I believe we are at a crossroad where we can take this bedroom community and transform it into a hub of innovation and jobs, but only if we disrupt the status quo and think bigger.
In my first two years we have added over 800 new businesses and 7000 new jobs – but this is only the start.
As Brampton moves to take a prominent place as a major urban centre, our Economic Development approach needs to evolve as well.
Brampton is a key contributor and partner to the highly successful regional story that Toronto Global will take world-wide.
Brampton is also a partner in the Toronto region’s Human Health and Sciences cluster.
The region’s Human Health and Sciences cluster is home to an incredible concentration of people, ideas and investment.
Brampton has worked with TO Health! And other municipal partners to develop a Cluster Plan to create strategic advantages and attract Human Health and Life Science jobs to the region.
Keeping this in mind, Brampton’s economic development efforts have a new sector-based approach, anticipating the skills and industries of tomorrow, while accounting for traditional strengths.
We’ve chosen these sectors because they provide high quality, high paying jobs in innovative, sustainable industries that will take advantage of our strengths and place in the Innovation Super Corridor.
Staff are being assigned to each of these four sectors: Advanced Manufacturing, Human Health and Sciences, Food and Beverage Processing and Innovation and Technology.
A newly created role of an Expeditor will work across the sectors, supporting activities, and working to streamline client services by acting as a facilitator and conduit to municipal services for the business community.
We are home to some 250 biotechnology firms and another 550 that provide support for the sector.
The sector has grown by 50 per cent in the city over the past decade, supporting 6,700 workers – but there is still a lot more to come.
Our Central Area is attracting significant investment from the private sector, and we are starting to see movement and an awakening from the new health and sciences cluster around the new hospital.
A development by Atlas Healthcare is proposed at 241 Queen Street East – the old John Logan property, for a 6 storey medical office building, which is approximately 155,000 ft² and represents approximately 200 health and life science jobs – construction is proposed to start by Fall of 2017.
Nearby is a development application by Cumberland Developments at 145/147 Queen Street East, which is directly in front of the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.
It consists of one 23-storey residential building and the expansion of the existing 5-storey office building.
When finished the office building will be over 55,000 ft2 and attract 150 new jobs – construction is proposed to also start by Fall 2017.
Not too far from these developments is one of our most ambitious plans for our City and downtown Brampton.
Commonly referred to as Riverwalk, our vision creates a resilient landscape by addressing the challenges of future climate change scenarios and eliminating existing flood risks from the Etobicoke Creek.
This redeveloped area would support major public transit and active transportation infrastructures, expand the city’s green infrastructure, create new amenities with a variety of new public spaces, and be a further catalyst for urban growth and economic development.
It is always great to talk about the exciting new developments in the works – but we also have to acknowledge two major job creators and innovators who have both have significantly invested right here in Brampton in the past year - Canon and Amazon.
My plan is to continue to modernize our City’s path to greater economic success.
Remember earlier when I spoke of Mr. Hamilton’s Notre Dame’s senior high school class? I’m guessing with these kinds of opportunities we probably would now see a lot more students raising their hands!
In my plan the university is the single greatest incubator and catalyst for more jobs, development and investment in our city.
During the municipal election I heard about this issue from residents and I pledged to work to bring a university to Brampton.
A university in Brampton will reduce the “brain-drain” by providing our youth with an opportunity to remain in the city while pursuing their educational and career aspirations.
The intellectual property or great ideas developed at universities provide opportunities for business spin offs and commercialization within the host community.
Based on research conducted by the Council of Ontario Universities even mid-sized universities contribute hundreds of millions per year within the local municipality, alongside thousands of jobs.
Since the provincial announcement that Brampton would in fact be getting a University last fall, a number of universities have expressed interest in establishing a presence in Brampton.
A location has yet to be selected. Various land options will be analyzed once the successful university has been identified and its needs have been studied.
Accessibility for students and commuters (i.e. public transit and roads) along with conformity to the City of Brampton’s and the Province of Ontario’s growth plan will play a significant role in determining a location.
I have spoken extensively about my desire to establish an innovation themed university that would leverage existing and future healthcare institutions (i.e. Brampton Civic, Peel Memorial Hospital and ErinOakKids) and technology/R&D based companies in Brampton to create an innovation and health and life sciences hub.
Mobility connections within and around Brampton continue to be essential for the economic health of our city.
We have been extraordinarily successful over the last two years in acquiring over $200 million in additional funding for our infrastructure from both the Provincial and Federal governments.
While it is great we will have an LRT up to Steeles, I am still a big believer in completing a direct LRT route to our Downtown Brampton GO station in order to fully leverage our position in the Innovation Super Corridor.
How the route gets there is a point of contention that has been played out over and over again in the past two years and likely will remain an issue for members of Council.
A few months ago I invited Ed Sonshine, the CEO for RioCan to my office to see if Canada’s largest real estate investment trust had any plans for Shoppers World.
I shared with him the extraordinary opportunity he had being at the end of the LRT line, the close proximity to the 14,000 Students that are attending the Brampton campus of Sheridan College and the latest news about the university.
With a little bit of my encouragement he left my office thinking about how he could make this broken down 70’s era mall in Brampton great again.
I understand RioCan will now be seeking Council approval to develop a master plan which will include approximately 300,000 square feet of retail and about 1,500 residential units– potentially a $150 million project.
Exciting things are happening everyday as Brampton moves onto the global stage – the development of a human health and sciences cluster around the new Peel Memorial, work to bring a new university to Brampton, and significant urban development projects like Riverwalk and transit expansion only give more reason for businesses to invest in our city, for people looking for a home to establish their roots here, and for our future leaders and innovators, like those in Mr. Hamilton’s classroom, to stay or return to Brampton after gaining the skills they need to succeed in the new economy.
In my first inaugural address as Mayor I challenged the Citizens of Brampton to stay engaged – these are exciting times for us all whether you are in business or government.
While some places are building walls, quite literally, we here in Brampton are building bridges.
As representatives of Brampton’s business and economic community you also have a role to play.
No single entity or organization can propel Brampton forward – we need to work together.
We at the City need to partner with you, to tap your contacts, ideas and knowledge to create new opportunities for Brampton.
From attracting a new university campus to the urban development project like Riverwalk – this is a call to action.
Decisions are made by those who show up.
I and all members of Council look to members of the Brampton Board of Trade for wise counsel and support as we tackle the big issues that face our city today.
I have and will continue to work with you to restore faith in our local government.
To explore new opportunities in the area of innovation and together we will become a beacon that will attract new economic development, disrupt the status quo, and move our city forward.