We held our inaugural Burlington City Council meeting for the 2022-2026 term last night at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, with special guest speakers, some entertainment and a light reception following.
Council members took our oaths of office publicly and in the presence of a judge in the celebration event of local democracy.
I am honoured to once again serve this great city and our community, and lead our Council into the new term.
For those who could not attend or watch the live stream, a recording of the meeting will be available at events.burlington.ca/meetings (under Nov. 15).
I’d like to thank our master of ceremonies, Lisa Scott; saxophonist, Geoff Bournes; our Burlington Teen Tour Band; Dania Thurman and Faith Breen, who sang You’re Not Alone by award-winning Canadian artist Allison Russell; Hayley Verrall, who sang our national anthem in English and French; His worship Justice Mark Curtis, who witnessed Council’s swearing of the oaths of office; Chief Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; WhiteEagle Stonefish, healer and elder, who set intentions for the new term; and our local veterans in attendance — you all made it a very memorable and special evening.
• • •
To start the evening, I read a land acknowledgement — when saying a land acknowledgement, we have learned that it is very important to personalize it, to discuss why we are gathered, and our relationship to the land.
We are consulting with Indigenous residents to work on new language for our City of Burlington Land Acknowledgement. I read a part of it last night — we will share the finalized version with our community when it is ready — and then offered my personal thoughts.
“Burlington as we know it today is rich in history and modern traditions of many First Nations and the Métis – our lands spanning from Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment are steeped in Indigenous history.
We are fortunate in Burlington to have beautiful natural areas, such as our waterfront. Water was an integral part of Indigenous peoples lives and culture; it helped provide sustenance through fishing, offered transportation to other areas of the land, was a habitat for animals and provided all beings with a necessity to survive. The waterfront continues to be an integral part for our city and is beloved by all residents – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
We must continue to be responsible stewards of the water, and all parts of the land, and treat it with the utmost respect in order to keep is safe for generations to come.
We would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit.”
One of the reasons my family is here, and I am standing as your mayor today, is because of our city’s spectacular land and water. My husband and I used to drive from Toronto where we were living at the time to hike the land of Mount Nemo, and the lands and trails around the waterfront. We decided we wanted to be closer to this land and water, to raise our three children here. So, we came to Burlington in 2000.
I’m also struck by the fact that what we are doing here tonight – swearing in a new democratically-elected council – is defined by land: each Ward has a boundary based on the land, and the city as a whole is defined through our land. I’m grateful for this privilege to serve on the land, with the people of the land. I also acknowledge that though I, as a white women, received the right to vote in 1918 and the right to stand for election in 1919, the Indian Act did not allow Indigenous women to vote in their own band councils until 1952. Indigenous men had to give up their Indian status to vote – that meant rejecting their own language, culture and traditions and leaving the reserve.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Indigenous men and women had the right to vote without restrictions in federal elections.
We know with voter turnout being so low this election, we continue to have work to do as a city and a country to encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote – and to repair the legacy of damage towards Indigenous residents. We are committed to that as a council.
• • •
In my inaugural address I spoke about the foundation this Council established in the previous term and how we’ll be using it to build on and move forward to advance the priorities you have laid out for us and face the challenges ahead as a re-elected Council in our new term.
Please see below a transcript version of my inaugural address from last night.
• • •
Good evening everyone, and welcome.
Bonsoir a tous
Tansi; Miyo Takosin
On behalf of all of my colleagues on city council, I would like to thank you for joining us this evening in person, or online, as we are officially sworn in to the new term of council.
I would also like to once again honour and acknowledge our veterans who are here with us this evening, and all those who fought for our freedoms and never came back. Without you, none of us would be here. So please join me in another round of applause for their service and sacrifice.
I know we’re all honoured and excited to be back. This is the ‘giddy-up, let’s go’ council. And with all of us returning, we can dive right back into the business of the city, without skipping a beat. And there are many priorities you have put before us.
Before we get to that, I’d like you to talk about where we’ve been, because that has set the foundation for who we are as a council, and where we are going.
Cast your mind back to 2018. You elected a new mayor and five new councillors to change the plans for development downtown that would have allowed up to 30 more highrises, including a highrise in the middle of historic Village Square.
That plan was on its way to being approved by Halton Region, and we needed to act fast. Four days after we were inaugurated the plan would have been eligible for appeal. That would have taken decision-making out of our hands and leaving it with the developer-friendly Ontario Land Tribunal. On Day 3, we received notice that the Region was pausing the plan to review several items of concern. That gave us time to reset the downtown plan.
So, we got to work. We froze development for a year, redid our Official Plan. Then we had to ask to Province to remove the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designation and adjust the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) designation from downtown. Both the MTSA and UGC were used to justify overdevelopment downtown.
So, we just had to ask the Province to make the change — sounds straightforward, right? But it wasn’t.
Moving an MTSA or a UGC had never been done in Ontario before. We were told it could never be done. That it was impossible. That it was giving false hope, or worse, to even suggest it.
And then, we achieved the “impossible.” In 2021, the Province formally agreed to shift both the MTSA and UGC to the Burlington GO.
Thank you! You all deserve a huge part of the credit!
We couldn’t have done it without you. Your advocacy and your support to make this change helped convince the Province to do what had never been done before.
So, why am I telling you this story? It shows you the kind of council we have been, and will be to face the challenges ahead. And those challenges are equally daunting — some would say nearly impossible to solve, too.
As head of council, along with my team of colleagues, we will lead with five principles in mind:
First: We will advocate for you. This story shows how much of what we do continues to be controlled by the Province. We will continue to be strong advocates for our community. We will collaborate with the Province where we can, and we will challenge and criticize when we have to – for example the changes coming with Bill 23. That Bill will erode the role of Halton Region and Conservation Authorities, permit new development on The Greenbelt, and download costs of growth from for-profit developers to you, the taxpayers.
We will fight that, and I will fight that, as a member of the Large Urban Caucus of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) board, and the Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) caucus. AMO, OBCM and Halton Regional Council – that includes all of Burlington City Council — have all asked the Province to pause this disastrous legislation and work with us as an equal partner to achieve the right type of housing in the right place.
We will also continue to advocate for reform and ultimately the abolition of the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). This remains the official and unanimous position of Halton Regional Council based on a motion I co-sponsored in 2019. The OLT can overrule democratically-elected councils, our planning staff and our community. It is undemocratic, inefficient, slows the delivery of housing, and adds millions in costs to redo the work already done by councils, staff and our community.
It works against the goal we all share for building more affordable housing, faster.
Second: We will base our decisions on solid planning and evidence. This story shows what is possible when we take the time to do our homework, consult with you, and build a case for support that can’t be refused.
Three: We will work with our staff. There are 1,038 full time and more than 700 part-time staff who deliver City services across 37 service areas, including parks and recreation, arts and culture, transit and cycling, roads and parks maintenance, capital works, environment, bylaw enforcement, animal control, fire protection and many more. And they continued to deliver these services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, finding new ways to do so, as so many of our community organizations and businesses also had to do.
Let’s take a moment to thank them and our City Manager Tim Commisso who leads our team, for their service.
Four: We will aim high. This story shows that nothing is impossible with commitment and hard work, and perhaps a bit of good fortune. So, we will set big goals. We will not be deterred by naysayers and critics who say something can’t be done, because “it’s never been done before” or “it’s impossible.” If something is worth doing, we will try, and do our best. We won’t be afraid to break new ground. We will do our homework and pursue new city building opportunities that come our way. Your new council being inaugurated today will honour our duty to plan for tomorrow, and advance Burlington’s legacy for future generations.
We will aim for the stars, because even if we come up a little short, we will achieve far more for you than if we had aimed for the ground, and hit it.
Five: We will do all this together, with you. This story shows that it takes all of us to achieve results. The community elected a new council, and together to set about to do the impossible – and we did it!
Your council will not always agree on the best way forward. Nor should we. However, we will honour and respect the diversity of perspectives on our council, and in our community, and treat each other with respect when we differ. We will keep the best interests of our community at the centre of all our discussions.
We will continue to seek new ways to engage you in decisions that affect you. And we will do this together as a council.
To that end, I’m pleased to announce the formation of Deputy Mayor portfolios for each member of council. These assignments are similar to Minister-level appointments at the federal and provincial levels.
Creating Deputy Mayors with portfolios will help make the best use of the diverse experience and background of each member of council. These portfolios are also aligned with our City’s Vision to Focus strategic plan, our upcoming Master Plan review, and council priorities.
Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith will be the Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reduction. This builds on his extensive experience as a business owner. The portfolio will include:
- Reviewing the progress from the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force – those meetings are already happening beginning this week;
- Speeding up delivery of permits – we know we have more work to do;
- Cutting red tape for all businesses, and our rural area. We want to continue to ensure a robust agricultural economy. This council also remains unanimously committed to protecting our urban boundary and our rural area. We will not support sprawling development onto farmland;
- Promoting reasonable growth in the right place – we know major new growth will occur around strategic growth areas like aging retail plazas, and our GO stations. There will be opportunities for community input as we finalize those plans this term; and
- The Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reduction will also work closely with the Deputy Mayor for Housing on delivery of our housing strategy, to ensure people can both live and work here.
• • •
Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns will be the Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement and Partnerships. This builds on her experience in resident’s groups even before being elected, her professional experience in corporate stakeholder management and her Institute of Corporate Directors governance designation. The portfolio will include:
- Reviewing our current community engagement models, including our advisory committee structure, with a view to community capacity building. At a time when voter turnout is at an all time low, we’ll work to ensure people feel included in the decisions we make and understand the importance of local government in their day to day lives;
- Liaising with our partner agencies/boards/committees on governance, and ensuring strong connections with the city, and council; and
- The Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement and Partnerships will also work closely with the Deputy Mayor of Recreation and Community Services on community funding opportunities at the city and region and/or private sponsorship opportunities for city projects.
• • •
Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan will be Deputy Mayor for the Environment. This builds on his experience bringing the Climate Change Emergency Declaration in the last term of council, and his advocacy on transit. The portfolio will include:
- Implementation of our Climate Action Plans;
- Implementation of our Integrated Mobility Plans, including transit, cycling and walking; and
- Restarting discussions with the school boards on free transit for students that was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• • •
Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte will be Deputy Mayor for Housing. This will build on her passion for attainable housing, and her experience chairing the community Working Group on Housing this past term. The portfolio will include:
- Implementation of our housing strategy that includes affordable and attainable housing;
- Liaison with Halton Region on assisted housing; and
- Co-sponsor on planning process improvements and legislative changes (with the Deputy Mayor for Business & Red Tape Reduction), to get more housing, built faster.
• • •
Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman will be Deputy Mayor for Strategy and Budgets. This builds on his extensive experience as a professional accountant and internationally known instructor for strategy and business process improvements. The portfolio will include:
- Oversight of implementation of our Vision to Focus strategic plan;
- Development of Key Performance Indicators and progress reports so we know how we’re doing;
- Guidance on process improvements and culture change across departments; and
- Expert advice and assistance with multi-year budget preparation.
• • •
Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna will be Deputy Mayor for Recreation and Community Services. This builds on his decades of volunteerism in our community, including with the hospital, sports clubs, and the Gift of Giving Back – Canada’s largest youth-led food drive. This also builds on his work on our Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Inclusivity Advisory Committee. This portfolio will include:
- Involvement in the review and implementation of our Recreation and Cultural Master Plan, which will occur this term. This review will determine park needs and community amenity needs going forward;
- Liaising and support to the charitable sector, and connecting with City Council;
- Promoting community pride and inclusion. This includes new ways to support all our diverse communities and cultures within our city and region; and
- Co-sponsor with the Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement and Partnerships on community funding opportunities at the city and region and private sponsorship opportunities for city projects.
I look forward to closely collaborating with each Deputy Mayor to deliver on the community’s priorities as we face the significant challenges ahead.
Please join me in welcoming and supporting them to these new roles.
The first major task of this council will be approving the 2023 budget. I can tell you it will be an incredibly challenging budget, balancing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 — for Burlington, that figure is close to $4 million including $3.3 million in one-time safe-restart funding, inflationary pressures, and the needs of a growing community, where City services and amenities haven’t kept up to growth.
This is also made more challenging by the proposed Bill 23 downloading of costs of growth from development to taxpayers, and reducing our ability to collect sufficient parkland fees and development charges.
There is an online survey currently at getinvolvedburlington.ca — I encourage all of you to take it, and watch for dates of our upcoming budget telephone town hall, and public budget meetings.
Together, as your Burlington Council, we will serve you as we face the challenges ahead. These include:
- Ensuring the right development in the right place, and completing our plans for new communities around our GO stations;
- Implementing our Climate Action, Attainable Housing, and Integrated Mobility Plans;
- Adding new community amenities and parks to keep up with the needs of our growing community.
- This includes securing ownership of LaSalle Park, that is currently owned by Hamilton;
- Buying any surplus school lands for community uses, for example Lester B Pearson, if offered for sale by the school board;
- Opening Robert Bateman High School as the largest community centre in the city, with Brock University, an expanded library, Halton District School Board adult education, TechPlace, our pool and community gyms – and more community space. We’ll be consulting with you in 2023 about what you’d like to see there;
- We also look forward to opening a new Skyway arena – with an NHL-sized arena, warm viewing area, community meetings rooms and indoor walking track – all with net zero energy impact. That saves you money and is better for the environment.
- Protecting our rural area from urban expansion, and cutting red tape for agricultural businesses.
Finally, we want to continue to ensure that everyone feels welcome and included in the life of our city.
We know we need to do more to advance Truth and Reconciliation with urban Indigenous residents here in Burlington. Though we have made progress, there is more we can do to honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ 10 principles of Reconciliation, and implement the 94 Calls to Action, especially as they relate to municipalities.
To advance the first principle of Reconciliation as Relationship, I am honoured to announce the formation of a Burlington Indigenous Talking Circle of urban Indigenous residents here in our city. The goal of the Circle will be to foster relationship building and dialogue between my office, city council, staff, and urban Indigenous residents in Burlington, to take action on Reconciliation.
To conclude, this is only a snapshot of the work ahead. We are committed to doing our best for you and with you, and our city staff, and all our community partners.
None of the achievements we’ve had over the last term are the work of a single person. What we’ve been able to accomplish, and what we’ve set our mind to in this term, will take all of us working together to get things done – council, staff, community leaders and government partners.
This is all in service to you, our community, and we are all honoured and excited to serve.
We will do so with courage, with persistence and with a view to the next generation, not the next term of office.
I will leave you with one final thought. I’ve had a poster in my office since I was a councillor. It includes a quote from former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt. It inspires me to keep going, when the going gets tough – and it will get tough.
It goes like this:
“The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
who spends themselves in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if we fail, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Thank you for choosing us to serve you and your support. And thank you to the family members of Council who have lent us your loved ones for another four years, who will dedicate themselves to serving this community and working to better this city for future generations.
I’d also like to thank our master of ceremonies, Lisa Scott; saxophonist, Geoff Bournes; our Burlington Teen Tour Band; Dania Thurman and Faith Breen, who sang You’re Not Alone by award-winning Canadian artist Allison Russell; Hayley Verrall, who sang our national anthem in English and French; His worship Justice Mark Curtis, who witnessed Council’s swearing of the oath of office; Chief Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; WhiteEagle Stonefish, healer and elder, who set intentions for the new term; and our local veterans in attendance — you all made it a very memorable and special evening.
Merci, bonsoir, a la prochaine fois.
Miigwetch, Miyo tipiskaw.