I presented my 2023 Mayor’s State of the City Address (SOTC) earlier today, the first one of the new Council term, and it was truly wonderful to be able to return to an in-person event at the Burlington Convention Centre.
The Burlington Chamber of Commerce annually holds the SOTC as an opportunity for the Mayor of the City of Burlington to set the tone for the year and lay out Council’s priorities and how we plan to achieve them. Thank you, as well, to Cogeco for presenting the event with the Chamber and airing it on your network — also, thanks to Cogeco’s Tim Cadigan for once again holding a Q-and-A session with me after the Address.
I’m truly grateful for the sold-out crowd who joined us earlier this morning and to everyone who helped put on the event and make it a success.
For anyone who was unable to join us in-person, below is a copy of my 2023 SOTC Address. You can also view a copy of the presentation slides here: 2023 Burlington Mayor’s State of the City Address.
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2023 Mayor’s SOTC:
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
State of the City 2023
January 26, 2023
Full Speech Transcript
Hello everyone! Bonjour! Boozhoo!
I want to welcome everyone here today and thank you for joining us to discuss what’s happening in our city, and what we have planned for this new term of Council.
Thank you also to the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for hosting and Cogeco for presenting this event — we appreciate every opportunity we have to partner together and connect with our business community.
I’m very excited to share more today about our accomplishments from last term, and what we’re lining up for the 2023-2026 term. But before I do, there is one thing I did want to note — we have a very important birthday occurring this year.
This year, we’re celebrating Burlington’s 150th birthday! And I have to say, we look pretty good for 150!
In 1873, the villages of Wellington Square and Port Nelson merged to become the Village of Burlington. In 2023, 150 years later, the City of Burlington is a diverse and inclusive community that celebrates its history while embracing its present as a multicultural, metropolitan gem where people, nature, and businesses thrive. We’re also a community that takes pride in protecting our beautiful natural environments, wide ranging leisure, arts and cultural opportunities, and enhancing our economic sustainability.
We’ve had 150 years of history and growth, 150 years of being a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family in, and we’re working to keep that going for another 150 years. All the work that we’ve done and continue to do doesn’t just help set the tone for the city, for our residents, right now, it’s for the next generation, and the generation after that. Our legacy will be that Burlington continues to be a place that people proudly call their home.
I wanted to take a moment to note our City of Burlington crest that appears on the slide here — it features many important symbols of the history of Burlington:
- The peaks of the dividing line represent the major local headlands of Rattlesnake Point, Mount Nemo and Flamborough Head;
- The ship and lighthouse are representations of Burlington’s early years as a lakeport;
- The beehive symbolizes the role industry played in our city’s development;
- The apple and the cow represent the farming industry and the importance of agricultural in our early growth — something we take great pride in protecting today; and
- The words ‘stand by’ are just as important now as they were when this crest was first created. It is the City’s job to be standing by our business community, and we are committing to doing so for the entire term.
We stand with you, we will work together with you and we will collaborate with you.
I’ve also come to know through the veterans I’ve connected with that ‘stand by’ means to be ready for everything, and to be ready for service. That’s another commitment I can make for you – this is a Council that is ready for service and ready for whatever comes our way.
In speaking with members of Burlington’s Indigenous community, I learned Indigenous Peoples plan for 7 generations into the future. This term of Council, we will be putting priorities into action that will continue to benefit Burlington residents 7 generations into the future — 150 years into the future.
On this morning’s agenda, I’ll be introducing you to Council — although they should all be very familiar to you as Burlington voted in the 2022 municipal election to bring back every member of Council from last term. This will allow us to continue doing the great work of the city we put into motion last term without skipping a beat this term.
Next, we’ll be going over some of the leadership principles with which we aim to lead this term, and then we’ll go through the new Deputy Mayor portfolios each member of Council has been given. Finally, we’ll do a quick review of what’s next at the City of Burlington, in terms of programs and priorities, and what we’re looking forward to.
CITY COUNCIL 2022-2026:
I’m so happy that our Council is back — I know that we’re all honoured and excited to be returning to continue serving this great city.
This is a Council that gets things done. Now that we’re all back, we can jump right back into it and get into the business of the city. We have many priorities that need to be addressed and we know that residents and our businesses are expecting a lot from us.
With that in mind, I want to discuss the five leadership principles that Council will be using to help guide our decisions in this term.
Principle 1: Advocacy
Above all, we will advocate for you. We are going to continue to be strong advocates for our community and collaborate where we can with different groups and stakeholders — whether that be with the Province, other mayors and municipalities, Halton Region, as well as the Burlington Chamber, who have been such good partners on our advocacy pieces. We will continue to work with the Chamber to advocate for our local businesses.
Burlington has a direct voice on these tables where I have a seat at: the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s (AMO) Large Urban Caucus; the Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) caucus, where I serve as Vice-Chair; the Small Urban GTHA Mayors caucus, where I serve as a liaison to larger urban municipalities; and the Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario (TAPMO) caucus.
Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna is also a part of the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA), and Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan sits on the Board of Directors at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) representing the Region of Halton.
Between all these different tables we sit at, there are so many opportunities to collaborate with other municipalities, levels of government and stakeholders, and further our advocacy work for Burlington.
Principle 2: Planning and Evidence Based Decisions
Our second leadership principle, we will base our decisions on solid planning and evidence. I cannot stress how important it is that we all work from the same set of facts and evidence.
Burlington is open for business and we welcome development in the right spaces and areas that works with the community’s and Council’s vision for the future of our city.
We’ve had great success working with developers who have worked cooperatively with us. We had this happen with a development at the Appleby Mall plaza where the applicant worked with the City and took the feedback from the community to help shape the project and now we will be getting three multi-use residential buildings that will also include a retirement residence.
We have seen before what is possible when we take time to do our homework, consult with the community and build a case for support that can’t be refused.
Last term, we did that with the new Official Plan, and we’re well on our way to inviting the community to be involved in the planning for our Major Transit Station Areas (MTSA). The MTSAs include business and commercial spaces, so we want input from the business community.
I encourage everyone here to head to our Get Involved Burlington webpage for MTSAs to learn more and see where you can submit your comments and questions to staff.
Development and Appleby Mall Plaza
There are numerous development projects at various stages across the city. The Province has assigned us 29,000 new units of housing, and we already have approximately 21,000 units in the planning pipeline right now in various stages of the review and approval process.
We know that we can do our part to address the housing crisis in Burlington — and we’re willing to do our part.
Principle 3: Working as a Team
Our third leadership principle is working closely with City staff and each other, as a team.
I want to take a moment to recognize our City Manager Tim Commisso, and some of our amazing senior staff also in attendance here today.
There are more than 1,000 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, roads and park maintenance, bylaw enforcement and many more. We rely on all of our team members to help us keep the city running and we couldn’t do this without their dedication, their enthusiasm and their commitment to Burlington.
One of the items you’ll see in the budget for this year is review of staff compensation because we have fallen behind overall and we’ve experienced some difficulties filling vacancies. I know that’s something that will resonate with many of you here. We’re all experiencing labour shortages.
At the City, we’re experiencing a number of retirements, internal movement and resignations that have led to an 11% turnover rate for our non-union positions. A typical turn over rate is between 5-7%, and that’s good for any business and organization as it brings new people with fresh ideas. We have to be more competitive in order to be able to deliver services. If we can’t fill the vacancies at City Hall, it means that businesses will experience extreme delays on items, such as development permits, resulting in limited staffing resources to get them processed quickly.
Principle 4: We Aim High
Our fourth leadership principle — we will aim high. We are going to continue to set big goals and not be deterred by naysayers and critics who say that we can’t do something. If something is worth doing, we will try and do our best to get it done. This is best exemplified through our work last term to remove the MTSA designation and adjust the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) designation from our downtown. These two designations were used heavily at the Ontario Land Tribunal to justify overdevelopment. We’re now in a better position to protect the community’s, Council’s and staff’s vision for the downtown and direct development to where our city can best support it.
We were also successful in getting Safe Restart Funding from upper levels of government during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic totaling $22 million.
We won’t be afraid to break new ground and pursue new city building opportunities that come our way.
Principle 5: Doing This Together With You
Our fifth leadership principle — we will accomplish of all our priorities and goals working together with our community. You are all a crucial part to our puzzle, and a huge reason for our success. We will continue to keep the best interests of our community at the centre of all our discussions, We will do all of this together with you.
We’ve had so many opportunities to work with the Chamber on events like this, the Mayor’s Luncheon, and various awards and recognitions we’ve helped give out to local businesses. Every opportunity to collaborate is a chance to help connect back with the community and receive your feedback. We want to know how we can continue to help local businesses thrive and grow in Burlington.
A LOOK AHEAD:
We’ve talked about how the city’s going to tackle the challenges ahead. And we’re facing a number of big challenges, but also many big opportunities. We can’t do it alone, we’re going to need all of your help and get all hands on deck to help us achieve our goals.
With that, I want to talk about the new Deputy Mayor portfolios that we have introduced this term for Council members. All of the councillors have been given a Deputy Mayor portfolio that incorporate their interests and previous experiences, while also aligning with our City’s Vision to Focus strategy and our Council priorities.
DEPUTY MAYOR PORTFOLIOS:
Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reduction: Councillor Kelvin Galbraith
First, we have Councillor Kelvin Galbraith as our Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reduction.
This portfolio builds on Councillor Galbraith’s experience as a business owner and his experience with our Red Tape Red Carpet (RTRC) Task Force. It also includes reviewing the progress from the RTRC Task Force, looking at how we can speed up the delivery of permits, cutting red tape for all businesses, and for our agricultural sector in our rural community, and promote reasonable growth in the right places.
This portfolio will also be working closely with our Deputy Mayor for Housing on our housing strategy.
Improving Development Services
Staff have already started working on how to improve areas such as development services that we know many people have been experiencing delays, for example with permit processing.
The City received Provincial funding from the Streamline Development Approval Fund (SDAF) to find efficiencies and process improvements for pre-building permits. The work from the SDAF has helped to create faster response times with applicants upon receiving applications. Instead of applicants waiting up to 108 days, they’re now hearing back within 2-6 days.
The SDAF project is also developing an online tool where applicants can log onto an online portal and track the progress of their application, so they’re always in the know about the status of their application.
I want to say a thank you to the development community for their participation on the SDAF work. This is just another example of the City working together with our community to help each other.
Deputy Mayor for Housing: Councillor Shawna Stolte
With that, I’d like to recognize Councillor Shawna Stolte as our Deputy Mayor for Housing.
Councillor Stolte has been chairing the City’s Working Group on Housing and will be bringing her passion and commitment to help us deliver our housing strategy and ensure Burlington is a city where you can access affordable and attainable housing.
This portfolio also includes liaising with Halton Region on assisted housing.
Our priority with the Housing Working Group and the housing strategy is to get more housing built faster. We want to make this city a place where people can live and work, where there are a variety of housing options to choose from.
Housing is also critical for our business owners – it’s a key component of delivering a sustainable labour force. As housing prices rise, it becomes incredibly difficult for people to live and work in Burlington and they seek housing and employment opportunities elsewhere. By addressing the housing crisis, we are hoping to simultaneously address some of the labour shortage issues that we’re all experiencing.
Community Investment Strategy
We’re not just looking at building housing, we believe the answer to the housing crisis is through building new and complete communities and mixed-used neighbourhoods.
We’re ready to work with the Province to build housing, but we want to make sure we’re building vibrant neighbourhoods and communities as well. What we need is a new community investment strategy to protect our existing neighbourhoods while accommodating new residents. We’re going to need more community amenities, more parks and we need to keep all of that in mind as we build housing.
Council has already started this work with the new OP, updating our strategic plan and adopting our Vision to Focus Plan, and approval of the new Burlington Lands Partnership. We will be building these strong complete communities around our MTSA GO Stations.
The Province’s Bill 23
Ontario’s new Bill 23 housing plan is not the answer as it currently stands — building strong, new and complete communities with mixed-used neighbourhoods is the answer.
Bill 23’s single focus is on the goal of building 1.5 million homes over 10 yrs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The City of Burlington needs to build vibrant neighbourhoods and communities, not just houses. Fundamentally, Bill 23 as it is currently written is counter-productive to how complete communities actually get built in growing cities.
Burlington Council has already approved a comprehensive housing strategy in June 2022. We are fully prepared to work with Province to build new housing and neighbourhood communities. Bill 23 needs to be repealed or amended significantly as it will not alone achieve the 10-year housing goal that we all support.
What Burlington needs in this term of Council is a new community investment strategy to protect existing neighbourhoods while we build the infrastructure and services needed for the new neighbourhoods to house 70,000 new residents.
A Head Start
Burlington already has a head start from the work in the last Council term:
- New OP approval in 2020 including relocating new UGC to include the Burlington GO Station;
- Update of 40-year Burlington Strategic Plan and adoption of 4-year Vision to Focus (V2F) Action Plan;
- Approval of initial Multi Community Investment Plan (MCIP) that identifies $370 million is needed in municipal investment by 2030 including $150 million for strategic land purchases; and
- Approval of new Burlington Lands Partnership focused on working with community partners and business community on innovative land partnership opportunities to achieve three goals:
- Grow the Burlington economy and create local jobs;
- Increase the supply of attainable housing; and
- Complete major “City Building” projects including planning and delivering new municipal facilities, parks and amenities in the MTSAs surrounding Burlington’s three GO Stations and also other strategic growth areas of the city.
MTSAs and Unlocked Land
On this slide, you can see all our MTSAs that include our three GO Stations.
We have the space to build housing, we don’t have to expand our urban boundary to build into the Greenbelt. We have so many opportunities between our GO Stations and the unlocked land at Bronte, King Road and Eagle Heights that the Regional Official Plan Amendment (ROPA) 49 unlocked that can be used for mixed development.
We can also expand community amenities by looking at surplus school sites. There are numerous existing options that can help us meet the demands of our growing population without building into the Greenbelt.
Deputy Mayor for Strategy & Budget: Councillor Paul Sharman
Moving along to our next Deputy Mayor Portfolio is the Deputy Mayor for Strategy and Budget, Councillor Paul Sharman.
This portfolio includes the oversight of the implementation of our Vision to Focus strategic plan, the development of Key Performance Indicators and progress reports to track how we’re doing, guidance on process improvements and culture changes, and advice with multi-year budget preparation.
Councillor Sharman’s experience as a professional accountant and as an instructor for strategy and business process improvements will be invaluable for this portfolio. Especially as we head into a very challenging budget season.
2023 Proposed Budget
The proposed 2023 proposed budget is recommending an overall tax increase of 7.08% when combined with the Region of Halton and the Boards of Education rates.
This is very much in line with many other municipalities around us who are coming in at 5-7%.
We are still balancing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we are also addressing the needs of our growing community and making investments to help improve services for our residents.
Not only are we trying to fill in service gaps and bring everything up to speed, but we are also trying to improve our infrastructure, assist with talent attraction and undergo a digital transformation in order to assist residents on items such as speeding up the delivery of permits.
This budget will also be addressing feedback we’ve heard from the community to help meet the needs on items such as traffic, transit operators, and bylaw enforcement.
Budget Portions Breakdown
The breakdown of the City budget includes: 5.9% for the City’s portion; 1.18% for Halton Region’s portion; and 0% for School Boards’ portion.
There are no frills in this budget, no “nice-to-haves.” We have a lot of course correction to deal with and we’re dealing with inflation and COVID-19 impacts, in addition to “catch-up” pressures.
We need amenities to meet the needs of our growing population, transit expansions that include 4 more buses and a new handi-van. We also have to deal with increased community safety issues with additional bylaw enforcement, firefighters, automated speed and enforcement, and coyote response management.
The most important thing is that our residents and business community feel they are getting value for their money and you feel it was spent well.
We also have the chance to leverage other levels of government for funding. Every dollar we spend, we try and leverage $2 from the federal and provincial governments. In fact, only 64% of our budget is tax supported — the rest of the funding comes from additional avenues.
Deputy Mayor for the Environment: Councillor Rory Nisan
Our next Deputy Mayor portfolio is Deputy Mayor for the Environment, Councillor Rory Nisan.
Councillor Nisan has been an advocate on items such as transit, and helped bring in the Climate Change Emergency Declaration last term.
This portfolio will be implementing the Climate Action Plans and the Integrated Mobility Plans, that include transit, cycling and walking. Councillor Nisan will also be helping reopen the conversations about free transit for students that were stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy Mayor for Recreation & Community Services: Councillor Angelo Bentivegna
Next, we have Councillor Angelo Bentivegna who will be our Deputy Mayor for Recreation and Community Services.
Many who know Councilor Bentivegna know about his passion for volunteering – particularly through his work with the Gift of Giving Back, the largest youth-led food drive in Canada. His work with the Accessibility and Inclusivity Advisory Committees will also be important for this portfolio.
The Deputy Mayor for Recreation and Community Services will be involved in the implementation and review of our Recreation and Cultural Master Plan that will determine park and community amenity needs. This portfolio will also be liaising with the charitable sector to see how we can support you. I encourage our local charities and non-profits to please reach out to Councillor Bentivegna’s office to start these conversations, and promote community pride and inclusion.
We are also forming a Burlington Indigenous Talking Circle of urban Indigenous residents to help foster relationships and keep an open dialogue between the City of Burlington and the urban Indigenous community in order to continue advancing Truth and Reconciliation in our city.
Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement & Partnerships: Councillor Lisa Kearns
To conclude our Deputy Mayor Portfolios — without strong partnerships and engagements, we couldn’t do this. That is why Councillor Lisa Kearns will serve as the Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement and Partnerships.
This portfolio builds on Councillor Kearns’ experience working with residents’ groups and her Institute of Corporate Directors governance designation.
The Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement and Partnerships will review our current community engagement models, and our advisory committee structures. Councillor Kearns will also be liaising with our numerous partner agencies/boards/committees on governance and keep the strong relationships between these agencies and the City. She will also work alongside our Deputy Mayor for Recreation and Community Services on community funding opportunities at the city and private sponsorship opportunities for city projects.
We know we have so many more community amenities to build, and we can’t do that alone, we need business partnerships and sponsorships. We’ve had a very recent example of a wonderful partnership opportunity with the purchase of the former Robert Bateman High School site while partnering with TechPlace, Brock University and the Halton District School Board to utilize the space and open it back up to the community.
We’re looking to build more amenities as we develop community hubs around our GO Stations. We will need private sector partners for those, and we are very open to discuss with any businesses that want to invest in the future of Burlington. So, expect a knock at your door to discuss partnerships as we get further into the MTSA planning!
Now that you’ve heard more about the Deputy Mayor portfolios and how this Council is setting itself up for success this term, I wanted to quickly touch on some upcoming items that I’m very excited about.
We recently purchased the Robert Bateman High School site and I wanted to give a huge thank you to our wonderful community partners that helped make this happen. We will be engaging with the community on what they want to see done with the leftover space in the facility — about 100,000 sq-ft., and what sort of programming they’re looking for. So, keep an eye out for more news on that.
We’re also assessing the need for more parks with our Parks Provisioning Master Plan – another great opportunity to engage with residents that is slated for later this year.
And we’re working on our Rural Active Transportation Plan to help us link or urban and rural areas together and make it easier for residents and visitors to take advantage of our trails and green spaces.
We’ve made progress with with the upgrades to Skyway Arena and started demolition. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
Our Integrated Mobility Plan, that will help address our transportation needs, will be completed this year and staff will be bringing a report on implementation later in 2023.
In addition, we’re looking at recreation amenities that may need to be added, for example additional pickleball courts.
The future of Burlington is being created right now, and that is our plan for this term.
We are making investments, starting conversations for what our community members want from their city, and finding ways to make our processes easier for residents and businesses.
I always like to leave things with a quote that summarizes what we hope to achieve in the year. For 2023, I felt this great quote from Babe Ruth does just that:
“The way a team plays as a whole, determines its success. You may have a great bunch of individuals stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” — Babe Ruth
That’s our goal — working together as a team, as a Council, as a City, with the community — to keep Burlington a wonderful city to be in.
Speaking of teams, I’d like to close out by thanking my own team in the Mayor’s Office for all their hard work, passion and commitment to serving Burlington. To contact the Mayor’s Office, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-335-7777.
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2 thoughts on “Burlington Mayor sets out Council’s Priorities & Highlights New Deputy Mayor Portfolios in 2023 State of the City Address”
Will there be a recording of the presentation posted?
Hi Ian, this is John on the Mayor’s team. Cogeco presented the Mayor’s State of the City Address, with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce hosting. Cogeco, I believe aired it live on their channel and may air reruns on their YourTV Halton channel. You might want to reach out to Cogeco, if they are your cable/Internet provider, and inquire about a recording. Thank you for connecting.