Mayor tells business community “we are all in this together” and that all is well.

Mayor Rick Goldring’s delivered his State of the City Address for 2013 on January , 2014 at the Burlington Convention Centre

 The report is produced, in full, below for the record.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for attending today’s State of the City Address.

Before I go any further there are some people I would like to acknowledge and thank who have made this event possible:

Pier is completed now – just not fully paid for – legal tussle may yet surprise everyone.

The Chamber of Commerce, for not only hosting us this morning but also for the tremendous work they do throughout the year tirelessly promoting business and prosperity within Burlington. This year, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting the Entrepreneur of the Year dinner. The Chamber is working with BEDC to carry on the tradition of this great event. The winner of the entrepreneur award will be announced next week. Mark June 5 on your calendar for this special event.

Today’s sponsors – Scotia Bank, Bell, Certified Management Accountants, The Centre for Skills Development & Training, and BDO Canada, for providing this platform to present to you and the broader community.

TV Cogeco for filming today’s event and broadcasting for the community. TV Cogeco is always there to bring events like this to the community, to inform and engage Burlingtonians.

At this time, I want to introduce my Council colleagues. I am extremely pleased how this council has evolved into a very effective team. Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman, and Blair Lancaster have joined us today; Councillor Rick Craven is out-of-town this week. Your dedication to the wards you represent, individual residents and the city as a whole is unparalleled and appreciated. It is an honour and privilege to serve with each of you.

Finally, I want to recognize the people who keep this city running; the city’s management and staff. These are the people who put forth great effort throughout the year providing services for our residents and step up during challenging times around events like wind storms and ice storms. Thank you for your unwavering commitment in making Burlington the great city it is.

I would like to introduce members of our executive team: Jeff Fielding, City Manager, Scott Stewart, General Manager of Development and Infrastructure, and Kim Phillips, General Manager of Community Services and welcome all other members of city staff.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the recent ice storm that we experienced on December 21st and 22nd. There was enormous damage and a loss of power to half a million residents across the GTA over the holiday season. By Sunday morning, approximately 7,500 households in Burlington were without power and there was no certainty for when this situation would be resolved.

The areas north of DunThe Ice Storm: The areas north of Dundas Street, including Lowville, Kilbride, and Cedar Springs, sustained the most damage.das Street, including Lowville, Kilbride, and Cedar Springs, sustained the most damage. Trees toppled onto roads rendering them impassable and ice-encrusted branches fell across power lines resulting in those lines coming down. While residents and businesses were affected throughout the city, those areas waited 3 to 7 days for restoration. All had power restored by December 29th.

On behalf of everyone in our city, we thank all those involved for working and persevering through the most intensive storm-related, power restoration work in recent memory, that took time away from your families and your own holiday plans, in order to serve your community by working together in such a complex 24/7 operation.

I want to thank City and Region staff, firefighters, Burlington Hydro, police, and our friends at Oakville Hydro, Waterloo-North Hydro, Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro, as well as contractors K-Line and the various tree trimming companies, and so many, many others who were committed to support, restoration, and clean up.

I also want to recognize residents who helped and supported friends, neighbours, and strangers in a variety of different ways including providing food, shelter and encouragement to those in need.

I was inspired by how people came together in true community spirit to serve others.

All your efforts are applauded. We will continue to learn from these events through our review processes so that we can learn from our experience and further improve future emergency plans.

At the beginning of this term, with help from the community, Council developed a strategic plan for Burlington, to define our priorities and action plans and identified three strategic pillars: Vibrant Neighbourhoods, Prosperity, and Excellence in Government. These themes serve as the road map we follow to ensure our people, businesses, and nature thrive.

1. A Look in the Rearview Mirror;  2. The Course We Are On; and  3. The Road Ahead.Today’s Roadmap

This morning’s address is divided into three areas:

1. A Look in the Rearview Mirror;

2. The Course We Are On; and

3. The Road Ahead.

In 2013, the world economy remained seriously challenged. Europe is unsteady, the US had a shut-down in government services due to fiscal constraints and political paralysis, and the Canadian economy grew at a modest 1.7%.

In this environment, the Federal and Provincial governments continue to make cuts and shift costs and responsibilities to municipalities. While we continue to advocate for more assistance at the municipal level, we must be fiscally responsible and manage and leverage our own assets to ensure our own prosperity. We cannot always have our hand out asking for more from the senior levels of government.

We need to be creative and innovative in addressing our challenges by maintaining the balance between revenues generated and providing the services our community wants and needs.

At your table are copies of The Burlington Story, which describes our city: who we are, where we have been, where we are today, where we need to be, and what our future opportunities and challenges are. I encourage you to review this document. At its essence, The Burlington Story is intimately connected to all of us.

In my case, I moved to Burlington when I was three in 1960 and have lived here ever since – except for an 11- month period when I lived in Oakville.

My father was a bank manager in the east end of Hamilton. He and my mother wanted to move to Burlington earlier but waited until the construction of the Skyway Bridge was completed making the commute from Burlington much easier. They chose Burlington because of its location, its great neighbourhoods, its rich natural surroundings, and because it was a great place to raise a family. These are the same reasons why Burlington continues as a desirable place to live for long time residents and newcomers.

Public opinion surveys that find that over 90% of Burlington residents’ state their quality of life is good or very good. There are a number of public opinion surveys that find that over 90% of Burlington residents’ state their quality of life is good or very good. And once again we attained a top rating from Money Sense Magazine – as the number one mid-sized city in Canada to live. Our goal is to be and live the title as Canada’s “Quality of Life” capital.

So what did 2013 bring to Burlington?

While we are facing some challenges, our local economy continued to remain strong in 2013.

Over 660,000 square feet of new Industrial, Commercial and Institutional space was constructed in 2013, with a total value exceeding $211 million and adding new tax revenues of close to $1 million annually.

We welcomed 118 new businesses to Burlington, including:

• Newterra, a water and wastewater technology company who has established a third location here in Burlington;

• Seals Unlimited who renovated a 13,000 square foot warehouse on King Road; and

• Gyptech, a global supplier of wallboard process equipment and engineering services, built a new corporate headquarters, bringing 85 high-tech jobs to the city.

Our unemployment rate is at 6.4% which continues to remain lower than the provincial average. Over 1,100 new jobs were created and we look to continue that trend in 2014, providing opportunities for Burlingtonians to live and work in their city.

Burlington continues to have a strong real estate market that saw 412 new units created in 2013 and the average price of a home now exceeds $500,000 which is a 7% increase over 2012.

Many milestones were also accomplished in 2013 and are worthwhile noting. Let me take you back to ‘see’ some of these highlights through this short video. (See video link on

Now I would like to provide you with a few more details on these great initiatives.

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System will be over four times the size of Central Park in New York City.With the city increasing in density and some areas having reached full “build-out,” protecting our natural lands is more important than ever before. Natural areas such as the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System will ensure that current and future residents will experience the gifts of nature, learn about the bounty and diversity in our own backyard, and are critical to preserving the quality of life that Burlingtonians enjoy now and in the future. The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System will be over four times the size of Central Park in New York City.

Last spring, long-time Burlington businessman John Holland—in memory of his wife, Eileen—donated 37 acres of property in North Aldershot for use as additional park land. Eileen believed this land should be given to the city for others to enjoy for generations to come. I’m very pleased that John Holland and his daughter Theresa have joined us here this morning.

The Haber Recreation Centre in Alton is the city’s largest community construction project made possible through a unique partnership between the City of Burlington, Halton District School Board, Burlington Public Library, and Haber & Associates law firm. This is our largest community centre and is equipped with amenities to support regional and provincial levels of play. The recreation centre shares the facility with the new Dr.

Frank J. Hayden Secondary School and the Alton Branch of the Burlington Public Library. This unique branch of our library system is used by both the high school students and the public.

This is a shining example of innovative partnerships that we need to consider and foster to build vibrant, complete neighbourhoods. Thank you to our partners, in particular to Chris Haber and his family who are here with us today.

This past June, after seven years of twists and turns, we officially opened the Brant Street Pier, which has now become a true destination and an integral part of our shoreline and our downtown. I can tell you that we have received overwhelmingly great feedback from residents and visitors alike. The community has really embraced the pier!

We will provide a full and transparent briefing once the legalities are completed.Yes, we continue to work through the legal aspects associated with the Pier construction in the best interests of taxpayers, but we look forward to a timely and mutually satisfactory resolution for all parties. We will provide a full and transparent briefing once the legalities are completed.

We collaborated with Burlington Hydro and other stakeholders to produce a “made in Burlington” Community Energy Plan that will help identify areas where conservation and efficiency measures can be focused. It will also assess the potential for local generation, particularly for renewable energy sources, utilize smart grid technology, and to look at energy implications on future growth and prosperity.

I would like to take a minute and acknowledge and recognize Michael Schwenger for his leadership as the chair of the Community Energy Plan Stakeholder Advisory Group.

After years of planning and construction, the King Road Underpass was officially opened in December. The City, together with CN, installed an underpass at this busy rail crossing that is used by more than 100 freight and commuter trains daily. This new underpass results in much better commuting for everyone and provides the necessary infrastructure to further the potential of the Aldershot business community and employment lands.

Council unanimously approved the Revised Core Commitment for downtown. With over 1800 touch points from our public consultation process, came the vision “Creating an active waterfront downtown destination that showcases the cultural heart of Burlington.” The City will play a leadership role in setting policy and committing resources to implement the strategic actions required to create a more vibrant and prosperous downtown. I have often stated that I believe that our downtown is the heart and soul of our community.

Council unanimously approved Burlington’s Cultural Action Plan to enhance cultural development in the city, which contributes to our citizens’ enjoyment and well-being. 76% of polled residents said culture is “essential” or “highly important” in their daily lives and our cultural organizations attracted more than 624,000 visits to the city in 2013 alone. Culture can inspire generations of creative minds to lead Burlington forward to new technologies and ways of thinking and doing.

The Joseph Brant Hospital Redevelopment and Expansion Project made great progress in 2013 and is scheduled for the Spring 2014 completion of Phase One which includes the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre, an 800 space parking garage along with hospital administration space.

We now turn to Phase Two of the project which has been enhanced from the original six-storey concept to a seven-storey tower comprised of a new Emergency Department, 28 new Intensive Care Unit beds, and 146 medical-surgical beds. Construction for this phase is planned to start in early 2015 and open in 2018.

This is what our tax levy is supporting: a state-of-the-art care facility to better serve residents. Joseph Brant Hospital will essentially be a brand new hospital. While the City of Burlington is contributing $60 million to the project, the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation is also raising $60 million, so I encourage everyone to contribute to the capital campaign.

We endorsed our first Community Engagement Charter We endorsed our first Community Engagement Charter aimed at making this city’s government more accessible and involved with the people it serves. The charter was created in cooperation between local residents and city staff. We continue to expand our engagement toolbox with our partnership with Vision Critical that will use innovative new forms of online technology to assist the City and Council in connecting with residents on a variety of issues. The community online panel, known as Insight Burlington, will consist of 5,000 residents from all areas of the city. Burlington will be the first Ontario city to use this online approach to citizen engagement and consultation resulting in valued input on the issues of the day.

In partnership with the City of Hamilton, Halton Region, and both the Federal and Provincial governments, we continue to make strides in the clean-up of Randle Reef and have signed an agreement as participants. The result will be a much cleaner Burlington Bay improving the quality of life and prosperity for all bay area residents.

2013 also brought us some challenging issues.

Residents reported to the City that literally tens of thousands of truckloads of fill were being transported onto the site of the Burlington Airpark for the apparent purpose of enhancing and expanding aviation activity. The negative impact was significant to surrounding residents and the airpark had never filed a site alteration plan with the City and did not recognize our jurisdiction.

The City took the position that the site alteration bylaw is applicable to this project and must be complied with. After much discussion with residents and airpark representatives, we filed a legal proceeding and the Milton Superior Court ruled in our favour. This is a significant decision for Burlington and for municipalities throughout Canada. I thank the residents for their perseverance and our staff for working diligently on this outcome. The safety and quality of life for our residents is our number one priority.

The City is committed to protecting the Beachway, an environmentally significant area of the city, while respecting the rights of the existing residents.We also tackled a review and update of the Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan. This document had been in place for many years but had not had a meaningful review and update. This has been one of the most complex and controversial matters to deal with since I have been on City Council. There are many issues of land ownership, zoning, wastewater, and property standards. The City is committed to protecting the Beachway, an environmentally significant area of the city, while respecting the rights of the existing residents.

As a result of the Halton Regional Council decision on October 23rd, the City will continue working with the Region and Conservation Halton to deliver a detailed park design, master plan and an environmental management plan, while providing fairness and preserving value of the existing homes so that if home owners sell to the City/Region, home owners will be confident that they will be treated fairly, on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis. There is no plan to expropriate and Beachway residents will continue to retain ownership for as long as they wish.

In October, the Burlington Community Foundation presented the second edition of Burlington’s Vital Signs. This report evaluates Burlington as a place to live, work, and play by identifying trends that are critical to our quality of life.

The report offers information that all of us should consider and provides findings of great interest, some which I will share with you here.

Burlington is one of the safest communities in Canada and residents tend to see the quality of life in the city as improving; almost 30% indicate that the quality of life has improved over the past two years.

It is no surprise that we are, overall, a prosperous community. Our residential real estate values are holding strong and increasing, as noted earlier. We have a well-educated labour force and have cultural opportunities and environmental features, like the escarpment and waterfront, that are, frankly, the envy of others.

Our median household income levels are 24% higher than the Ontario average.

On the other hand, almost 1 in 10 individuals live in a low-income household. Moreover, Burlington is not immune to the youth issues that prevail elsewhere in Canada and the western world such as obesity, bullying, and mental health, and we need to advocate for quality infrastructure to provide the support needed so everyone can live healthy and productive lives.

Our population is aging faster and greater than the Ontario average: 17% of our population is aged 65 or older, compared to 14.5% in Ontario overall. To put this in perspective, there were 30,000 seniors in Burlington in 2011, and this trend is expected to grow, having implications for all of us. Currently over 9,000 people over the age of 80 reside in our city.

And the growth in local real estate values belies the challenge of providing affordable housing to those living with modest incomes, or in single parent or single person households, which is growing in number.

Burlington’s rental vacancy rate is very low at 1.3% compared to Hamilton’s 4.2% and Ontario’s 2.5%. To be an inclusive community, this gap needs to be addressed so everyone can be self-reliant and flourish.

The annual cost of congestion is greater than $6 billion Traffic Congestion and Gridlock is a significant issue for Burlington and the GTHA. The annual cost of congestion is greater than $6 billion when travel delays, impact on the environment, increased vehicle costs from traffic delays, increased chance of vehicle collisions and loss of productivity are considered. With an additional 2.5 million people and one million cars expected to enter the region in the next 18 years, the congestion will only get worse if action is not taken.

Metrolinx has started to implement some projects that are part of the $50 billion “Big Move” for investing in public transit and it is crucial that work continue on the remainder as if it doesn’t, the cost of doing nothing will see the annual cost of congestion increase to $15 billion by 2031.

Within Burlington, work has commenced on the City of Burlington Transportation Master Plan. There are approximately 115,000 cars in Burlington and 70,000 household units. Those 70,000 household units create approximately 6 trips per day for over 400,000 vehicles trips per day. In addition there is significant cut through traffic often as a result of traffic delays on the QEW and 403. There is no magic bullet to address our transportation challenges. We need to take a balanced approach going forward improving our intersections and road networks where appropriate and also building complete streets that include appropriate infrastructure for cycling and pedestrian activity as well as transit.

Property taxes are the most significant revenue source for the City. Traditionally, we relied on residential growth to fund service levels that residents expect. In the future, the challenge will be to maintain these service levels because in the past we had lots of Greenfield development and Burlington is now reaching build out, thus the City is challenged to maintain services and infrastructure because revenue growth from property taxes has slowed dramatically.

Now, here we are in 2014, the slowest growing municipality in the GTHA over the next 17 years. In 2014, we are projecting assessment growth of .5% which is the lowest we have had in memory.

As a result of declining rate of assessment growth, it is more important than ever, to create new ways to

increase this revenue source while maintaining affordability and minimizing negative impact on service quality and quantity delivered to the community. We want and need to maintain quality of life.

If the current trend continues as the city migrates towards residential build-out without us taking action, Burlington may realize the need for more than moderate tax increases over the mid to long term along with a reduction in services.

Because of our limited capacity to grow, we must take a strategic approach to support and sustain our community, now and for the long term. The centre piece of that approach is the attraction and successful recruitment of new industrial and commercial businesses.

Earlier I mentioned The Burlington Story. If you look at page, Figure 1 – Commercial/Industrial Weighted Assessment Growth, this chart tells the story of where assessment growth has gone.

have the Burlington Economic Development Corporation take a more direct, active and strategic role in the short and long-term development and marketing of Burlington.In my last State of the City Address I indicated that one of the key priorities for 2013 was to have the Burlington Economic Development Corporation take a more direct, active and strategic role in the short and long-term development and marketing of Burlington.

The organization has been in been in a transitional mode internally while still maintaining its core mandate of marketing and facilitating existing and new business expansions. I would like to acknowledge the BEDC staff for keeping their foot on the pedal while we move forward through this process. We have reviewed the best in class models combined with a made in Burlington approach and we are in the process of creating a dynamic organization.

This organization will aggressively maximize market opportunities locally and internationally, lead transformation to key employment districts, be investment ready to streamline development processes and ensure land is shovel ready.

We are also looking at the viability of acquiring assets and assisting owners to create new development sites on underutilized lands in order to enhance their value and bring them to market. I would encourage you to join us for BEDC’s AGM in May where we will share even more information on the new Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

Part of our prosperity agenda is the development of the city’s employment lands which represent a strategic asset. Taking a proactive and targeted approach to preserving and optimizing our employment land inventory will help take pressure off the need for residential property taxes. This will be key to Burlington’s long-term fiscal capacity and sustainability.

We reached an agreement with IKEA that will accommodate the transportation needs of their relocation project and provide a long term transportation solution for the city’s Prosperity Corridor. Solving the transportation issue has allowed us to unlock the development potential of the North Service Road area and provided us the infrastructure to help us attract further investment.

On the expense side of the ledger, there are initiatives at play that build on the 2012 decision to re-focus investments in city services through a service-based approach. This transition from a traditional budget approach of department spending to investing in value-based service delivery is not esoteric; rather, it is rooted in a delivery and budgeting model that focuses on service quality and financial sustainability, and will be a primary focus in 2014, as we transition to a service based budget in 2015.

There are a number of opportunities that are being explored with the objective of reducing operational costs and creating new revenue streams. Some of these include:

A Real Estate Asset Management Corporation would be an innovative approach A Real Estate Asset Management Corporation would be an innovative approach to optimizing civic facility assets to increase their value and potentially creating a revenue stream, and making the best use of current infrastructure.

A Service-Based Corporation, in partnership with Burlington Electricity Services Inc. (which is managed under Burlington Hydro), would streamline existing services, avoiding duplication, creating efficiencies and enhancing existing services. Examples under consideration include storm water management, street lighting, and tree trimming.

An Energy Corporation that would offer residents effective, value-based and sustainable energy solutions to provide our energy needs now and in the future.

For each concept, a comprehensive business case will be developed to identify and weigh the benefits, costs and risks associated with each initiative. The models with the most return on investment would be implemented.

Exploring new service delivery methods has established an environment of change and transformation, to enhance service value and quality and build on our efforts for sustainable local government. The City, like other municipal governments, is under increasing pressure to think more entrepreneurial and be creative in revenue generation and service delivery opportunities. We are, in essence, reinventing municipal government.

So while it is great for Burlington to be lauded and recognized, we need to continue to stay ahead of the curve.

In times of high growth and great prosperity, we often neglect to look for the future challenges that we might face in the long term. It is often when we are experiencing the difficult times in life, personally or professionally, and we face challenges, that we learn to be innovative and creative. These are the times when we are often the most successful in finding a solution.

As a community, there are many challenges that lie ahead that we must confront. Your ideas, passion, and engagement have never been more needed than now.

 “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”In my inauguration speech I closed with the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Ladies and gentlemen, we are in this together and we can, together, continue to build a city that works to provide the best in vibrant neighborhoods, prosperity and excellence in governance. Together we can be a shining example of the best a city can be.

The following sums up the keys to success to sustain Burlington as an attractive place to live, work, and play.

Attract new business to generate new sources of revenue, jobs, and increase opportunities for more residents to work and live in the city, thereby improving quality of life.

Continue our journey towards a performance-results and accountability culture at the city, to improve effectiveness, service levels, and value for your money.

We will continue to seek strategic commercial market opportunities both within Canada and internationally including continuing to develop the potential of our water technology sector.

We need to continue to invest appropriately to improve our local, regional and provincial transportation networks in order to improve prosperity and quality of life for our residents.

We need to work with the Region of Halton and developers to provide creative approaches for a variety of housing options for all residents.

We need to staunchly advocate for infrastructure that supports both the physical and emotional well- being of our citizens, particularly for our youth and seniors, while providing an environment that fosters healthy, happy, and productive living.

Meeting these aspirations will be a community effort. We need your support to make this happen and over the next few months, we will be soliciting your participation. I am asking you to get involved in any way you can!

The Burlington of tomorrow will be a healthy, vibrant, prosperous, caring, connected and compassionate community by providing a variety of opportunities to live, work and play. These include fostering a real and authentic sense of community where people thrive, reach their potential, learn, enjoy, and continue to support one another in good times and in times of need.

On behalf of your Council, I offer my thanks for your ongoing and continued support. I leave you with this.

In the words of Alan Kay, an American Computer Scientist and pioneer: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Burlington of tomorrow is in our hands, hearts, and minds. Let us form our future together.

Background links:

The State of the City address for 2012

The State of the City address for 2011

2013 address was limp at best.



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2 comments to Mayor tells business community “we are all in this together” and that all is well.

  • Roger

    No mention of the broken promise of keeping taxes less then 10% – no mention of promising open government but having more closed door / off camera sessions then past councils – no mention – he supports the Big Move but fails to mention there is no benefit for Burlington / Halton for 15 years – noted a transportation plan however fails to note transit server less now then it did 4 years ago but we pay one of the highest bus fares in Ontario – tells us about transparency of cost for the pier but more closed door sessions – no mention of the good jobs Burlington lost – see Dependable IT – in favour of a warehouse ? – yes it was an election year but was it the place for a re-election speech

  • Pat