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Mayor's Speeches

Mayor Friel Year End Address


JANUARY 30, 2018

Members of Council, City staff, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens of Brantford:
Let me begin tonight by expressing my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to deliver my 16th Annual Address as your Mayor. I have never been more proud to be in a position to share the City’s achievements of this past year and the plans to launch our community forward in 2018.

We are all exceptionally fortunate to live, work and play in this great city of ours. The progress we have achieved, and the future prosperity of our city is nothing short of exciting.

Over the years, I have seen how far we’ve come and believe in what we can accomplish. With an ambitious vision, exciting new initiatives and passionate community partners, we continue to make great strides, shaping Brantford into a city that is increasingly vibrant, innovative, inclusive, and sustainable.

Our economy and unemployment rate is the healthiest it has been in decades. In 2017 alone, we created over 800 new jobs. And for the third year in a row, we have a record number of new businesses calling Brantford home.

We live in an age of great possibility; one of new technology, information systems, and intense global competition. These changes have opened vast new job opportunities in Brantford, but they have also presented challenges. Challenges, that we’ve responded to by implementing innovative programs to transform our economy.

Initiatives such as Smart Brantford, Safe Brantford, Graduate Brantford, and Healthy Brantford are all successfully working to enhance our quality of life and create a more vibrant community for all of Brantford’s citizens.

Our city is on the cusp of Greatness. Greatness however, does not occur without hard work. By marrying our City’s innovative and industrious spirit with forward-thinking ambition, we are achieving greatness.

Our unique strengths as a city - including strategic location, access to large urban markets, a progressive labor force, passionate community partners, robust infrastructure, favorable real estate values and a pro-business local position, as well as top quality trails, parks, recreation and sports facilities that businesses value for their employees, allows us to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. Recognizing these unique advantages, it is no surprise that Brantford was awarded the top spot as the most business-friendly micro-city in Foreign Direct Investment (FDi’s) 2017/2018 American Cities of the Future report.

Even with these strengths, progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together as a community and with our neighbouring partners.

Consistent with the City’s Shaping our Community Strategic Plan, we accomplished great things in 2017 to enhance economic vitality and innovation, ensure a high quality of life and caring for all citizens, manage growth and environmental leadership and maintain excellence in governance and municipal management.

Population, employment and economic growth are all on the rise. In 2017 we continued to demonstrate our success in attracting and retaining foreign investors. Reflecting on our specific achievements in 2017 - there are many so bear with me. Between January and December the City issued 977 building permits valued at over $200 million - $202,748 million to be exact, representing the City’s second highest year end construction value ever; second only to 2005 when construction of the building permit for Ferrero Canada Ltd. was issued. Excellent growth in permits issued across all categories including, Commercial, Institutional & Government and Residential sectors is a strong indicator of the City’s economic growth. In 2017, we attracted 243 new businesses; of which 225 were small business start-ups, 12 industrial companies and 6 commercial operations, resulting in 791 new jobs as well as 14 industrial expansion projects representing $75-million in capital investments and 66 jobs respectively.

While we’re encouraging businesses and investors to look at Brantford, we also know that we have to invest in our city’s transportation, infrastructure and our quality of life. Currently the City oversees the design, construction and maintenance of over $3 billion worth of assets. In 2017 a total of approximately $54.8 million was applied to the Public Works state of good repair program to upgrade roads as well as other key infrastructure projects.

In 2017 we began implementation of the City’s Corporate Facilities Accommodation Strategy developed as a result of a comprehensive review of the City’s existing administrative offices and buildings. With a focus on improving efficiencies and our service delivery, in 2017 Council approved the purchase of centrally located 70 Dalhousie Street federal building as the home of our new City Hall – an exciting initiative that will bring more employees together under the same roof to achieve greater operational efficiencies where we look forward to continuing the legacy of public service in the iconic building.

Collectively we are fostering a vibrant and liveable City. Facilities such as the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, Kiwanis Field, Bisons Alumni North Park Sports and Recreation Complex, the future Laurier Brantford YMCA and future Southwest Recreation Centre shine a light on the character of our city – telling people they’ve made the right choice to live, work and play here. Equally important, these amenities and public spaces show potential investors and job creators looking to locate here that we put a premium on high quality of life as a city.

From February 10-12th, 2017 we were proud and honoured to welcome over 360 participants including athletes, coaches, support staff and officials to the 2017 Ontario ParaSport Winter Games. The event showcased some of the finest athletic talent in the province, with world class athletes who competed in eleven events including 3-on-3 wheelchair basketball, boccia, goalball, sledge hockey, sitting volleyball and more. Together with our co-hosts the County of Brant, excellent facilities and an amazing network of dedicated staff and volunteers, we created an ideal environment for athletes to compete at their highest level of performance. As a result, we have set an even higher standard in event management and those outside of our community are taking notice. I am very pleased to share that in recognition of the tremendous success of this event, the 2017 Ontario ParaSport Games has been named as a finalist for the 2018 Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance PRESTIGE Awards, which recognize exceptional sport tourism events, organizations, volunteers and leaders.

To celebrate the 150th anniversaries of Canada and Ontario in 2017, the City developed a unique promotional campaign that reflected both the City’s local history while honouring our province and nation’s deep sense of pride and heritage. To brand the campaign, city staff developed a unique "Brantford Celebrates 150” logo featuring a symbolic river icon to pay homage to the City’s famous Grand River, accompanied with echoes of a maple leaf in behind. The logo was featured in an integrated marketing campaign to promote the City’s yearlong series of Canada 150 and Ontario 150 celebrations including the Ontario 150 Launch Event on May 18th, the Canada 150 Community Parade and Party on June 3, the Canada 150 Concert on June 14, the Ontario Day 150 Celebration on June 30, the Canada Day 150 Celebration on July 1, the Brantford International Jazz Festival from September 15-17, Lawren Harris Week in Brantford from October 16-23, the Bell Memorial 100th Anniversary on October 24, and finally culminating with the Brantford Celebrates 150 closing ceremony at the New Year’s Eve event on December 31st, 2017. The year’s program of events also involved photo contests that invited the community to share their favourite memories of Ontario, a series of rock and kids concerts and a Canada 150 community parade. The biggest celebration to ever take place in the city included a weekend of Ontario Day and Canada Day festivities featuring entertainers that appealed to all ages. The Made in Ontario Exhibit on display at each event was designed to highlight the skills and talents of our community members, businesses, schools, artisans, and organizations. Featured in this exhibit was a collage of all the photos and descriptions collected as part of the Ontario 150 photo contest in addition to work by local artists, local farming and agriculture groups, legacy school projects, and community organizations displaying their Ontario heritage.

2017 also saw the City receive two key designations. In April, the City was officially designated a “Youth Friendly Community” by PlayWorks - the Ontario Partnership for Active and Engaged Youth. The designation recognizes a series of initiatives the City has undertaken to meet the needs of youth in our community including the development of the “W-Lounge” and “The Eagles Nest” dedicated youth spaces located at Woodman Community Centre, Doug Snooks Eagle Place Community Centre and TB Costain/SC Johnson Community Centre, as well as the “Crew Card” youth membership program, that provides access to free and discounted programming at Woodman Park and Branlyn Community Centres. Staff also developed a research partnership with Laurier Brantford to determine best practices for connecting with youth in need of services, and supported the community in accessing $100,000 of provincial funding for Parker’s Project – a youth led initiative to respond to the needs of pregnant and parenting youth.

Fittingly, in 2017 we launched the Together for Youth Coordinated Youth Services Strategy for the City of Brantford and County of Brant. Developed in consultation with youth and youth agencies to increase opportunities for success among youth in our communities, Together for Youth highlights 57 milestones and 23 goals across seven themes including:  Civic Engagement and Youth Leadership, Health and Wellness, Education, Training, and Apprenticeships, Employment and Entrepreneurship, Diversity, Social Inclusion, and Safety, Strong, Supportive Friends and Family and Coordinated and Youth-Friendly Communities. A vibrant, youth-friendly city is a place where youth are engaged, have strong connections, and a meaningful voice in shaping the community around them.

That kind of thinking also extends to becoming an age friendly city ensuring that needs and perspectives of all ages are front and centre in our decision making, in our transportation network, in our communications and in our planning for the future. On July 27, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognized the City of Brantford as an Age-Friendly City, reflecting the City’s commitment to making Brantford an inclusive and accessible community that enhances opportunities for health, participation and security to ensure a high quality of life and dignity to people as they age. Community-based initiatives such as the Neighbourhood Hubs program, Healthy Brantford, Safe Brantford, and the Digital Inclusion Strategy were recognized as innovative platforms for the City to integrate age-friendly considerations into all aspects of community programming and planning.

Another major development in 2017 was the launch of the Community Drugs Strategy led by a Committee comprised of staff from the Brant County Health Unit, St. Leonard’s Community Services, Brantford Police Services, and the City of Brantford. The Brantford-Brant Community Drugs Strategy includes over 40 recommendations that will serve as a roadmap for a coordinated community effort to help mitigate the current opioid crisis.

As a municipality we are uniquely positioned to advocate for resources from other levels of government that will be essential to the support and success of the strategy. The strategy also highlights numerous opportunities for immediate action including increased access to holistic pain management, increased youth-focused addictions counseling, increased public education and awareness, increased access to long-term counseling, increased support for individuals experiencing trauma or grief, increased treatment and mental health supports for persons while incarcerated, and increased investment in peer support programs.

The strategy also recognizes that municipalities play an important role in addressing substance use through the provision of social services, housing, early learning, and recreation programming, as well as providing communications and coordination support to large scale community planning efforts. Our focus is on helping people improve their health and prevent youth from becoming affected by drug use.  Everyone in this community has a role to play in this effort. The City has formed an internal working group made up of representatives from Health & Human Services, Parks and Recreation, Communications and Community Engagement, and the Brantford Public Library to work with the Drug Strategy Coordination Committee to define specific actions the City can lead to support the recommendations.

Nearly three years after launching its first theme, the City’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge continues to thrive. Focusing on the development of community partnerships and local awareness, several campaigns were designed to modify the culture surrounding children’s health. Since first launching in 2015, the Healthy Kids Community Challenge has had well over 30,000 participants and contributors from over 200 community partners. We have seen the incredible generosity and passion of the community through partnerships, events, and helping spread the word about the importance of children's health. The 'Challenge' is a key part of the City’s Healthy Brantford Strategy, and utilizes a community-led approach, where partners from both the private and public sectors contribute expertise and resources to implement projects and programs.

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