Spring Session Summary

Last night was the last meeting of the spring 2012 session of City Council.  I made some remarks about our progress this year, as follows:

It was an incredibly busy session.  From taxis to transit and from parks to police cameras Council has made substantial moves on a very broad agenda.

Perhaps the most obvious change has been in how that agenda was pursued.  One of Council’s 5 priorities is increasing citizen engagement and opening up City Hall.   Nothing shows our progress on this better than the decline in the number of items Council is dealing with in-camera.  Council is doing far less business behind closed doors.  The number of confidential items has dropped from 71 in 2008, 30 in 2010, 21 in 2011, and just 8 in-camera items so far this year in 2012.

In addition, there have been 14 open town hall meetings in the first 18 months of this Council, and these meetings have been held all around the City.  There were town hall meetings in wards 1 through 5 just in the past two months.  In addition, the City has held consultation on everything from a new waterfront plan to our sewer by-law, with 8 public open houses, and 15 public meetings under the Planning Act.  Our new website was launched and the City is using social media to hear directly from residents.

Council’s top priority remains job creation and economic development.  This spring saw IBM choose Barrie for a major facility, we welcomed Fortune 500 company PPG to the former Bemis plant on Fairview Road, and some of our largest employers have announced expansions, including Transcom, Wolf Steel, Munro Concrete and of course RVH.  We’ve held major events to help support business growth, including the Ideas in Motion event and the Google Get Your Business Online event last week.  The City is continuing to review zoning restrictions to ensure the City’s policies are not a barrier to growth.

Downtown, the development of the Collier Centre and its new grocery store, pharmacy, office tower, and residences will begin shortly.  A new local food store has opened on Dunlop Street and patios are livening up the downtown during the daytime.  Security cameras have been approved and will be installed later this year.  This Council has moved to prevent any more nightclubs in the Downtown, through new zoning restrictions.  And the 5-points fire site was cleaned up and turned into a parkette.  Although there’s still lots of work to do, our downtown has been improving.

Financially, Council has continued the process of righting the City’s fiscal ship during a period of austerity, while still trying to move the city forward.  The 2012 budget was approved unanimously, reducing both capital spending and the amount of forecast debt, while adding a badly-needed 5th fire station in southwest Barrie, and adding $1M to road resurfacing, reflecting public concerns.  Council also provided $8M this year toward the total of $52.5M committed to the RVH expansion.  Funding this commitment required very hard work by staff and Council to ensure other needs were met.

On transportation, the Mayor’s plan for transit was approved this spring which is the first overhaul of the transit system in 40 years.  The Allandale GO station opened, and the City’s work with Metrolinx has resulted in summer weekend GO train service being introduced on Saturday.  Council has cut taxi fares, and overhauled regulations of taxicabs.  It also passed new regulations for the tow truck industry into law.

A new program, RecAccess, was created by City staff and approved by Council, to provide surplus spaces in rec programs to low-income residents, and staff and Council are working to create fairer pricing for recreation programs.  New heritage programs, including a municipal register for heritage properties, Heritage Month, and a waterfront heritage walk (former Mayor Kinzie’s idea), are in the works.  Last but certainly not least, Council hired a new CAO, Carla Ladd, who started work with the city earlier this spring.

Members of Council moved more than 25 individual items on everything from Library budgets to expanding the BMC to Freight Rail.  Council has continued to work together extremely well and whether you agree with all of our decisions or not, I think all would agree it has been a busy but very fruitful session.  I want to thank members of Council and City staff for their hard work in moving the City forward.

On our ties to the Military

On Saturday 2 June, we celebrated the Freedom of the City parade.  In recognition of our community’s long ties to CFB Borden, I granted them the Key to the City.  I’ve had a few requests so here are my remarks from Saturday:

REMARKS – FREEDOM OF THE CITY PARADE, 2 JUNE 2012

Base Commander Colonel Meloche, Honorary Colonel Massie, Soldiers of the Canadian Forces, MP Brown, MPP Jackson, Members of Council current and former, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is one of the sad ironies of human history that wartime, a time of unspeakable suffering, is often a time of technological and political advancement, that shape a nation.  If there is a silver lining to the horrors of war, it is that it the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform often draw together their people and forge stronger ties to “king and country”.

The impact of the war of 1812 on Barrie is inextricably tied to the Nine Mile portage.   The Nine Mile Portage was a native trail from time immemorial, and became a “highway of commerce” for fur traders and first nations in the 18th century.  On the outbreak of war in the summer of 1812, British and allied native troops captured Fort Michilimackinac, near Sault Ste. Marie, at the strategically important point where Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan connect.  But American forces took control of the lower great lakes, cutting supply lines to Michililmackinac in 1813.

Resupplying the fort became a critical need.  And so a mixed force of workmen, infantry, and logistics was dispatched from Kingston to march 250 miles in the winter, first by settlement roads from Kingston to York, then up Yonge Street to Holland Landing, then across frozen Lake Simcoe, to the foot of the portage in what is now downtown Barrie.  Working through the spring, they opened up the portage west of Barrie, built a small fort at the landing on the Nottawasaga River (Fort Willow), built 29 boats, and travelled hundreds of miles by boat in May 1814, successfully arriving and resupplying Michilimackinac on May 18, 1814.

Just in time.  In July, the Americans attacked the Fort.  But 300 men, half natives, half British troops, held off the more than 1,000 American attackers.  Without the supplies that had come through the new route – the Nine Mile Portage, and what would become Ross Street and Sunnidale Road through Barrie – this strategically important would almost surely have been lost.

From that time – 200 years ago – until today, the history of this City has been inextricably interwoven with the military.  From the earliest days of training at Camp Borden, and the founding of the Air Force, to today’s leading edge military facility, producing expert service personnel in many disciplines, Barrie has been home to enlisted men and officers, civilian staff and visiting students from Borden.  Base Borden is one of the City largest employers.  And its ever-growing role in the Canadian Forces is a source of pride for myself, and for the residents of Barrie.

Today, the links between Borden and Barrie are stronger than ever.  It has been a great honour and pleasure to work with Colonel Meloche over the past year and a half, to deepen the relationship between the base and the city, and in the coming months, Base Borden and the City of Barrie will begin to share not only their history, but their future, as we introduce new service partnerships in fire training and public transit.

And today, as for generations, Canadian men and women in uniform are in harm’s way, in distant lands, protecting our freedom and preserving a truly Canadian value: the responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  Let us not forget for a moment, in the midst of our celebration, that Canadians even today are making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  And so take the opportunity today, as you meet our soldiers as they exercise the freedom of the city, please do not miss the opportunity to thank them for their service.

Next weekend we will have the occasion again to celebrate Borden’s unique history at Base Borden Days and the Canadian Forces Airshow, which will light up the skies over our region, as the second largest airshow in Canada.  But today, on the 200th anniversary of a military conflict that helped to shape our community, we celebrate the lasting ties between the City and the Base.

It is therefore my great delight to recognize this relationship through a special award never before presented by the City of Barrie.  Today, on behalf of the members of Barrie City Council, I will present the Key to the City to Canadian Forces Base Borden.  The key is quite heavy, but to make it even harder to lose, we’ve put it in this frame with an inscription and before I present it to the Base Commander, I will read the message:

READ INSCRIPTION.

I will call upon Colonel Louis Meloche, Commander, Canadian Forces Base Borden, to accept the key on behalf of the Base.

 

The Mayor and Council of the City of Barrie hereby present

The Key to the City

to

Canadian Forces Base Borden

To acknowledge and express its gratitude to the brave Men and Women of the Canadian Forces

and to celebrate the deep and ongoing friendship between Borden and Barrie

On this very special occasion of

The Bicentennial Anniversary of the War of 1812.

 

June 2, 2012

Mayor J.R. Lehman

City of Barrie