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2015 State of the City Address


The Mayor delivered his first State of the City Address, hosted by the London Chamber of Commerce at the London Convention Centre on January 27, 2015.  Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good morning London!

Thank you. Thank you, Andrea Feddema for that kind introduction and for your leadership in our community.

Thank you to your Board, and to Gerry Macartney and to the Chamber of Commerce for hosting. Thank you to the London Convention Centre for your hospitality once again.  

I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to address so many London leaders.

I’d like acknowledge MPP Peggy Sattler who is with us today.

Today, we have some other special guests who have taken time out of very busy schedules to visit their neighbour. Please help me welcome: Mayor Mike Bradley from Sarnia, Mayor Heather Jackson from St. Thomas, Mayor Dan Mathieson from Stratford, and Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden from Strathroy-Caradoc.

I’m so pleased you could join us today. London is committed to working with you to strengthen our region.

Also, here with us today, and please hold your applause to the end, are

Deputy Mayor’s Paul Hubert and Maureen Cassidy and Councillors: Michael Van Holst, Bill Armstrong, Mo Salih, Jesse Helmer, Phil Squire, Josh Morgan, Stephen Turner, Anna Hopkins, Harold Usher, Virginia Ridley, Tanya Park and Jared Zaifman. 

This passionate group is extremely talented and highly motivated and I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

It’s clear from the last election that voters were looking for two things from their new City Council: stability and focus. Londoners are looking for a Council that can work together to get things done for our community. And that’s what you’ll get from all of us over the next 4 years.

We were all sworn into office in this very room before a crowd of almost 900 - the largest council meeting in London’s history.

With 1300 people here this morning, today’s event is one of the largest State of the City breakfasts in the history of our City. You all have demonstrated, once again, how much you care about your City’s future.

I’d also like to acknowledge City Manager, Art Zuidema and our talented team of City Staff. Some of them are here with us this morning.  And so many of this dedicated group of professionals are out across the City, hard at work.

They’re keeping our drinking water safe, collecting our garbage, ensuring our safety or delivering one of the other 90 plus services our City and our Boards and Commissions provide.  I’m so impressed with the work they do and proud to call them colleagues.

Finally, I’d like to welcome my wife, Andrea. Andrea has a demanding career, we have two young children and just over a year ago, her husband told her that he was giving serious thought to making a run for Mayor. Andrea didn’t even blink.

She reminded me of what my grandfather used to say - “that the world is run and decisions are made by the people that show up.” He’d say, “So you need to find something you are passionate about, find something you believe in... and show up!” Andrea said, “Let’s go for it!” and then spent the next year working harder than anyone I have ever seen.

Thank you, Andrea. There’s no question that without you, I would not have the honour and privilege of serving London as Mayor.

My friends, we have turned the page. I feel the energy in our City, everywhere I go. Londoners are excited and proud to live here, because together, they want to make London a better place.

And your Council is hard at work doing just that.

The day after the election, 5 weeks before we took office, I moved into City Hall and began working on a transition plan with your new Council. We developed an orientation program that began the second week of November. This program prepared us for the term ahead. The orientation sessions allowed us to hit the ground running when we took office on December 1st.  

Your City Council also got to work immediately to develop a comprehensive 4-year Strategic Plan. The Plan will embrace the hopes, dreams and aspirations that Londoners shared with all of us over the course of the election.

This Council asks thoughtful questions, engages with residents and brings to the table the bold ideas we need to move London forward. This Plan is well underway and it will be completed in March.

The Plan will be something we can all focus on and rally around. It will guide the work we do in the 4 years ahead.

Now, first and foremost this morning, we need to talk budget and how we're going to do it better, more efficiently and more responsibly. Because that's what our business leaders and our citizens expect and deserve.

A strong budget needs to be three things: responsible, sustainable and affordable. Just like in your business, just like in your home, you need to know how to budget and you need to live within your means.

The Chamber has advised us again this year that we need to keep any increase around the level of inflation - between 2% and 3% and that we need to consider the short, medium and long-term consequences of every decision we make.

Council has worked hard over the past 7 weeks to avoid an additional 1% tax increase. That’s $5 million dollars. Today, halfway through the process, we are at 2.9% and we’re going to work hard and look for ways to reduce that number further.

All that said: This is the last time you will see a budget process like this in London. We are leading the way doing something very few cities across Canada have done before.

Once we’ve completed the 2015 Budget, we will pivot to a multi-year budget that links directly to our 4-year Strategic Plan. This will allow us to identify our priorities, and link them to the resources that will be needed to pay for them.

The Audit Committee will continue its work with our outsourced internal auditor. And the Committee’s role will grow beyond that. Under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Hubert, that Committee will also bring back Service Review with a focus on zero-based budget component, so that we can look for savings and efficiencies every single day to keep our City affordable.

Last summer, I met with 3M Canada’s Manager of Healthcare, Tim Brown - he’s here with us today. We discussed how 3M uses a program called Lean Culture to review processes and eliminate waste. We are going to learn from the private sector and we’re going to introduce Lean Culture practices here at City Hall. Fredericton has done this and realized millions in savings.

We can do the same.

In addition to fiscal responsibility, this Council values honesty and integrity above all else. To demonstrate our commitment to living these values:

We’ll soon appoint an Integrity Commissioner. This position will have real teeth and it will enforce a strengthened Code of Conduct and a level of accountability for all members of Council, starting with me.

We are also moving to a Plain Language policy so that everyone can understand what’s happening in their City.

These steps are all important to our future success. But the number one focus for all Londoners, is jobs and the economy.

This was a message my colleagues and I heard on the campaign trail loud and clear. Of course, local government doesn’t create jobs. But what we can do, is create an environment that allows businesses to open and to grow.

Let me share with you a story, It is one from a father I met at a Tim Horton’s a couple of years ago. He’s an HVAC technician. He made a decision that no parent should have to make. He told me he had to relocate to another province for work and send money back to London to support his wife and his daughter, so his daughter could finish high school with her peers. When she graduates, he told me their family planned to leave London.

This is something we must all work together to change. People need to know that there are opportunities in London. And we need to make smart investments to attract new talent and retain the talent we have. We need to ensure that our highly skilled workforce has meaningful jobs that match their skills and that allow them to support their families.

Since meeting with that father, things here have started to improve and we need to do better. We are starting to see more and more companies choose London as the place to open their business.

One example of this is Farmboy. They opened their first store in London last June, creating 150 new jobs. And, they will have two more stores opening this year. This expansion to London means 450 new jobs in just 18 months. What’s more, they carry 40 local products sourced from places like Fire Roasted Coffee, Organic Works and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.

Let’s also welcome Shelley Windsor. She’s here on behalf of ABB Hotel Management Group. I’m proud to announce that they will be investing $4 million to renovate and rebrand the Airport Inn, creating a new option for people flying to London’s International Airport.

Our Airport, by the way, had over 475,000 passengers last year - the most in their history and over 6% more than 2013.

We also have companies that are expanding because of their remarkable success.  

In December, I had a chance to tour Startech began in the 1980s when Paul Seed and Ken Kalopsis, two Western University graduates, had the idea to make and sell dust covers for personal computers.

35 years later, this start-up now develops between one and two products per day. They have been identified by Profit 500 as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies with 393 worldwide employees, and 276 of them right here in London. I’m so pleased that Startech will be expanding their facility here in March, and will add 75 more new jobs. Congratulations on all your success and thank you for continuing to invest in London!

Andrew Sharpe, the president of IO Industries, is also here today. His company builds sophisticated cameras that have been used to capture events like the Olympics from the air. Just two weeks ago, he doubled his staff from 20 to 40.

Hudson Boat Works recently signed a contract to build 73 new rowing shells. This will create 15 jobs by the spring to help meet the demand and it’s the largest single purchase of rowing vessels ever.

General Dynamics Land Systems, made history earlier this year, when they were awarded a $10 billion contract, the largest export contract in Canadian history. As General Dynamics ramps up production this year, significant employment and supply chain benefits will ripple throughout the region.

Diamond Aircraft, is working with Northrop Grumman to develop new capabilities for aircrafts. This is a great opportunity, because it allows Diamond to develop new Canadian products for domestic and international markets and it will spark economic growth in our community.

I can’t stress this enough. Retaining business is also vitally important. Let me introduce you to Bret Walters. Bret is the General Manager of Chalifour, a hardware distribution company that was struggling with the decision on whether to stay here in our City or consolidate their workforce somewhere else.

Thanks to the great work of Kapil Lakhotia and the London Economic Development Corporation, not only did Chalifour decide to stay in London, saving those 150 jobs, they are now working with LEDC to move 100 more jobs here to London.

In 2014, LEDC worked with over 50 businesses to help them create and retain over 2,000 jobs in London. We are showing signs of recovery.  

What we don’t want to do is take this recovery in London and in the Southwest region for granted. Our City must be proactive to stay on track.

One way we’re doing that is by working with our Chamber’s Global Business Opportunities Committee to bring exports to markets like Mexico, Brazil and China. And, we are not doing this alone. We have reached out to Mayor Mike Bradley and their Chamber’s C.E.O. Rory Ring to partner on this private sector led initiative.   

Our goal is to expand this partnership to other communities in the Southwest.   

Industrial lands also need our attention too. Growth in the manufacturing sector is expected and we need to be ready. If a company wants to move here, we have to have the appropriate amount of land that’s the right size, in the right spot and that’s serviced and ready to go. The City and the LEDC have attracted 65 new facilities and 4000 jobs since 2001. Moving forward, we need to keep doing this and we need the Provincial and Federal Governments to support our efforts as well.

London's proud legacy in health care is about to reach a new level. In the coming months, in partnership with the City, leaders from Western University, the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Lawson Health Research Institute, London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph's Health Care London and local industry will announce the creation of the first in a series of medical innovation centres. This will increase the economic impact of healthcare in London, as well as grow our reputation as a hub of healthcare solutions worldwide.

I fought hard during the 2013 Budget process to pull together the City’s share of this partnership - $10 million dollars - and I’m so pleased to see the initiative moving forward.

We also must strengthen the backbone of our economy - start-ups and small businesses. This is a City where entrepreneurs are taking their ideas and making them a reality. We've seen some incredible successes like On the Move Organics, Forked River Brewery,, Big Viking Games and Diply, owned by GoViral Inc.

I’d like to welcome Val Nyhout. She has inspired me with her online business that sells handmade Christmas Cards and T-Shirts that have phrases like “Don’t even think about underestimating me.” I met Val a few months ago and I was struck by her positive attitude, her great business sense and her advocacy. Val, you make us so proud!

Many people have seen these T-shirts and neighbourhood toques popping up around town. They are made by Daniel Phillips and Meghan Kraft, who are here with us today. They own a small business called dpms. They work hard to sell their products at festivals, online and at the Western Fair Farmer’s Market in Old East Village - an area that’s experiencing so much positive urban regeneration. Since opening in 2012, with just the two of them, they’ve hired 9 people!

It takes courage. Meghan chose to start this business instead of going to medical school. We need to support the hundreds more like Meghan and Daniel who take risks. We also need to make it clear that this is a community that will support their entrepreneurial drive.

These start-ups are what we need more of in London. There are approximately 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in our community. It’s time to build on this to create an economic powerhouse and make London the start-up capital of Ontario.

To attract the next generation of entrepreneurs, they will need access to fast, reliable internet; critical infrastructure that supports creativity and collaboration.

The City, along with LEDC and Downtown London, are taking immediate steps to provide fibre optic connectivity in our downtown core. The long-term strategy will focus on building a connected City. We must make it easier for people in London to export their innovation to the rest of the world.

To the development community, we have heard you.  We will make the approval process better. We are introducing a new tracking system for applications and will provide a “one-stop” solution for Development Services. We’re going to get you from the beginning to the end of the process as quickly as possible so you can focus on the important work you do - creating jobs and helping to build our economy.

Remarkably, London, has never had a City-wide plan that engages our partners to maximize our economic success.

Last night, Council began work to develop our first ever Community Economic Strategy.

It will provide a community-wide focus and will guide decision making for the City of London over the long-term by consulting with business and community leaders, aligning plans, and identifying the roles and responsibilities for the City and its partners.

We are excited about this and are pleased that the LEDC and London Chamber are collaborating as key stakeholders in designing, executing and implementing this process.

Now, I want to talk about an opportunity of a generation - The London Plan. It comes to Council for approval this spring. It will guide how we grow over the next 20 years. It’s about growing our City inward and upward, using our infrastructure more efficiently, and keeping our taxes low. It’s about our children and our grandchildren and ensuring that when they grow up, they can live across the City instead of across the Country.

The foundation of the London Plan is Rapid Transit. It’s how we’ll build the London of tomorrow.

Western student leaders once told me that they needed better options to get to class and around the City. I agree, and it’s not just about students. It’s about all of us. It’s about getting to work, running errands, getting to appointments. It’s about getting across the City faster.

It’s about creating a transit system that moves Londoners of all ages quickly and efficiently. It’s about thinking long-term.

Congestion hurts our economy, our public safety, our quality of life and of our environment. We can do better.

Today, I’m happy to announce the next step in our Rapid Transit initiative. It’s called “Shift”. This program will define where rapid transit will go, what it will look like and how it will be delivered.

“Shift” will engage residents, businesses and students in a conversation about how we can best implement RT in London.

We will double ridership, fight congestion and free up the roads. Ultimately, this is about Moving London Forward.

Here’s a little more about “Shift”:

With rapid transit, our Transportation Master plan, our Cycling Master plan, and Ontario’s plan to build High Speed Rail, how we move across our City and our region will be transformed for generations to come.

I encourage you to take part in the “Shift”. Please provide your feedback today.

You’ve heard me say this before. Our downtown is our calling card to the world and it’s our City’s economic engine. Though it makes up just 0.4% of our land, it represents nearly 10% of our tax base. When downtown grows, the tax burden is eased for all of us, we can have better roads and cleaner parks right across the City. The downtown is growing, with 5,000 people living there by next year. And Janette MacDonald and her team at Downtown London will be ready!  They recently expanded their reach to Richmond row and are continuing their work to make downtown better.    

The Thames flows through the heart of our downtown and is a treasure that needs investment. The London Community Foundation will work with the City to launch the “Back to the River” design competition later this spring. In time, our riverfront will become a place where you can go to have a coffee with friends or stroll along a boardwalk with your family. It will be a source of pride for all Londoners and a destination of choice.

Just to the south is the old Victoria Hospital site, one of the prime pieces of real estate city-wide. We have an opportunity of a century to redevelop this site. The work is underway - we reached out to the private sector and we’re looking for a bold new urban neighbourhood. A blend of towers and low-scale buildings, which will have 1800 units at the doorstep of downtown.

These improvements will enhance what London has to offer.

We are so lucky to have two world class post-secondary institutions here in London. I want to acknowledge Fanshawe’s President, Peter Devlin and Western’s President, Dr. Amit Chakma. Thank you for being leaders in education and in our community.

Western has had some remarkable achievements recently. Today, they are releasing their Economic Impact Study. The University has a $3.62 billion impact on our local economy.

And they are growing. In September, Western welcomed the largest first-year class in their history - 5,314 full-time, first year students.

This past year, they announced they are making an important investment to develop a Cluster of Research Excellence focused on Musculoskeletal Health that will provide life-long mobility. They also announced plans to build a state-of-the-art facility that will study HIV/AIDS and other complex human pathogens.

Exciting things are happening at Fanshawe College as well. The school is seeing significant growth. They’re expanding into our downtown and will bring with them a total of 2000 students. On another site, they’ve opened a state-of-the-art aviation technology school, which will make Fanshawe the number one aviation technology destination College in Canada.

Let me introduce you to Insu Mun, a recent international student graduate. He found a job here as a web developer at Tenzing, a local branding and web solutions company. We are so glad you picked London and thanks to you and your employer for being here this morning.   

I’m proud that both schools have been working very hard to help bring international students to London. This year alone, we had over 2,400 students come here to study from over 50 countries.

President’s Chakma and Devlin, I look forward to working with you, your faculties, staff and students to keep your institutions on the global stage.

From a tourism perspective, this is a community that people want to visit. We have almost 2 million visitors each year, adding over half a billion dollars to our economy.  

While our visitors are incredibly important to us, Londoners are my number one priority.

Our population is aging. By 2035, 1 in 3 Canadians will be over the age of 55. It’s why we set up the Age Friendly Network, so London can be an accessible City for people of any age and ability - From the early years, to 8 to 108.  

This is what matters - Caring for each other, especially those in our community who are the most vulnerable.

Right now, there are still far too many Londoners who are living without the certainty of a warm meal or a safe place to sleep.

Our community is taking the lead when it comes to addressing poverty. Through London CAReS, our Homeless Coalition, our emergency shelters and the Poverty Research Centre at King’s University College, London is working to end homelessness. And we’ve seen some progress. Since 2013, we have provided housing stability to over 100 individuals.

I’m happy to announce that this year, we will be incorporating the Housing Development Corporation. Working with non-profit and private sector partners, we will create new affordable options and improve the housing we already have.

Housing is the first step. Opportunity is the next.  

That’s why I want to tell you about Carmina, she’s with us today.

Carmina is a talented seamstress; she’s a single mom and fashion designer. Her start as an entrepreneur came through the support of a program called Impact Loan, led by a group of community agencies. The program provides up to $5000 in financing.

Impact Loan allowed Carmina to follow her dreams and helped her start a business. Carmina is just one of 40 people who have started a business to date with their help. For some, this means they’re able to transition off of social assistance.   

Because helping our most vulnerable is the right thing to do and it makes all of us and our City better.

The world is changing - Technology, our local and global economy, and the challenges that every City faces - to do more with less and to compete with communities across the Province and around the world.

These realities come with an opportunity for London to reinvent itself. It is our successes and the big ideas we talked about today that make me certain that this will happen. Let me tell you - London’s time has come.

It’s time to bring, the HVAC technician home.

It’s time to support entrepreneurs like Val, Carmina, Meghan and Daniel.

It’s time to support the next Ken and Paul.

It’s time to focus on the things that matter.

It’s time to build a better City and put London back on top.

Everyone in this room and everyone in this community has a role to play. Our City Council is committed to working with you to drive this change.  

There is so much at stake. Our future and the future of generations to come depend on us getting this right.

We need your ideas, your innovation, your passion, your determination and your commitment, so we can continue our work together to make London better.  

Today and together, let’s commit to a new kind of investment in our City, the way that every parent should invest in their children - with excitement, with dedication and with a love for something greater than ourselves.

Thank you.