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Mayor's 2017 State of the City Address

Thank you. Thank you Jeff for that kind introduction and for all you do for our community. To Gerry, your staff and the rest of the Chamber board, thank you once again for hosting the State of the City.

Today we are here, on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Attawandaron, and Lenape Indigenous peoples.

With us here today are both Chief Leslee White-eye and Chief Randall Phillips.

Meigwiich to both of you, Meigwhiich.

I’d like to thank MPP Teresa Armstrong, Mayors Trevor Birtch, Dan Matheison and Joanne Vanderheyden for joining us today.

Here with us representing the City of London are Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert and Councillors van Holst, Armstrong, Helmer, Cassidy, Morgan, Hopkins, Usher and Park. 

I’m thankful to this Council, city staff, our boards and commissions and our community partners. Through challenging times we have stayed the course and found a way forward. 

Whether you find yourself fixing a broken water main at 2am in bone chilling temperatures, or you’re a caseworker supporting one of our most vulnerable Londoners on one of their worst days, or a police officer, firefighter or a paramedic who has dedicated your life to making our community safe. Or someone who works in one of our other over 90 service areas. Thank you. You make London stronger, you make London better. Thank you.

We survey our community every year - here’s how we add up:

  • 91% of Londoners are satisfied with the overall level of city services.
  • 93% of Londoners are satisfied with their overall quality of life.
  • 8 out of 10 Londoners believe they get good value for their tax dollars.

What about from a Financial Perspective?

  • London received a triple A credit rating for the 40th year in a row.
  • This year our budget only took several hours instead of several months to complete. That’s because we moved to a multi-year budget - as promised and supported by the Chamber.
  • We’ve found over a million dollars in savings through a service review - and we’ll find more.

Impressive numbers, but we can do better. We need to stay focused and we need to keep moving forward.

When this Council was first elected, we heard your concerns while knocking on doors, then made a plan that outlined how we were going to build a better city, not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren as well.

This plan received Council’s unanimous support.

That’s what I’m committed to delivering.

I remember Londoners telling us to work together, to focus on the big ideas that would move our community forward.

I encourage every single one of my colleagues to remember this too.

London is moving in a better direction today than before we took office. 

We are doing what we said we would do.

We are on track.

Right now, over 95% of the tasks in the Strategic Plan are either on target or complete.

We must stay united in our vision for London.

We must work together to drive these priorities forward:

  • strengthen our community
  • build a sustainable city
  • lead in public service
  • grow our economy

We’re growing as a city. 2016 was our best year ever for home sales - well done, LSTAR!

For every home sold there is $55,000 in economic impact and every three houses sold creates one job.

We are in the final stages of implementing the London Plan. This is our vision for how we will grow for the next 20 years. This plan represents a different, more efficient, more affordable and more sustainable kind of growth.

It’s already happening. Last year, we hit an all-time record in construction values, coming in at almost 1.4-billion dollars. More than double the previous year.

In just 2 years, Council approved 1,650 high density units in our downtown and Old East Village. That‘s twice as many as last council approved, in half the time.

Thank you to our development community. Thank you for believing and for investing in London to make this growth happen.

One of the projects we approved will be built by Rygar Properties. It has 700 units and is an over 300-million dollar investment. It will be the tallest building in Canada between Mississauga and Calgary.

Growth is happening right across the city. In the past two years we’ve seen 4,393 residential units approved citywide.

Sifton’s West 5 development in Byron is the largest of its type in North America the first of its kind in Canada. It’s an example of how we’re going to become one of the greenest communities across the country.

TriCar is building downtown again, this time a luxury condo high rise on Talbot called Azure.

These are massive projects. We experienced an extreme engineering moment when TriCar poured 3,300 cubic meters of concrete in one day. That’s the same as completing a 25-acre subdivision with 95 houses. 400 loads of concrete, 65 different trucks. It took 15 hours and 140 people.

Our skyline will continue to grow in 2017 as more private sector led projects come forward. This is the London Plan - we are making tough decisions and we are growing inward and upward.

Tourism is responsible for 700-million dollars in economic impact and 20-million dollars in direct taxation.

This past year, we hosted the Canadian Country Music Association Awards - the largest music event we’ve ever welcomed. London is ready to roll out the red carpet for even more premier events. 

Thank you to John Winston and the team at Tourism London for putting us on the map time and time again.

The music in that video was recorded right here in London at E-MAC studios by a local band called The Census.

We have a proud music history.

The Jack Richardson London Music Hall of Fame opened this fall. That, coupled with the London Music Hall are two of many changes coming to our new Dundas streetscape.

In April, get ready for London’s first ever eight-day, seven-night, Jack Richardson London Music Week.

Thank you to both Mike Manuel and Mario Circelli and so many others for working tirelessly to make us a Music City.

What else?

The London Convention Centre invested five-million dollars in renovations. LCC, you’ve never looked better. And to Lori and your staff, you’ve exceeded expectations today, as always.

In 2018, we’ll welcome the first ever Global Student Leadership Summit - 3,200 of our future global leaders here in London. Thank you to Stu Saunders of YLCC.

Over the past five years our hospitality partners, like the Delta and Doubletree, have spent approximately 70-million dollars to upgrade and transform their properties.

Things are happening at Western Fair District.

This past year, they had a record 2.9-million visitors.

Soon, they will partner with Gateway Casinos. Together, these two will invest millions more to revolutionize the site.

From one unique London attraction to another, Boler Mountain has transformed itself into a year round destination, breaking ground on a new 6.1-million dollar chalet.

Museum London is expanding at the Forks with a 3.5-million dollar capital investment - reconnecting with our riverfront.

We’re welcoming the CBC to our newly renovated downtown London Public Library.

And we’ll see the return of our orchestra, now known as London Symphonia.

What’s new at the Grand? They’re taking their shows to 100 schools, opening their doors to 1,000 Londoners who have never experienced theatre and forming an exciting partnership with Sheridan College. Thank you Deb Harvey for your leadership and welcome home Dennis Garnhum and thank you for your energy and your vision.

This is a city that is teeming with culture, entertainment and an appreciation for the arts.

As we continue to evolve into a culture destination, we’re attracting world class retailers.

Cadillac Fairview has invested over 100-million dollars at Masonville Place - 160 retailers, employing over 2,400 people.

Labatt invested six-million dollars in specialized equipment. This demonstrates a commitment to our city and their workforce here.

And around the corner we’re seeing the success of grassroots craft breweries like Anderson Craft Ales skyrocketing to success.

Our downtown is our calling card to the world, and it just keeps getting stronger.

More people are living downtown, and there are now 55,000 people who work there. Downtown London is an essential partner.

There is great energy and momentum here, we have so many new businesses setting up shop, including Run Out Records, Macro Foods, Twisted Toque, Glassroots and Ritual Cafe, to name a few.

We’ve just finished the EA on Dundas Place. Imagine a hub for festivals, music and fun. Soon, we’ll be able to close the street for special events allowing restaurants, shops and people to spill out onto a curb-less, car-less, bus-free street.

The London International Airport reached a milestone last year; for the first time, passenger traffic surpassed half a million. And the airport added three-million dollars in infrastructure improvements.

WestJet added direct flights to Vancouver and better service to Toronto. 

Air Canada saw an 18% spike in passenger numbers.

We are now directly connected to over 90 global destinations.

The airport is now working with Canada Jetlines, a low cost carrier, to offer even more flights.

Our airport served as the backdrop for the return of the London International Airshow after a 12-year absence. It attracted over 20,000 spectators, pilots and crews from around the world.

This was the largest air show of its kind in Canada. The best news? It's back for 2017 and it will be bigger and better than ever.

This will be one of our landmark events as we celebrate Canada 150.

Throughout this year-long event we will have many opportunities to honour our veterans. That’s why we are restoring our Cenotaph. We need to remember. We need to say thank you.

Together we’ll share in what it means to be Canadian.

When I think about what it means to be Canadian, I think of how Londoners opened their hearts and homes to those fleeing Syria.

In the early days, we united as a community and raised over $400,000 to privately sponsor as many refugees as we could.

We are the sixth largest city in the province and we’ve welcomed the third largest number of refugees.

For many of them, 2016 was the year they learned a new language, found safety and comfort, went back to school or launched a career.

And that is what it means to be Canadian. I’d like to thank CCLC, new business owner Basel, our school boards, our faith-based and community leaders and everyone involved for creating the welcoming environment for our new neighbours and friends.

Personally, I think we will all look back on this for decades with a sense of pride in our community.

We all need to do this, to stand up and champion a more diverse and inclusive London - especially as we reflect on what’s occurring south of our border, and in Quebec City this past weekend.

That’s why we have over 180 community members working towards a diversity strategy to make London a better city for all. 

London is a leader in education.

Our partners, like the Thames Valley District School Board, broke ground on new schools in the Northeast and the Northwest in 2016.  The London District Catholic School Board is also building a brand new Catholic French Immersion Elementary school.  They are building for our future.

Fanshawe College, Western and their affiliates and so many others are ever evolving as leaders in education, innovation, research and development. They train students to become what we need to shape our future and meet our labour market needs.

This year, Fanshawe turns 50.

Growing from just over 700 students in 1967 to over 42,000 students today.

Fanshawe College is where the creative thinkers, the doers, the trendsetters and ground breakers go to hone their skills.

In September, the College celebrated the grand opening of the Canadian Centre for Product Validation.

Fanshawe is also opening a Centre for Advanced Research and Innovation in Biotechnology.

By 2018, there will be another 1,600 students in our downtown core, as work on the former Kingsmill site continues.

Western’s Campus is also evolving with three new buildings in the works.

This month, the new Nursing and Faculty of Media Studies opens.

As well, an Engineering building and an Interdisciplinary Research Building, totaling 90-million dollars in investment, will open in 2018. Here Western will conduct research for the world.

Western received one of the largest federal grants ever awarded to any post-secondary institution in our nation.

This is a great example of the cutting edge medical research and innovation taking place in London. 

Our healthcare sector is thriving, directly employing 24,000 people.

Our London Medical Network is a critical part of our Community Economic Roadmap. Their work will bring new technologies to national and international markets. This will create over 550 new, high-paying jobs in our region over the next 10 years.

Our Community Economic Roadmap represents the first time all of our city partners are working together, focused on 5 key areas, in a coordinated way.

A solution isn’t immediate. It will take hard work, it will take time, and we’re going to see success.

Thank you to the team leads, the steering committee members and everyone who is dedicated to this initiative. 

Whether it’s medical innovation, start-ups, tech hubs or agri-food; all these successes have one thing in common. They start with an idea.

I would like to thank ATN, Dave Cook and all who worked to make this cross-sector partnership a success. Thank you for sharing your story and showing us how to lead with heart and purpose.

The day the Old East Village Grocer opened, eight new businesses launched as well.

Today, as we recognize our joint successes and look towards our prosperous future, we need to remember that not everyone shares in our successes or has that promised future.

There are still far too many Londoners without jobs. Our hearts go out to the CAMI employees and their families who just received such difficult news. We need to acknowledge that, even today, we have not yet returned to pre-recession level employment numbers.

17% of Londoners, 68,000 people; thousands of them children, are experiencing poverty. There are 2,550 households waitlisted for a safe, secure and affordable home.

This is a crisis.

That’s why I’m working with other Big City Mayors and our federal government partners to ensure a National Housing Strategy becomes a reality.

Over the last four years, the city, province, federal government and community partners have worked together to open 12 new affordable housing sites in London. Three more are being built today.

A roof over someone’s head is more than a house. Housing is key to lifting people out of poverty.

No one should have to choose on any given day whether they buy groceries, pay their rent, or ride the bus.

Council just made transit free for kids 12 and under. Next, we’ll make it more affordable for tens of thousands of Londoners experiencing poverty.

Soon, we will break ground on the Housing First Emergency Shelter for Youth. The facility will open its doors in 2018. This shelter will provide critical support for youth who are at risk of sexual exploitation, abuse, exposure to gang activity, discrimination, bullying and violence.

These are just a few examples of how we’re moving forward to make London a city for all.

Lifting people out of poverty starts with an opportunity. London is creating an environment where these opportunities are possible.

Pillar Non Profit’s Innovation Works started as an idea, nine years ago. Let’s get London’s change-makers and innovators under one roof to create an idea incubator.

There are now 130 co-tenants in a shared space. Thank you to Michelle Baldwin and all others who worked to get this idea off the ground.

London is also a leader in Canada in the digital creative sector. A sector that is seeing phenomenal growth and one that is redefining our workforce. There are 9,000 jobs in tech, almost 2,000 added in the past two years. There are hundreds of job openings as well.

Bron Studios, for example, has had quite the year. This is Hollywood in London. They most recently worked on the movie Fences with Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. Welcome home to producer Kris Pearn.

Public Sector Digest produces a monthly research publication and develops analytical tools. One in four Canadians live in a community that uses a PSD solution or service.

They have a head office with 50 employees in our downtown. Next year, they will add another 15 full time positions and grow beyond London. 

Our city also has a competitive advantage when it comes to advanced manufacturing.

I’m proud to welcome German company TUV. This company tests products for the manufacturing sector and employs over 10,000 people. The London operation will start small, with five employees. We look forward to being TUV’s gateway into the Canadian and North American market.

Starlim North America, like TUV, is an international success story that started operations with five employees a decade ago. Today, thanks in part to impressive local leadership, Starlim has over 80 employees in their London plant and in the next few years they’ll invest 40-million dollars to expand and grow their workforce.

We are seeing other positive changes in our business community.

In 2016, Hanwha received a boost from the Federal government. That, along with their own almost 44-million dollar investment, resulted in 90 new jobs.

How do we connect everything? Our tech sector, our hospitals, our neighbourhoods, our downtown, our schools?

Rapid transit.

We are ready and we are waiting.

This more than half a billion dollar project is the foundation of the London Plan. It will change the way we move across the city and it will change the way we grow for generations to come.

London is the largest city in Canada without Rapid Transit.

Think of the real world impact rapid transit will have; it’s a middleclass family that saves $11,000 every year by avoiding the need for a second car. It’s a single parent of three getting to work on time, it’s connecting a senior with a community centre, a grocery store or library, it’s getting a student to their first 8am lab on time.

It’s about fighting congestion while at the same time avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in road widening projects and avoiding the maintenance costs of new roads.

It’s about keeping the cost of growth affordable.

Rapid transit will produce more than one-billion dollars in economic, environmental and transportation benefits.

We are ready to move forward. We’ve formed a committee made up of LTC commissioners and council members to oversee planning and implementation.

We’ve added our first bus priority lane at the corner of Sarnia Road and Wonderland. 

The Provincial and Federal governments have committed to spending 10s of billions on infrastructure across the province and the country. 

London’s share of the cost – 129-million dollars - is earmarked. Now we need the provincial and federal government to come forward with theirs.

We are ready and we are waiting and I will continue to fight for London’s fair share.

So, where do we go from here?  How do we build a better city for all?

We must not be distracted by the headlines. We must not get discouraged by the setbacks.

We must continue to tear down walls instead of build them. 

We must stay the course.

Through disagreements, challenges and debate we must continue to stay focused on our united and strong vision for our city.

Resilience. That’s London’s competitive advantage, we must continue to push through and persevere.

Today, we are living in a better London than we were two years ago. That’s because of the resilience of this community and the leadership of this Council.

I feel confident that we will continue to move forward.

There will be challenges, and it’s not always going to be easy.

We must work on solutions together

London is a city that works.

London is culture, events, food, music and sports

London is innovation.

London is compassionate.

London is growing.

London is a place to build a future

London is a place of hope.

London is a city that’s moving forward.

We must stay focused and keep going.

Thank you.

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