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Mayor's 2016 State of the City Address

Mayor Matt Brown:


Thank you. Thank you Paul, for that kind introduction. And thank you to the Chamber and the London Convention Centre.

First let me take this opportunity to say that we are standing on the traditional territory of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Oneida Nation of the Thames.  Today we are joined by Chief Leslee White-Eye and Councillor and former Chief Harry Doxtator on behalf of Chief Sheri Doxtator, welcome to you both.  We’re deeply honoured to have you with us today.  

I’d also like thank MPPs Peggy Sattler and Teresa Armstrong as well as my colleague Mayor Trevor Birtch of Woodstock for being here today.  

Here also with us today, are Deputy Mayors Hubert & Cassidy along with Councillors: Van Holst, Armstrong, Salih, Helmer, Squire, Morgan, Turner, Hopkins, Usher, Park, and Zaifman.

My fellow Londoners --


Our community is a different place today than it was just one year ago.

Last year we all knew there was power in the possibility of change.  The excitement, the potential, and the opportunity to write a new story.

When I last spoke to all of you, in this very room, you had just voted to turn the page. You had just voted to turn your back on the politics of division. Spirits were high, and so were expectations.

Many of you asked some very tough questions of both me and of your new City Council. Questions like: did we as a community make the right decision? How would not only 2015 but also this entire term of council be different? Could council really do what we set out to do - to change the tone of municipal leadership in our community. To take bold and practical steps to secure London’s future prosperity. To restore community pride and set the stage so that London can not only compete with other similar sized cities but also to punch above our weight.

A year later, I can tell you -  Without a doubt. Yes. We can. We have. And you have my word, we will continue to do so.

Over the course of the last 12 months, London businesses of every size, from small family shops to large longstanding enterprises, have created more than 9,000 new jobs in our great city.

Thank you for your commitment and partnership in growing our local economy.

Today I am more than optimistic, I am honoured to stand up, to share real stories. Because, we’re not only  better, we’re stronger, we’re more strategic, and we’re poised to be a regional leader and to become one of Canada’s most attractive and competitive cities.

Let me take a few minutes to tell you how we laid the groundwork in 2015 and how we’re going to amplify this success in the coming year.

I want to start by talking about our four-year strategic plan.

Within our first 100 days in office, your City Council finalized it. We spent countless hours working together to define our priorities. We have determined the direction we want to take and the goals we want to accomplish. This plan has set the foundation for how City Council makes decisions, for how we spend taxpayer dollars and how we continue to plan for the future.

In truth, we can make all the plans we want but we must never forget that one of our most important responsibilities is to ensure that we, your elected leaders, do EVERYTHING we can in order to foster the climate under which business and our community can thrive.  Our Strategic Plan provides a clear strategy for how we will accomplish this:

  • First, Strengthen our Community
  • Second, Build a Sustainable City
  • Third, Grow our Economy, and
  • and finally Lead in Public Service

Why? Because we know we can be this region’s global connection, leading in commerce, culture and innovation. We can bring the world to southwestern Ontario.

This plan reflects the hopes, the dreams and the aspirations that Londoners communicated to us during the last election, and it is the road map that we’ll follow, very closely, as we work together to build a better city for all.

I mentioned that the plan is specific - and so that’s important. Because that’s how everyone can measure our success.  When we accomplish each  direction, we demonstrate our ability to get the job done, to follow through on our promises.

The level of detail in the plan is rare for a local government, but it's  absolutely necessary. Because what good is leadership without accountability? No organization can grow and prosper unless their leaders are willing to step up and be held to account. This 4-year strategic plan is the proof that shows your council is willing to do exactly that.

Now, over the course of the next 3 years, we will pivot to execute this plan and a critical part of this is the budget process.

Last year, we promised a more strategic and accountable approach to investing your tax dollars, and two weeks ago, we tabled London’s first multi-year budget.  

And we’re supporting this work at a very practical level as well by introducing Lean Six Sigma strategies to City Hall. Soon, 20 City staff who represent all nine service areas will be trained as lean six sigma green belts who will undertake specific projects focused on finding savings, efficiencies and capacity within the organization.

Our new approach is more fiscally responsible and more transparent. Only two other municipalities in Canada have done this before. This will allow us to align the priorities we’ve identified in our strategic plan with the resources required to make them happen.  

Over the next six weeks, council will dig into the budget line by line and we will engage with Londoners extensively in every way available to us.

I am asking all of you today to please get involved in this process. Your insights will help us achieve a budget that is responsible, affordable and sustainable over the long term. We are going to work hard to find efficiencies and savings, every step of the way. In the end, we will have a budget that will make our community stronger. We will have a budget that takes the long, responsible view towards building prosperity in the city.

As we undertake this ambitious process, we are focused on the important details that affect the day-to-day lives of Londoners.

The City of London provides almost 100 services that Londoners rely on every single day.

For our business partners, we know this means delivering a more positive customer experience and reducing red tape.

Our focus on a “Supportive Business Environment” is one of five key economic priorities in our new Community Economic Road Map, which many of you in this room helped create.

You told us it was time to transform the way we approach our local economy. You helped us shape the way forward.

And Together, we aligned the priorities and expectations of business, government, and community stakeholders and we agreed to focus on 5 key areas.

  1. “A city for entrepreneurs”;
  2. “A supportive business environment”;
  3. “An exceptional downtown and a vibrant urban environment”;
  4. “A top quality workforce”; and
  5. “A national Centre of Excellence for medical innovation and commercialization”

This work represents the single largest effort our community has ever undertaken to break down silos and align with community leaders in order to come up with one, unified economic development plan that we can all rally around.

And this will not -- ABSOLUTELY NOT -- sit on a shelf gathering dust.

In fact, implementing this is already underway, led by a number of action teams and overseen by leaders in our community who represent large, medium and small businesses, education, digital creative and public and non-profit sectors. Later this year, we will host a Community-wide Summit to tell you exactly what we’ve accomplished and what we’re tackling next.

Last year, when Londoners elected me to be their Mayor, I resolved to re-open communication and repair strained relationships. I resolved to re-establish London’s reputation as a collaborative regional leader, as a credible partner across Southwestern Ontario and with Canada’s largest cities.

Part of this effort means taking the opportunity to work with Mayors from across the country -- including the Mayors of Halifax,Toronto, Edmonton and others.   

Transit, infrastructure, and affordable housing. These have all been identified as top priorities in our discussions.

In order to effectively tackle these big issues, we must focus on working with our neighbours as well. Last summer, I chaired a meeting of mayors from across Southwestern Ontario with Premier Wynne. The message that the premier delivered to us was clear - we need a collective voice for our Region.

It is for this reason that I encouraged the regional mayors to work together to establish the Southwestern Ontario Urban Mayors’ Caucus and I was honoured when they elected me to be their Chair.

Our cities are growing, undertaking massive initiatives, and planning innovative projects. We share challenges and we share opportunities.

It is time to collaborate, to cooperate, to be strategic, so that we can be an effective, forceful and compelling voice for the 2.5 million people who live here.

Now, let’s talk about what’s going on right here in London.

Employment in London grew by nearly 4 percent in 2015, putting total employment very close to the 2007 pre-recession levels.

London's unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in December 2015, lower than the provincial average.

That means more Londoners are working today and that is very good news.

In a few short weeks, we are going to see cranes in our downtown for the first time since 2012 -- both at Tricar’s 29-storey condo tower and at Fanshawe College’s expanding downtown campus, which will ultimately bring two thousand more students  to our city core.

London’s diverse economy is growing. We are a hotbed for advanced manufacturing, agri-food processing, digital creative and life sciences.

Experts from across Canada and beyond are taking notice:

  • London was named one of Ontario’s top 5 “Cities of the Future” by InvestinOntario.
  • Foreign Direct Investment ranked London the second most business friendly mid-sized community in Canada.
  • BMO’s regional labour markets report card, released earlier this month, identified London as one of Canada’s top 10 cities for work.

Start-ups and growing small businesses are the backbone of Canada’s modern economy. Here at home, our local entrepreneurs take big risks and there have been many for whom those risks have paid off, including HR Downloads, and Forked River microbrewery.

I’d like to highlight just a few more examples of the many success stories of  which we, as Londoners, should all be proud. I hope you’ll do, like I do, and share these stories when you travel outside of London:

First, let me introduce you to Pam Bains. Pam is the owner and CEO of Microcad Computer Corporation, a wholesale computer distribution company.

As a new mom, Pam started Microcad in 1988 in the basement of her home. She nurtured and cared for her newborn son while she did the same for her “newborn” business.

So, Microcad quickly grew from those humble beginnings into a small retail store and eventually into an international wholesale distribution company.  

The best news? Microcad is now planning an expansion in 2016 which will further facilitate their growth and continued success.

GoViral is another incredible story, adding 100 new workers last year as their sales rocketed upward by 400 per cent.

Another story - LEDC facilitated a partnership between London’s HNH Machine and Shanghai’s XF Technology. Together, with the applied research services of Fanshawe College, these two companies are building automation machines for a range of industries: automotive, advanced manufacturing and medical devices.

IO Industries built a brand new production facility for their state-of-the-art camera technologies in our own Skyway industrial park. These cutting edge cameras are designed and built right here in London.  And they are used in some of the harshest environments imaginable, including the deepest parts or our oceans and all the way to outer space.  

This year we welcome Stallergenes (rhymes with allergens) Greer Canada, a leading global pharma company specializing in allergen therapy.  

Also a valued member of London’s business community since 1946, aluminum casting company, Ramsden Industries Limited, is expanding their facility, over the next three years, adding new equipment and new jobs.

Opening this spring, Fanshawe’s Canadian Centre for Product Validation (CCPV),  a 16.2 million dollar facility, a one of a kind facility, that will bring together students and researchers to develop top of the line technologies.  

Western University has seen some great successes as well, with plans for a new $30 million dollar, Interdisciplinary Research Building. Construction is underway with the grand opening slated for late 2017 as is a $41 million, 130,000 square foot new building for Western’s nursing program.

Western’s presence in downtown London is growing as well. They’ve recently confirmed a five year commitment with their expansion in Citi Plaza for the Continuing Studies Programs. They serve over 3700 students from our region every year.

Finally - Robarts Clinical Research is bringing 105 additional knowledge workers, this week, to the city’s core. This is great news and we look forward to celebrating their ongoing growth and success.

These are just a few of many success stories we can all be proud of.

Let’s focus again on our entrepreneurs. We need to challenge ourselves as a city, we need to enhance the ways in which we support these individuals.

So today I am pleased to announce that the LEDC is launching London Inc. It’s a portal to provide programs for start-ups, scale-ups, prospects, investor’s, talent and growing companies. This new resource will bring together all of the elements essential in order to help a company move from seed to success.

One of the most exciting, dynamic and fastest growing sectors in London is Digital Creative. This growing cluster MUST have access to fast, reliable internet connectivity. This is critical infrastructure that supports creativity and collaboration with clients around the city, around the region and around the world.

This is why we introduced, in partnership with the LEDC and Downtown London, the Last Mile pilot project - It’s an initiative to provide high speed fibre to support small business in London’s downtown.

This sector isn’t just bringing tremendous creativity to our community, employers are also repurposing a number of our beautiful heritage buildings.

These ambitious projects include the London Roundhouse project, spearheaded by Ellipsis Digital and Engine Seven-Four, and the serial entrepreneurs at UnLondon who have turned the former Novaks building into a collective, creative hub.

Our tech sector is doing some amazing things.

Our digital creative companies are household names not only in London, but across Canada and around the world.

Companies like, London’s own Big Blue Bubble which employs 75 people and welcomes new members to their team every month. September saw them launch their biggest game ever, a sequel to My Singing Monsters a game that is enjoyed by over 40 million people worldwide.

And then there is Arcane. In just five years, this digital marketing leader has more than doubled its workforce. York Developments has collaborated with Arcane on a new headquarters - The Cube - at the former Harmony Buffet property over on Talbot Street, This $3 million dollar investment brings another 35,000 square feet of creative space to our downtown.

And best of all, 75 per cent of Arcane’s employees are Fanshawe college grads. They describe Fanshawe as a perpetual pipeline of talent for their growing workforce.

Let’s turn our attention now to how we’re going to build a better city for all.

That’s the London Plan.  

This plan represents an opportunity of a generation.

We’re going to grow more inward and upward. In the past several months we’ve demonstrated that. We’ve approved 5 high rise or high density projects in the downtown core and other strategic neighbourhoods. We should expect this momentum to continue as people continue to invest in our downtown and in our community.

Everything the London Plan represents for the future is anchored in a prosperous core. Our Downtown is our calling card to the world and one of our key economic engines, contributing many times more in tax dollars than the actual physical size of the neighbourhood itself.  A vibrant downtown attracts investment, employment, and the workers employers need to fill those jobs.

And, with about 30,000 people working in our downtown, it  is a significant job centre in our city.

Last April Council approved a new plan that will help us manage the next exciting evolution of Downtown’s growth. The plan calls for making our Downtown an irresistible destination and an enticing place to live.

It’s time to build on the great success of past investments like Budweiser Gardens, the Covent Garden Market and Central Library.

It’s time for the heart of our Downtown to become less of a waystation and much more of a destination.

It’s time for Dundas street to become Dundas Place - a transformational project that will see the creation of a flexible street between Wellington Street and the Thames River. A space for cars during the day and a people-first space on evenings and weekends; a place to stroll, shop, or visit with friends. A place to be entertained, a place where services spill out onto the street and we can enjoy live music, culture and great food.

The My Dundas project is linked to many other city-building plans that will work in conjunction with one another including reconnecting with our Thames River - an absolute jewel in our city.

The late Mitch Baran, whose loss in 2015 was felt deeply by this community, was a long time proponent of this project and in his honour, I ask you to consider this vision….

Imagine having a cup of coffee at the river’s edge and watching the sunrise… or having a glass of wine at a bistro overlooking a boardwalk and watching the sunset…

We’re going to make that happen.

So, I’ve highlighted many of the City building plans your council is working on. But, what is the one thing that binds all of them together? It’s Rapid Transit.

We are on the cusp of the largest infrastructure investment in our city’s history.

We know that London’s population will grow by 77,000 people over the next 20 years.

We expect there to be 25% or more cars on the road by that time as well.

We cannot maintain the status quo. Business as usual just won’t cut it for the London of tomorrow. We are the largest city in Canada without a Rapid Transit system. We can no longer accept a traditional system that is over capacity. We can no longer allow our existing roads and transit services to be overwhelmed. Congestion hurts our economy, our public safety, our health and our quality of life. We’re going to fix that.

Rapid Transit will transform London and Southwestern Ontario. It will create jobs. It will connect our key institutions, and it will improve our quality of life. Rapid Transit will help us attract and retain the very best. It will change the way we move across the City and it will change the way our city grows, transforming London into a modern and sustainable city for our children and grandchildren,

and the time to act is NOW.

'What Makes a City?' video


I am proud to say that video was shot by a local company, with a camera made by IO Industries and the voice over talent was sourced using London’s own tech sensation,

Now let me be clear, if we’re going to turn the vision of Rapid Transit into a reality for our City, then we need your help.

To make this a reality, our community must come together to advocate for this, the largest ever investment in infrastructure for our City.

Smart investments like one this also create a domino effect in many areas - including a positive, lasting impact on culture and tourism.

We set a goal to become a Music City and this began to take shape in a big way this year. To lead the way, the City of London developed a Music Strategy that will make London a Music City and a music attraction.

This morning you got a taste of Canadian Country Music from Autumn Hill. You already know we are hosting, for the first time ever, the Country Music Week and the Canadian Country Music Awards this fall.

We’ll also maintain our focus on sports tourism, as we get set to host Ontario Basketball, Ringette and Golf Championships throughout 2016.

But there’s more - I am thrilled to announce the return of the London International Air Show after a 12 year absence. Thanks to the combined efforts of over 600 volunteers and a not for profit board, this September we’ll welcome crowds of 25,000 people or more from across Southwestern Ontario who will see an absolutely amazing show.

London’s own Captain Ryan Kean, flying the  CF-18, is making the airshow circuit in 2016, and we could not be more proud to welcome him home for the first air show here in over a decade.

Here’s a small taste of what we’re in for: (run video)



Now let’s talk about a community that cares:

Let me ask you a question, by show of hands. How many of you volunteer your time on boards, commissions and charities in our community? Please put your hands up.

Keep your hands up and take a look around the room - you’ll see what many of us already know. London is extremely fortunate to have so many community leaders who are so generous with their time and talent, and who are working to help strengthen the fabric of our great city.

Pillar NONPROFIT Network is good example. In October they launched a community bond offering, to support the opening of their Innovation Works. I am thrilled to share with you that they’ve sold out! This represents over $1M in investment by organizations and individual citizens.

There are so many things that make our city great, including the leadership in this room, but we must ensure that we are building a better city for all Londoners. We know that poverty is a challenge for many in our community.

The reality is this: More than 17 per cent of Londoners are living in poverty today, thousands of whom are children. We cannot ignore this. And we will not ignore this.

My Advisory Panel on Poverty, launched in September, represents an  opportunity for us to take a hard look at this critical challenge. 

Under the leadership of co-chairs Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy and Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Chris Mackie, a series of recommendations will be brought forward this Spring. The panel has been working hard, engaging with nearly 1000 Londoners, many with lived experience, and dozens of organizations who serve this important and vulnerable population.

This is about building a better city and a more hopeful future for all Londoners.

As Londoners and as Canadians, we are extraordinarily fortunate. We are blessed with freedoms that we sometimes take for granted but make no mistake: when a crisis happens, when help is needed, we step up. We have seen this countless times over the years and we are seeing it again today.

What’s happening in Syria is nothing short of a catastrophe.

If I were to ask you, to close your eyes and if I were to say the name, Alan Kurdi, there isn’t a single person here who cannot immediately call to mind the heartbreaking image of a 3 year old boy, lying face-down on a beach.  

He and his family had fled terror and war. They risked everything, searching for what we Canadians have and for what we Canadians, in times of crisis, have always been willing to share - peace and freedom.

That iconic photograph was broadcast around the world and it sparked a collective awakening.

The very next day, Mayor John Tory issued a challenge to the Mayors of Canada’s largest cities. He challenged us to act and London stepped up. We worked with faith- and community-based organizations and Libro Credit Union to raise awareness and to raise over $400,000 to welcome these families, fleeing terror, to our community.  

In December I joined United Way CEO Andrew Lockie and Valy Marochko of  the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre to launch London United for Refugees — a new way for all of us to help. Funds raised through this initiative will be invested in front-line mental health supports, employment services, and community inclusion programs designed to help these new Londoners, our new neighbours and our new friends, settle successfully and become active, contributing members of this community.

We can’t do this without your support; without the support of our entire community coming together. For those of you who have given, thank you. If you haven’t had the opportunity to give, I encourage you to do so.

You can donate online at London United for Refugees or using pledge cards at your table.

To date, we have welcomed 346 Government Assisted Refugees and we are anticipating an additional 450 more by the end of February. Approximately 200 privately sponsored refugees have also been supported through our faith-based groups.

This is something Londoners and Canadians will remember about 2016 for the rest of our lives. It’s something we’ll be proud of.

It’s going to be a tremendous amount of work. But we’ll succeed because we’ve done this so many times before.

I am so pleased to introduce you to Langoya Johnson. He came to Canada as a refugee from Sudan 15 years ago. Before that, he spent seven years in a refugee camp. Today, Langoya, his wife and their three sons are active and engaged members of our community.

George, his oldest, is the starting receiver for the Western Mustangs. I’d like to thank the Johnson family for their contribution to our community, for helping us make London the vibrant and strong city that it is today.  

So, we’ve covered quite a wide range of topics this morning.

Let me close with this.

During the 2014 election Londoners chose change. You believed, like I do, that our city would be better if we worked together. We have successfully completed a very rewarding, yet challenging year - doing exactly that.

But we’re not just better, we’re stronger, we’re more strategic...and the world is taking notice in so many ways.

That is in large part due to three groups of people:

First, I want to acknowledge your hard-working, passionate and thoughtful city council. I am extremely proud of how my colleagues have embraced change. We try new things and we work together to get it right. Realizing the potential of our city requires patience, a mutual respect, resilience and grit. It doesn’t require one loud voice or competing agendas. We are striving to do what’s right, not what’s easy and it’s helping to revitalize the quality of public conversation and engagement in our city.

Next, the talented and committed employees of the City of London. I thank each and every one of them for their hard work and dedication toward building a better London. We have accomplished a great deal in a short time and we will accomplish so much more in the years to come. Thank you.

Finally and most importantly  - You. All of you, All 381,000 Londoners. You engage in thoughtful dialogue with us, you share your valuable insights, and most importantly, you hold us to account.

London is a different place today than it was a year ago. It’s a better place. Together, we’re thinking long term and together, we’re thinking about quality of life.

Because of you, we’re taking action to boost the economy.  Because of you, we’re making investments in our shared future. You elected us to change the channel, to rethink leadership, and we’re proud to deliver on your behalf.

London’s time is now.

We’re committed to building a prosperous future for every citizen of this great community.

We’re better and we’re stronger. We’re inspired and we’re hopeful.

Because of you.

and the best part is, We’re just getting started.

Thank you.

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