Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an Oakville Chamber of Commerce event to provide an update on the State of the Region. I am always honoured to be given the opportunity to speak with residents and business leaders, and to share the many successes and opportunities that are before us.
When I meet with business leaders, they often tell me they choose to locate their businesses in Halton because of our high quality of life. Employees are a business’ most valuable asset, and Halton is the place their employees want to live. To that end, Regional Council and staff continue to focus our efforts to achieve many impressive results, including:
- A triple-A credit rating for over 20 consecutive years;
- An average tax increase of zero per cent for seven years in a row, which is one of the best records in Canada;
- Being named the safest regional municipality in Canada for four years in a row;
- Many accolades for our waste management programs and diverting 60 per cent of our waste from the landfill; and
- A 98% resident satisfaction rating with services provided by the Region, which is a significant 22% higher than the average across Ontario.
I also had the opportunity to share Halton’s response to some of the challenges that face us as we progress. Regional Council continues to concentrate significant effort to advocate to other levels of government on behalf of residents.
In 2007, Regional Council endorsed the Fairness for Halton campaign. The campaign advocated to the Provincial government to address an $8.6 billion dollar shortfall in services and infrastructure funding to support Provincially-mandated growth in Halton. This campaign continues to be an important pillar of Regional Council. Existing property taxpayers should not bear the burden of new growth. Growth must pay for itself. And other levels of government need to pay for their mandated services, instead of shifting the burden to the property tax roll. The Province responded by eliminating GTA pooling, saving Halton taxpayers $124 million dollars, and allowing us to reinvest this money in important and timely infrastructure projects, and the social services needed in a growing community.
Council also continues to work with the community and advocate to the Province against a proposed Provincial Niagara-GTA Corridor highway, a highway that would cut through the Niagara Escarpment. Halton Region successfully advocated to the Province against the Niagara-GTA Corridor highway, and on July 26, 2011 the Minister of Transportation confirmed that the Niagara to GTA corridor will not proceed as planned. But the efforts have not stopped. I recently met with the Minister of Transportation to ensure that Halton’s strong opposition to this highway remains top of mind.
In Halton, we have more important infrastructure needs, and Council and staff continue to focus our attention on these needs through our Building a Better Halton infrastructure plan. Council realizes that quality infrastructure is vitally important to quality of life. That is why Halton Region will invest more than $1 billion in water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure across the Region over the next five years, with $615 million of that going to improving the Regional transportation network. Additionally, Regional Council also approved the acceleration of certain planned road improvements by up to eight years in order to reduce traffic congestion on regional roads within Halton.
So, have our efforts to maintain and improve upon an already high quality of life been successful? Business leaders indicate that they have, coining Halton as a hotspot for business. More and more businesses, like Target, Siemens, Lowes Canada and UPS are choosing to call Halton home. Combined, the four companies will bring more than 2000 jobs to the Region.
Noted inventor and businessman Thomas Edison once said, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” Although we have had many successes, Regional Council takes to heart the fact that we can always improve upon an already wonderful quality of life, and continue to make Halton an even better place to live, work, raise a family and retire, and an ideal location for business investment.
As always, if you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”