It is with the deepest gratitude and humility that I stand before you today From Cumberland to Constance Bay…From Hintonburg to Osgoode and beyond. On October 25th, the people of Ottawa took the time to debate and question – to deliberate and to decide our collective future. And tonight, we gather together to mark the beginning of an important journey for our community and its people.It was an honour to participate in this election and I thank the people of Ottawa for their support.
Before I begin, there are a number of elected officials representing the Federal and Provincial governments that I would like to recognize:
– The Honourable Mauril Bélanger, MP (Ottawa Vanier)
– The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, MPP (Ottawa Vanier). Minister of Community and Social Serves and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs
– David McGuinty, MP (Ottawa South)
– Royal Galipeau, MP (Ottawa Orleans)
– Jean-Marc Lalonde, MPP (Glengarry Prescott Russell)
I also want to thank the outgoing Mayor Larry O’Brien and City Councillors for their service to our community. Electoral politics can be tough, and putting your name on a ballot is not an easy thing to do.Each of these individuals devoted themselves to making Ottawa a better place to call home, and they deserve our sincere gratitude for their years of service.
I would also like to recognize the families of our Councillors. It is you who make perhaps the greatest sacrifice as your partner or parent works long hours on behalf of the city. Being part of a political family can be difficult but know that the city recognizes and appreciates your sacrifice.
To municipal staff here today and throughout the city, thank you for your professional and tireless work. I respect public service and I respect you. I look forward to meeting and working with each of you. My door is always open. When you have an idea about how we can do things better or more efficiently, I will be there to listen and to help turn your ideas into reality.
Tonight, we gather here to launch anew.
The people of Ottawa voted for a strong team.
We have experienced people and sure hands back to serve… names you all know:
- Rainer Bloess
- Rick Chiarelli
- Peter Clark
- Diane Deans
- Steve Desroches
- Eli El-Chantiry
- Jan Harder
- Diane Holmes
- Peter Hume
- Maria McRae
- Bob Monette
- Shad Qadri
- Doug Thompson
- Marianne Wilkinson
I look forward to working with you all and value greatly the deep knowledge that you bring to the table.
Council will also be infused with new blood and energy.
This renewed Council boasts a large contingent of intelligent, dedicated and hard working newcomers, new names just starting public service:
- Stephen Blais
- David Chernushenko
- Keith Egli
- Mathieu Fleury
- Katherine Hobbs
- Allan Hubley
- Scott Moffatt
- Mark Taylor
- Tim Tierney
It is very exciting to start this new chapter in Ottawa with so many new and talented Councillors. I am a lucky man. I’ve been blessed with a perfect mix of old and new. I have a Council to lead that is focused on working together to strengthen our municipal government and on delivering the vital services taxpayers have a right to expect.
The public also sent us all to City Hall with a very strong message. It’s time to pull together as a team and it’s time to turn the page and start anew. To the 23 members of Council, I say congratulations on your victory and thank you for stepping forward to serve your community. I look forward to working with you for the betterment of our city.
We often forget that Ottawa is bigger geographically than Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal combined. We have working farms and vibrant rural villages. We have suburban communities of tremendous diversity. We have downtown neighbourhoods as old and rich in history as any in the country.
As a candidate for citywide office I knocked on doors all-across this great city. And I was able to hear from each and every part of these wonderful and dynamic communities. Listening is a fundamental ethic in my style of leadership. Not just listening to public delegations on hotly contested issues, but listening to the families I speak with at the church bazaar or the backyard BBQ. Some people poke fun at me for that, but it’s a point of pride for me.
Over the next four years, I will join you in your communities and church basements, at your farmers’ markets and fairs, doing the important job of going to where you are – and listening. Together, we will rebuild bridges and stay in touch so that I have a real understanding of the issues that matter most to you.
The voters of this city voted for change. And I am determined that they will get that change. I heard from you during this election and I get it. City Hall needs to return to a sense of order, confidence and decorum. In my campaign I spoke about three priorities of central importance to our health as a local city government. I called them the three T’s— Trust, Taxes, and Transit.
Trust is based on transparency and openness. People want transparency in government. And under my leadership, transparency will be first and foremost. Within the next sixty days we will launch the process to appoint an independent integrity commissioner. That officer will set up a low cost lobbying registry, a gift registry and a council code of conduct. In doing so, the integrity commissioner will be guided by the values and principles that citizens expect representatives to uphold.
I want people and businesses to feel comfortable bringing forward new ideas – proposing better ways of doing things. I want simple transparency and openness. That is what the people of Ottawa told me they expect. City Hall needs to show that it understands again just how hard people work for their money. I will pinch pennies and I will not let waste slide. I will work day in and day out to promote a culture of fiscal responsibility. I make no apologies for being very prudent with the public money entrusted to us. I will insist we get more out of the dollars we have, to provide the vital services you need and count on.
Life is about choices, big and small – it’s about priorities. We will face the most important set of choices almost instantly.
We will pass our first budget over the next few months. This will set the critical fiscal framework in which we will operate for the year. And our first budget will set the pace and tone for all four budgets we will fashion together. I am determined to show the leadership, along with my council colleagues, to face the tough choices ahead. We will not be putting things off or sweeping things under the carpet. There will be much to clean up in this first budget and I need your support to bring forward the fiscal prudence that voters demanded of us at the doorstep.
It is tough in business right now and people worry about their jobs. In the private economy we are not seeing big pay increases and there are deficits in public budgets as our governments dig out from the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. We have to show people we get that. As an incoming Council, we will want to set our own course with maximum flexibility. To ensure that happens, I asked the city manager to put in place a hiring freeze; a freeze on consulting contracts and measures to prevent unspent accounts from being repurposed. This is a temporary measure but an important one.
There is going to be a marked change with this budget. Once we have reviewed financial controls, auditing and improvement procedures, and set our budgets, these restrictions will be lifted under the tighter framework the new Council will set. In my campaign I pledged that I would hold the line on property tax increases to no more than 2.5% a year. I will work long and hard with Council to deliver on that commitment. Achieving this target will not be easy. To my Council colleagues I say: this budget will be our first major test. We must face it together and I will need your help.
After meeting with you since the election, I believe that the vast majority of members of this council understand the importance of living within a tighter fiscal environment. I know many of my elected colleagues also pledged to hold taxes in check. People want more from us than simply curtailing spending. They want more for their money. They want services to improve. They want to be able to access the city services they pay for and receive the excellence they deserve.
For example, our new budget will not have increases to sport and recreation facility fees. Following through on this promise is a small but important step to help with pocket books and ensure our families are out there participating in hockey, soccer, dance, art classes, and the many other activities important to our development and health.
At the end of this term of council we will have a greener city, with better and more reliable public transit.To get there we will need to put transit on a more sustainable footing as a first order of business. Transit in this city is not efficient enough and not structured for success. We’ll be squaring up to the task at hand, and the first step will be to create a transit commission that brings in determined, dedicated community members to help. Our collective responsibility is to improve relations amongst our employees, City Council and most importantly our ridership.
Getting our Light Rail Transit program on track is a big challenge. This is the largest single construction project in Ottawa’s history. We will be undertaking this massive city building project at the same time that we’re implementing the huge public works entailed in our Ottawa River Action Plan. And, on top of that, we will be transforming Lansdowne Park. All of these projects are works in progress in various stages of planning.
Implementing these plans will take diligence and will, in some cases, not be easy. We will need to work together and stay focused on each of them to ensure proper execution, and we must do a better job of communicating and consulting with the people of Ottawa on these important projects.
Ottawa is a caring city. We help one another every day and in many ways. Our city needs to be there to lend a helping hand to those down on their luck and in need. I believe in my heart that we need new affordable housing solutions for the city. In 2008, over 7000 people used emergency shelters in the city. This is not acceptable. During the election I pledged to help address homelessness as the Province removes the cost of social services from municipal shoulders. This is a rare opportunity to ensure renewed investment in housing – so more children are going to sleep in their own beds, with the safety of knowing they will wake up at home. I will be asking you to support this investment in the budget.
I will also continue to shine a light on this important issue to ensure that it gets the attention that it deserves. We should also be a city of opportunity, of vibrant possibility – a city on the move with all our advantages. Good jobs are at the absolute core of our city’s success. I believe that there are things that we can do right away to help kick-start our local economy.
We need leadership that values and boosts the industries that we already have. Tourism, for instance, is our third largest industry with over 26,000 jobs and it contributes 2.2 billion dollars to our economy. Over the next seven years we have a unique opportunity to mobilize around the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
I believe that we need to be in a position to welcome the country and the world to this incredible celebration and engage our local arts and heritage communities to assist us along this important journey. And we need to start planning now. We also need to leverage incredible assets like our new convention centre opening next year. I will work with Council to bring world-class events and conferences to our city.
And I will work to create more sports events that can boost tourism through the slow months. Ottawa is also a town that understands public service. I am proud of my contributions to various levels of government and the bridges I have built with friends of all stripes along the way. I will ensure that Ottawa is a model of intergovernmental success. We saw tremendous progress when all three levels of government put politics aside and worked for the common good under the infrastructure program.
Let us continue to work with our partners in a spirit of cooperation for the betterment of our citizens. And Ottawa is a centre of ingenuity and innovation. We have incredible assets in our universities, colleges and in our government labs like the National Research Council. We have vibrant young companies that are growing and leading the next wave of high tech success.
As mayor, I will reconstitute The Ottawa Partnership and give it the time and focus that it deserves. I will personally chair the TOP meetings and I will do my best to win back the collective interest and effort of our private sector leaders so that we can begin to chart a new course forward to economic success.
Ottawa’s economy is powered by thousands of small businesses. They are the lifeblood of our city and I will be their champion at City Hall. To begin with, I will establish a council of Business Improvement Areas that I will meet with regularly.Together, we will cut the red tape and speed up approvals that currently impede too many of our entrepreneurs.
For as long as I have been in public office I have had a simple mantra: “How many people have we helped today?” In fact, I have a plaque above the Mayor’s door that says just that. I am far from the only person in our city who thinks that way. There are thousands and thousands of volunteers who contribute everyday in our community. Through small acts of kindness; through contributions to the arts; through donations to our food banks and in so many other ways.
It is volunteers who hold us together. There is no more precious gift one can give than time and involvement. All of us experienced firsthand during the campaign the untold stories of generosity. The young boy who celebrated his birthday and instead of asking his friends for gifts, they donated to the Good Companions Centre that has been so kind to his grandmother. The seniors in the west end who gather every month to knit blankets for premature babies. The young immigrant who barely gets by on a minimum wage job but donates money to the United Way and other charities. The farmer who always ensures he drops off extra vegetables to the Food Bank. Or the countless other ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work to make our city a better place for the future.
To recognize our many volunteers and the incredible contributions they make to our city, beginning in the New Year I will open each council meeting by awarding the City Builder Award to an outstanding group or individual. I will seek nominations from each member of Council and the public. There is an intangible network – an invisible and elusive thing – that animates a successful community. It is sometimes called the fabric of our community – made up of many threads woven together for strength and warmth.
We’re lucky here in Ottawa. We have a strong community fabric – many hands working every day to make light work of building a better place to live. It is about far more than governments. It is about the irreplaceable magic of place and people – relationships and history. I love this place. It is my home and it will always be my home. To me, community and people are what it is all about. So let me close by saying – I am incredibly excited to begin this journey with you.
My favourite quote comes from the poet Henrik Ibsen, who over 100 years ago wrote: “A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. Tonight the 24 men and women you have chosen to lead your city are being asked to take the helm and to make our city a better place: Culturally, Socially, Environmentally and Financially
We will build great projects that will serve our community for many generations. We will face up to and face down great challenges. We will strengthen our community fabric and care for one another. It is going to be a great four years together.
I thank you again for your trust. I promise – together with these highly dedicated and talented members of Council – we will make you proud.