December 1, 2014 Mayor Lois E. Jackson's Inaugural Address
Dec 02, 2014
"Welcome to the Inaugural Meeting of Delta Council. What a distinct honour and privilege it is for me to be here before you this evening.
Firstly, I would like to welcome and extend Council's sincere thanks to The Honourable Mr. Justice Kenneth Ball, Reverend Jim Short, Pipe Major John Ralston, the Fire and Police Honour Guards, and to Natasha Belonio, for sharing her lovely voice with us this evening. Your participation here tonight is truly appreciated. Thank you.
I would also like to commend those who took the opportunity and made the commitment to run for public office. Whether it is municipal council, school board, provincial or federal elections, there is nothing more fundamental to the success of our communities, cities and country than the democratic election process and those that are willing to stand for election. I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more humbling than to expose yourself to the will of the people and ask for their support and to believe in you and trust that you will make good decisions for the benefit of the community. Each of you deserves our respect and gratitude. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge everyone who made this election process such a success. From those who worked on campaigns, to municipal staff, to volunteers and, in particular, to the people of Delta who took the time to vote and lend their voice to the future direction of our community.
At times like this, it is important to reflect on how far we have come and where we still need to go. I'm amazed and very proud of the changes that I have seen in Delta since I was first elected to Council in 1973. I am a 40 year resident of North Delta, and have been fortunate enough to be Mayor of this great municipality for nearly 15 years. I look forward to this new four year term of Council and the opportunities that we have to make positive change.
I am truly honoured to serve, once again, as Mayor of this wonderful community. I am excited and energized to be tackling the challenges that face our community, and I will continue to seek out innovative solutions that work for Delta.
I remain, in every sense of the word, unwavering in my commitment to the people, to continue to make Delta the best place in the world to live. We will do this by identifying and completing key projects and initiatives, many of which began during the previous term of Council. As always, these projects will be completed in the most efficient and beneficial way possible and, most importantly, on time and on budget.
Transportation and Infrastructure
Transportation continues to be the number one concern in our community. There is no secret about the pressure points in Delta around transportation and the movement of goods. This Council will continue to fight for what’s best for Delta, and to find opportunities to reduce traffic congestion, while leveraging opportunities presented by other levels of government.
A prime example of this is the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. The need for a tunnel replacement was identified several years ago by Delta Council, and since that time, we have been lobbying hard to ensure it happened. This included meetings with federal ministers in Ottawa, as well as locally, with provincial ministers. On September 20, 2013, Premier Christy Clark announced the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, committing her government to the much-needed, multi-billion dollar tunnel replacement that will greatly improve transportation and safety in our community. We are committed to continue working with our provincial partner to leverage every opportunity for improved transportation routes and connectivity along the Highway 99 corridor associated with this critical piece of transportation infrastructure.
Many of you will be pleased to hear that we are pressing for an additional route out of Ladner, as well as southbound access from the new bridge to River Road. There will also be cycling opportunities, both across and connecting to the bridge. I would also like to see an environmental greenway under the new bridge, to beautify the area and provide recreational trail opportunities. As always, we will keep you informed through regular reports to Council, press releases and social media.
Although the tunnel replacement is the most significant infrastructure improvement on the horizon for Delta, it is not unique, nor will it be the last.
Our strong working relationship with the Provincial Government and commitment to continual improvement has led to the direct access of the Boundary Bay Airport from Highway 99, Matthews Interchange and the 80th Street rail overpass, to name a few. These projects were built for pennies on the dollar for Delta residents, while greatly improving safety, efficiency and the movement of goods.
The Province is currently working on a new 10-year transportation plan, and our staff, directed by Council, is committed to identifying essential initiatives for Delta. Key short-term priorities include access upgrades from Nordel Way to the Alex Fraser Bridge, upgrades to the Highway 91 corridor, including the intersection at Highway 91 and 72 Avenue, and the future provision of HOV lanes.
In preparation for the opening of Tsawwassen Mills on the Tsawwassen First Nation land, we are lobbying for the construction of a pedestrian and cyclist overpass at 52 Street and an interchange at 56 Street and Highway 17. These projects will enhance safety and commuter traffic movements as the projected traffic associated with this development materializes.
To this end, I must acknowledge former Councillor and current Delta-North MLA, Scott Hamilton, for his assistance in facilitating meetings and discussions with Ministers and provincial staff on these key transportation projects, along with many other issues affecting Delta.
As part of our ongoing in-house revitalization of Delta’s infrastructure, we have been investing heavily in our road, cycling and pedestrian networks through Delta’s Neighbourhood Roads and Improvements initiative. In our second year of this initiative, we completed 16 projects, aimed at improving connectivity and beautifying our community streetscapes. More improvements will be coming next year, with 12 new projects scheduled for completion. I look forward to the continued improvements of our neighbourhoods.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are doing everything we can locally to ensure that our transportation network is as robust as possible, and I can assure you that this Council is committed to fighting for better access to transit for our residents. As many of you well know, public transit service in this community is inadequate at best. Existing transit routes, services and hours does not lend itself to enhanced ridership, and this Council is committed to bringing about change. TransLink is set to move forward with its transportation funding referendum question in the spring. However, prior to this, Delta will undertake a short online survey of our citizens, in order to have a better understanding of the community's perspective when it comes to public transit and finding solutions that work for this community. As your Mayor, you have my commitment that I will continue to push TransLink for improvements throughout Delta.
Fiscal Strength and Tax Base
As happy as I am with all of these previously mentioned initiatives, I am as proud of how they have been constructed in the most fiscally prudent way possible. We are committed to on-time and on-budget projects that are leveraged with funds from other sources whenever possible.
Since 2009, Delta has been successful in acquiring grant or other participatory funding for 16 projects, with a total project value of almost $70 million dollars. These projects were funded in large, partly by $39 million in grant and alternate funding. This has allowed us to complete significant projects such as the Sungod Recreation Centre Expansion, the Oliver Pump Station upgrade, the Delta Gymnastics Building, Nordel Way Improvements and the long overdue dredging of the lower channels of the Fraser River, for 43 cents on the Delta tax dollar. These projects have filled priority needs in our community, while creating jobs and local prosperity and allowing Delta to stretch its fiscal dollars.
Over the course of the next term, I am very proud to say that we will reach our goal of being debt free! I am truly excited to see the elimination of Delta’s general debt. Delta has gone from being $44.7 million in debt, when I was first elected Mayor in 2000, to soon being debt free. Once a-pay-as-you-go strategy was established to fund our annual capital program, borrowing has become a thing of the past. This is the kind of legacy we want to leave for future generations. This is an accomplishment that we can all be proud of, and I look forward to announcing Delta as debt free during the next four years!
I, along with Council and staff, have worked hard to keep our financial house in order, not only by following our ‘no new borrowing policy,' but also implementing measures to maintain our fiscal strength and prudence when it comes to project planning and execution. This has allowed us to accomplish much in the past and will provide opportunities for exciting projects and community initiatives going forward.
Community Initiatives and Projects
Looking ahead, we continue to provide new and improved amenities, as demand for recreation space in Delta continues to grow. The 28,000 square foot expansion of the North Delta Recreation Centre is well under way, and once complete, will include a fitness centre, which has always been lacking at this facility, a gymnasium, art spaces, and an expanded North Delta Municipal Business Centre. The expanded facility will assist in meeting the growing demands of our North Delta residents for recreation, social, and cultural spaces in our community; all things this Council values as part of the continued vibrancy and engagement of the residents, visitors and businesses within Delta.
Also currently under construction is a field house to complement the brand new synthetic turf field at Dugald Morrison Park. The field house will open next year and will complete a much-needed recreation enhancement for the community of Ladner. This project is yet another example of how this Council has worked, and will continue to work, with local user groups and community representatives to identify needs, design facilities and implement optimal funding plans to develop recreation facilities within existing budgets.
Last year, we implemented enhanced services in many areas of our community, including the North Delta Seniors bus service. The bus has been a welcome addition for our seniors population in the North, providing them with the ability to stay better connected with medical services, activity centres, shopping needs, and other amenities in Delta. I know many seniors in South Delta would like to see a similar service, and we will be collaborating with our Engineering and Parks departments to look at similar opportunities for those in need in the South.
In addressing development opportunities, and as part of our goal to make Delta the greatest place to 'live, work and play,' we have coupled our strong fiscal management and enhanced amenities with a business environment that makes Delta a desirable area to develop. Beginning last term and completing during this term, we will see the development of 900,000 square feet of new industrial development at Boundary Bay Airport. This development occurred in an area of underutilized industrial lands and will fund major road improvements and airport upgrades at no cost to residents.
I have been a strong advocate for many years of finding creative ways to develop our historic Brownfield sites along River Road. To that end, I spearheaded the Saving Our Industrial Lands Initiative, with the goal of bringing contaminated, unused industrial lands back into use with all environmental approvals in place. Our creative initiatives and incentive programs have led to some real success stories, as demonstrated by Delta being recognized with multiple awards. I’m pleased to say that this initiative continues, and more and more contaminated sites are being cleaned up and redeveloped.
We will continue to seek opportunities for smart growth throughout the community
—growth that benefits the community as a whole, while understanding the underlying make up and fabric of Delta, and growth that adds value, while maintaining and enhancing the quality of life that we have become accustomed to and expect here in Delta.
I anticipate the Southlands fourth reading of the bylaw to happen in year one of our term. Our Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. George Harvie, will prepare reports for Council’s consideration, outlining plans to re-establish soil-based farming on the lands dedicated solely to agriculture and environmental protection. This guarantees that large tracts of lands in South Delta will be dedicated to soil-based farming for years to come.
In 2015, and throughout the term of this Council, we will continue to look at opportunities for smart growth and ways to revitalize and ensure the competitiveness of our business communities. Financial incentives are in place to encourage renewal and investment in our Downtown Ladner Waterfront, and to encourage smart density developments along 72 Avenue and Scott Road in North Delta. We will continue to expand incentives for industrial development along the River Road East corridor. As always, these initiatives will be fully open to the public for comment and feedback. Through open dialogue, we create better communities and ensure Delta continues to be the community that generates so much passion for its residents.
To ensure our communities remain vibrant and sustainable I am so pleased that Council has recently approved the hiring of a consultant to develop strategies for the long-term sustainability of South Delta businesses, while facing the challenges of the new Tsawwassen First Nations mall. Small businesses are core pieces of our community, from the goods and services they supply to their valued input as members and residents of our community. We want to celebrate and highlight the heritage and closeness of our communities and find ways to flourish, in spite of these challenges. We look forward to working with stakeholders and will update the community as we progress. Ensuring the livability of our communities is an essential piece of our shared goals.
We have already begun work on certain aspects of this initiative. Next year, you will see new wayfinding signs along the South Fraser Perimeter Road, promoting our communities of Ladner and Tsawwassen to travelers. I want to thank the B.C. Government for working with us to help promote these wonderful, vibrant communities and the unique mix of commerce, attractions and nature each of them has to offer.
Ladies and gentlemen, I strongly believe that one of the biggest challenges I will have during this term as Mayor is to convince my federal and provincial counterparts, along with key stakeholders including Port Metro Vancouver and the rail companies, of the necessity for developing inland terminals, and specifically looking at Ashcroft as an alternate location for the transloading of goods. We have an opportunity in Ashcroft to take undeveloped industrial lands, along key rail corridors, and move goods off of ships directly into the interior by train, while actually creating efficiencies. This reduces traffic congestion locally, reduces pressure to develop agricultural lands, and shares economic prosperity with communities such as Ashcroft that would welcome the opportunity. Talk about a win, win scenario!
To further the development of inland ports, I chair an Inland Port Stakeholder Committee that seeks to develop ideas and consensus from a range of stakeholders and experts. Staff has undertaken a study with respect to inland ports which supports the development of these ports due to the significant, economic, traffic, Green House Gas and efficiency benefits. We will continue to emphasize these benefits and need for alternate methods for transporting goods whenever we can. To date, our efforts have been noted by the Premier and Todd Stone, the Minister of Transportation.
As you can see, a common thread that runs through much of the work we do in Delta is to maximize the benefits and synergies of work that we undertake. Pressing for the development of inland ports not only reduces traffic congestion, but reduces the potential pressures on the development of farmland. The preservation of farmland, and the commitment to put existing fallow farmland into active production, will be a continued priority for this Council. We have actively pursued opportunities to encourage soil-based farming, while putting bylaws in place and ensuring enforcement to discourage inappropriate use of agricultural land. I’m proud of our relationship with the farming community, and hope to continue fostering it in the years to come.
Addressing public safety and protecting our citizens and community infrastructure, always remains a top priority for this Council. Delta is known as one of the safest communities in British Columbia and I’m proud to say that in recent years, our crime rate has continued to steadily decrease.
Our Delta Police Department’s 'no call too small' is a model this Council is proud to support, and we intend on keeping our reputation as a safe community, with continued proactive investments in staffing, equipment and training for our police and fire services. We will also continue to work with other levels of government and our neighbouring municipalities on tackling crime and improving enforcement.
One key project that I am committed to, during the next four year term, will be the construction of a new fire hall and training facility at Boundary Bay Airport. With a growing municipal airport, expanded industrial development at Boundary Bay Airport, the 80th Street Overpass, expanded rail and port development, and the South Fraser Perimeter Road, we are dedicated to ensuring we have the public safety infrastructure in place to protect our growing needs. In fact, we have already acquired the land at no cost for the new facility. Staff is busy planning the new fire hall and through our Chief Administrative Officer, we are developing a phased-in financing plan that will include no borrowing and will have the fire hall appropriately staffed on opening day.
Our Firefighters are amongst the highest trained in the Province, ensuring that Delta is self-sufficient in times of emergency or natural disaster. To do this we need to ensure appropriate equipment and infrastructure is in place. I’m extremely proud of the success record of our emergency responders, and this Council will be committed to continuing that legacy.
Of course, none of this would happen without the great work and efforts we receive from our staff, and specifically here at municipal hall. Going forward, we are continuing to work to make Municipal Hall a more efficient place to conduct business and to serve you better.
I am excited to announce that our Community Planning & Development Department is actively planning and preparing for the launch of new online services, to better serve our citizens and the building community. These services include the ability to submit building plans electronically, rather than in person. We are also working on the implementation of an electronic building inspection program, to enable staff, both in the office and on site, to input and receive information in real time.
Ladies and gentlemen, earlier this year, we launched our new website which offers a host of new online services, including parks activity and facility search tools, an interactive recycling directory, online job application submissions and more. Staff is currently working on new apps and further enhancements, to better connect with our citizens and make their Delta experience even more accessible. Our communications department, through our Chief Administrative Officer, has really brought Delta into a new age. Our online and social media presence grows daily, and has provided another outlet for two-way communication between Council and residents. We will continue to embrace these advancements in technology, so that we can communicate with citizens on their chosen platforms.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Delta staff and their support of programs and initiatives that benefit our community. In particular, I would like to recognize and thank:
- Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. George V. Harvie
- Fire Chief Dan Copeland
- Police Chief Jim Cessford
- Sean McGill, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Planning
- Karl Preuss, Director of Finance
- Ken Kuntz, Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture
- Steven Lan, Director of Engineering
- Jeff Day, Director of Community Planning and Development
- Greg Vanstone, Municipal Solicitor
- Municipal Clerk, Ms. Robyn Anderson
Thank you all for your continued hard work and dedication to this great municipality!
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the challenges and choices facing our community require innovative ideas and new approaches. I’m excited by the opportunity to be your Mayor for another four years and, working closely with your chosen representatives, will ensure that your Delta is truly the best place in the world to 'live, work and play.'
As always, I remain committed to an open and accountable municipal hall that not only listens, but encourages feedback and two-way communication.
Thank you all for bestowing upon us this great responsibility. I look forward, with anticipation, to what the future brings!"
— Mayor Lois E. Jackson