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Mayor Lois E. Jackson - State of the Community Address

Mar 28, 2017

Regular Council Meeting
Monday, March 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm
Council Chamber, Municipal Hall


Good evening everyone. 

It is my pleasure to deliver the annual State of the Community Address and to reflect on our accomplishments in 2016, while also looking ahead to our goals and priorities of this year. 

2017 will be a landmark year.  It is Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. It is a year to honour our past, take pride in our diversity and collective strength, and look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

It will also be a landmark year for Delta. After 138 years as a Corporation, we are seeking to have Delta reclassified as a City.

This will clarify Delta’s identity as a local government and better reflect Delta as a progressive, vibrant and prosperous community.

FINANCE

To maintain this prosperity, good financial management is critical. Our focus is on core deliverables through a pay-as-you-go funding model, which has worked well for Delta.

When I started as Mayor 18 years ago, Delta was $58 million in debt and, next year, I am so proud to report that Delta will be debt-free!

At the same time, we have continued to build significant infrastructure and community assets, capitalizing on federal and provincial grants to spread our tax dollars further. Since 2009, Delta has been successful in obtaining grant funding of more than $50 million for 22 capital projects, with a construction value of more than $82 million.

Through the hard work and commitment of staff led by our Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. George Harvie, and our Council, we strive to get the most out of your tax dollars.  Through these efforts, the capital projects I mentioned were constructed for less than 40 cents on the dollar. 

HERITAGE

Leading up to the Canada 150 celebrations, the provincial and federal governments have provided funding to promote Canada’s heritage. Delta is using some of this funding to restore the historic municipal hall building in Ladner Village. The hall will reopen later this summer as a multi-use public building.

We are also relocating the Delta Museum to new premises in the old Municipal Hall/Courthouse building next to the current municipal hall. This new museum will look very different and engage people in very different ways than the traditional museums we are used to. 

Still on the heritage theme, last November saw the completion of the Boundary Bay Airport Cenotaph and Air Cadet Commemorative Pathway.  It is a stunning tribute to those who served our country during WWII. This project was of particular interest and importance to me, and it is very rewarding to see it come to fruition.

The original 1940s hangar at Boundary Bay Airport has also been extensively renovated and we are now in the process of replacing the roof. Once complete, the hangar will be a spectacular reminder of the airport’s heritage for generations to come.

I am so pleased that we have had these opportunities to invest in and preserve some of Delta’s rich history.

INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

While our history is immensely important, we must also focus on the future and providing opportunities for residents, to ensure that we maintain the quality of life that we have come to expect in Delta.

Capitalizing again on the Canada 150 grant funding, Delta will be replacing the heavily-used synthetic turf field at Mackie Park. This was the first synthetic field in Delta and it is showing signs of deterioration. The new multi-use field will be a great asset for the many sports groups that use the facility, and will be a lasting legacy for the local community.

Last year also saw the completion of the North Delta Recreation Centre expansion project, which includes a new fitness area, and arts and social spaces. This year, we have budgeted for the replacement of the arena slab and we are excited to see a new Arts Centre constructed to replace the aged Firehall Centre for the Arts building. 

These improvements and additions will allow everyone in the community to enjoy what will truly be Delta’s Social Heart.

And, we have just completed the Master Plan for Winskill Park, which will guide the transformation of the park and its facilities for years to come.  This plan is another great example of how projects in Delta evolve.  Led in large part by volunteers working closely with staff, the plan was developed with considerable input from the local community and stakeholders.  Having a plan in place helps to guide our vision, start the financial planning process, and provides a basis to seek out future grant funding opportunities.  Community involvement and feedback is essential to ensuring that the project serves the specific needs of the community and will be a benefit to Delta residents for years to come.

Also, we have also received funding from the Rick Hansen Foundation to improve accessibility for those with mobility, hearing and visual challenges at the George Mackie Library.  Libraries, ladies and gentlemen, are places that document history, encourage learning, promote inclusion and understanding, and are so much more than the buildings and books they contain.  These improvements to the library will provide access for people of all abilities.

One of 2017’s more ambitious projects is the construction of the new Fire Hall, Emergency Operations Centre and Training Facility at Boundary Bay Airport. This post-disaster, multi-use facility will be a critical base for Delta’s emergency operations following a major disaster or other emergency event, and will ensure the highest level of public safety for the community.

Delta could be easily isolated after a major event, so emergency planning and preparation is something we take very seriously. The new facility will ensure that Delta can be self-sufficient immediately after an event, and this will serve the community well. Combining this with a training centre will continue to ensure that our fire personnel are trained at the highest level and prepared for any eventuality.

As with other similar projects, this project will be delivered under the guidance of our Major Civic Buildings Committee, chaired by Mr. Harvie, to ensure that the project is delivered on time and on budget.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am especially pleased that the new REACH Child and Youth Development Society facility is finally underway, after a tremendous fundraising effort by Reach, the Ladner-Tsawwassen Kinsmen Club and the community.

This much-needed facility in the heart of Ladner will provide critical services to children and youth with special needs, and I am proud that Delta was able to assist in moving the project ahead.  I am always amazed at the efforts of others and the determination of the community to support and advocate for such projects.  Another reason I am so proud to call Canada, and specifically Delta, my home. 

ROADS AND TRANSPORTATION

As always, transportation remains one of the priority issues for this community and Delta continues to work closely with the Province to resolve long-standing issues and address new issues as they emerge.

For example, we, along with CAO George Harvie, Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord, Director of Engineering, Steven Lan, and Bylaws and Compliance Manager, Hugh Davies, and all their staff worked extensively with the Province and local Annacis Island businesses to resolve the desperate traffic congestion that reached a breaking point last year.

We are also extremely pleased that, after many years of lobbying, the Province has committed to removing the last traffic light on Highway 91 and will be constructing a flyover at 72nd Avenue in North Delta. Although Delta has long been a proponent of this $30 million dollar project, it is being fully funded by the Provincial and Federal governments.  I would be remiss if I did not thank Federal Ministers Amarjeet Sohi and Carla Qualtrough and Provincial Minister Todd Stone and MLA Scott Hamilton for their tireless work on this vital project.

I’m sure all of you have heard the exciting news of additional vital improvements to resolve the congestion issues on Highway 17 around Highway 91 and the Sunbury Interchange along with the new Nordel Way Interchange.  More than $245 million will be invested by other levels of government and agencies to resolve these traffic issues and we know that this project will dramatically improve transportation in the area, just like our new bridge will improve our lives soon.  Combined, there are five projects which will result in nearly $4 billion being invested into transportation infrastructure that will improve the lives of Delta residents and support the growth of Delta businesses.

The environmental assessment process for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is now complete and the project has been approved. The environmental certificate includes an extensive list of requirements to ensure the environmental and community impacts from the construction of the bridge are minimized. Delta continues to work closely with the Province to ensure the best possible outcome for Delta’s residents and businesses.

The replacement of the George Massey Tunnel with a new ten-lane bridge will relieve one of the worst highway bottle-necks in Canada and save businesses and commuters millions of dollars lost as a result of congestion, accidents, and travel delays. More importantly, the project will create new opportunities to diversify transportation options, promote healthier, low-carbon travel choices, and move the region towards its sustainability goals.

These include dedicated transit and HOV lanes, integrated transit stops, multi-use pathways, enhanced cycle paths, and the ability to accommodate future rapid transit service.  My vision is to see the Canada Line extended southward, over the new bridge and out to the Fraser Valley with a spur line to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.  Maybe one day!

Ladies and Gentlemen, environmental benefits include improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which will result from the combined effects of more fuel-efficient travel speeds and reduced idling, and enhanced opportunities for less fuel intensive modes of transportation.

NEIGHBOURHOOD ROAD IMPROVEMENT PLAN

The Neighbourhood Road Improvement Plan in Delta has been a major success.  Since 2012, we have invested over $66 million on local roads to increase safety, provide enhanced walking corridors and beautify streetscapes.

This year, we will be investing a further $9.7 million on local roads and streetscape improvements, including four projects in each of North Delta and South Delta.

SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES

While we reflect in 2017 on Canada’s history, it is equally important to consider Delta’s history and that Delta is “Ours to Preserve by Hand and Heart”.  As I reflect on this, I am proud of our commitment to preserve our way of life.  The Corporation of Delta has taken strong stances and steps to preserve agriculture in this community.  Other cities are now turning to us to understand the steps we have taken to ensure this way of life will be here for future generations.

At the same time, we need to understand the benefit of progress and development.  This balancing act may be one of the most difficult for elected officials, but, we take this challenge very seriously.  We work with proponents, other levels of governments and all stakeholders to deliver development that is balanced and protects our environment and quality of life.

In 2016, Delta received the ‘Open for Business Award’ from the Small Business Roundtable at the Union of BC Municipalities’ Annual Conference. This award recognizes communities that are taking steps to reduce the cost and complexity of doing business in British Columbia.

Delta was commended for reducing regulatory overlap, leveraging partnerships to improve government interactions with small businesses, and accelerating local economic development for the small business community.

The opening of the Tsawwassen First Nation malls has forever changed the retail landscape in South Delta. It is early days, and we have yet to see the full impact on local shops and businesses. However, Delta has worked closely and proactively with local businesses and community groups to implement the South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy, and we have made significant achievements through the Invest in Delta Mayor’s Standing Committee. This Committee brings together a cross section of skill sets from throughout the municipality.  This group has been a great sounding board and provides advice on many initiatives.

We are also continually engaged directly with the business and development community through my annual economic breakfasts, the most recent of which was held in February at the North Delta Recreation Centre. These breakfast meetings are great opportunities for us to receive input and feedback from the business community, while providing them with an opportunity to see what we are doing.

We will continue this work to support local businesses and take whatever steps we can as a municipality to promote local interests.

In Ladner, for example, the roads and streetscape of the downtown core have been extensively upgraded and the area is now a much more attractive shopping and walking destination.

In 2016, Delta also introduced a South Delta Revitalization Tax Exemption Program which provides economic incentives for local businesses to encourage investment in retail, commercial and mixed-use projects in Ladner and Tsawwassen.

Our earlier incentive programs have also proven to be very successful in stimulating development, including Delta Rise in North Delta, the soon to be developed townhouse complex on 72nd Avenue, and several industrial sites along River Road, including Ocean Trailer in Tilbury, which has been transformed from vacant brownfield sites to thriving businesses.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENT

Delta’s climate change initiative is now 10 years old and I am proud to report that for the fourth consecutive year, Delta has achieved carbon neutrality, meaning that, corporately, Delta has significantly reduced energy consumption and waste generated through municipal services and the operation of civic facilities.

In 2016, Delta met the ambitious target set in 2007 to reduce corporate emissions by 20% and we continue to make proactive changes where we can for the betterment of the environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been afraid of being a leader for Delta, nor have I ever been bashful or hesitant about not being in step with other levels of government, especially if it is good for Delta or simply the right thing to do.  We have always been a strong leader in Climate Change initiatives and we will continue to be moving forward.

CLOSING

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have much to do in the year ahead and we have much to be grateful for.  It will be a year of reflection and action, and as I look back now, I am extremely proud of our accomplishments.

Delta is in an extremely stable financial state and yet we have not reduced service levels. We continue to deliver projects that are not only necessary, but that maintain the high standards we have come to expect of our community.

And as much as I’m proud of our successes I’m as excited about our future.  We have much to be proud of as a Country, a City and as Canadians.

As Mayor and Council, we take our trusted positions very seriously, and continually strive to balance the challenges of growth with the desire to maintain our identity and quality of life.  While our history is rich and must be cherished, our future is also bright and I look forward to seeing all that 2017 brings.

As part of this journey, it’s important to recognize those that have been instrumental in our accomplishments and are helping to shape our future.

I would like to acknowledge the leadership and hard work of our Chief Administrative Officer, George Harvie, the directors and senior staff, and all those who manage the day to day business of the municipality.

I would like to thank all the other Council members for their time and commitment to making this community a better place.

Thank you.