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Mayor Signing Declaration of Inclusive Municipalities

Therrien’s Thoughts on 2020

Huzzah! 2020 is almost over. I know I am not the only one who is tired of this year and all its shenanigans. It has been a strange, difficult year, full of uncertainty, unpredictability, and massive change. I wanted to share some of my reflections on the year that has passed, as well as the progress Council has made since 2018.

Mayoring In the Time of COVID

COVID19 has impacted our community in so many ways. It certainly threw council and staff for a loop. Back in March, when we were first hearing about the global pandemic, we could not have foreseen the rapid changes that occurred over the following weeks. I first mentioned COVID19 at our General Committee meeting on March 9th under Other Business. At that point we were monitoring the situation, speaking with Public Health, and speculating about what this might mean for our community.

Over the following days, things escalated quickly – to say the least!
By March 13th, municipal facilities were closing, March Break day camps were cancelled, and staff were put into overdrive, working to address the changes that were coming down from the province and the Medical Officer of Health.

Our Council meeting scheduled for March 23rd was cancelled, and on that date, I declared a State of Emergency. Our neighbours in the County and First Nations were doing the same thing. We moved to protect the health and safety of our residents, which will always be our priority.
One of Peterborough’s many strengths is our community’s ability to come together and support each other when times are tough. This has never been so clear to me as it has been during the last 10 months.

The shutdowns, re-openings, more shutdowns, and tight restrictions have been tough on all of us. I have been consistently impressed by how everyone in our community has adapted. Businesses have embraced technology, while putting the health and safety of their employees and customers first. Community members came out in droves to show support for health workers, essential retail staff, long term care residents and employees. Drive by parades became a way to show people that even if they were stuck at home, or isolated in a facility, people were thinking of them and wanted to show them love. It has been a difficult year, yet there has been inspiration and positivity along the way.

Visit from Trent School of Education students, February 14, 2020

The Longest Two Years…

When I was knocking on doors and speaking to the community just over two years ago, it was clear there was a genuine desire for change and a new direction for Peterborough. At the time, of course, no one asked me if the City was prepared for a global pandemic, and I honestly don’t know what I would have said if asked!

Despite the challenges, I remain dedicated to the ideas and commitments I spoke about in 2018 and am proud to say that Council has already implemented several of them (you can read my policy commitments here), while laying the groundwork for more exciting work to come.

In 2018 residents of Peterborough elected the most diverse Council in the City’s history. With 11 very different people around the Council table, we definitely don’t agree on everything, yet we all share a common goal of making the smartest decisions we can, in the best interest of our community.

Together, we are building a more inclusive and environmentally responsible community. This includes:

  • Unanimous Council decisions to:
  • Join the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities in November 2019;
  • Declare a Climate Emergency in September 2019;
  • Advocate to the Provincial Government for better funding of Long-Term Care homes in Peterborough;
  • Advocate to the Provincial Government for funding of long-term recovery beds in response to the ongoing Opioid Crisis.
  • In September 2019, Council approved municipal funding to support child care expansion. This allows for the development of 49 new licensed child care spaces that will open at Kaawaate East City Public School in 2021 and 39 new licensed child care spaces at Norwood Secondary School.
  • The launch of a new City website and a community engagement platform – Connect Peterborough - that improves communication between residents and the City, and our ability to gather community feedback to help guide important decisions.

Filming “Politically Speaking” for YourTV, with host Paul Rellinger, February 28, 2020

Progress despite the setbacks

Council has also pushed forward, despite setbacks, on other specific commitments I made during the 2018 campaign. Some were accomplished before the pandemic, and some have been done despite it, including:

  • Establishing a Code of Conduct for Council
  • Streamlining the development processes to attract development;
    • Encouraging the development of legal secondary units to increase housing stock;
    • Enhancing the rent stability fund and rent supplement program to keep more people from homelessness;
  • Hosting regular drop-ins and neighbourhood forums; (of course, COVID has impacted this, but we are thinking of ways to have virtual forums that are accessible and interesting. If you have ideas please let me know!); and
  • Creation of the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee.

Other projects remain in progress, partly because they are larger financial commitments, and/or as part of longer-term planning the city is undertaking, including:

  • Implementing a Green Bin Program. Curbside organics collection is expected to start in 2023, thanks to funding from the Federal government and our local MP, Maryam Monsef.
  • The Peterborough Police Services board passing a Memorandum of Understanding to license and regulate ride-shares in Peterborough. A comprehensive by-law will follow, but the MOU was necessary for ride-sharing operators to begin legally running in Peterborough. Currently there is one locally owned and operated ride-share that has signed on to the MOU, Y-Drive.

Housing

One of the largest issues we have is the lack of affordable housing, which has been worsening over the last few decades – not just here in Peterborough but across the province. There are many factors that exacerbate the housing crisis, including the rapidly increasing cost of housing, low rental vacancy rates, inadequate funding incentives for private developers to build affordable units, lack of municipal power to “make” developers build a percentage of affordable units in new builds, and provincial legislation that does not allow cities to implement rent control.

Perhaps the most significant factor is the historic downloading of housing from the federal and provincial levels of government to municipalities in Ontario. As stated by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, “Ontario is the only province in Canada where community housing is a municipal responsibility.”

Peterborough invests heavily in all aspects of the housing continuum. While shelters are the most expensive type of housing, they are a necessary part of the 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan adopted by the City. Every month, staff at the City and through our community partners help people move into more permanent affordable housing.

Since 2019 and up to October 2020, there have been 662 shifts of people from homelessness to housing. We cannot write-off the progress that has been happening under the guise of “it is not enough”. Every time we are able to help someone find stable housing, we are another step closer to the goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025.

Staff and Council are working to find creative solutions and non-traditional partners for housing, and to continue to provide safe and affordable places for people to live.

A key piece of our strategy is moving quickly to prevent youth and kids from experiencing homelessness. If people experience homelessness when they are young, they are much more likely to continue experiencing homelessness as adults. The City of Peterborough and our community partners are working hard to break the cycle of homelessness for children and youth.

The City recently applied to the Federal Government’s Rapid Housing Initiative to build 10 modular units on Monaghan Road. These units will be used to house families and single parents with children, some of whom are currently staying in motels. While motel use is a short-term stop-gap, it is not good enough. Everyone deserves to have safe, affordable housing in our community. The City is committed to working towards this goal, and we are grateful to the Federal Government for implementing a National Housing Strategy. We need the Provincial Government, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to come to the table as well. As we have seen through COVID, governments are most effective and helpful when all levels are working together towards a common goal.

Tour of the new Brock Mission with Craig Mortlock of Mortlock Construction, Councillor’s Clarke, Parnell, Riel, and City Facilities Project Manager Gillian Barnes, October 23, 2020

Smart Planning to Build a Liveable Community

Beyond our plans to tackle the housing crisis, there are many longer-term plans and studies underway, some of which have been on the go longer than others. The Official Plan is a key piece to planning and building our city for the future. There are many other large bodies of work that are happening concurrently, where we are looking for community feedback.

  • City-Wide Transportation Master Plan Update started 2020, and is scheduled to wrap up Dec 2021;
  • Traffic Control Pilot Project was launched, and it recognizes all traffic, including cars, cyclists, and pedestrians, to improve traffic flow;
  • Cycling Master Plan begins development May 21, 2020, and is expected to be finalized by Spring 2021;
  • Calm Streets Ptbo Traffic Calming Policy began development in August 2020, and is expected to be complete winter 2021, and;
  • Roads Resurfacing Pilot Project has been underway for those streets that need to be repaved but are not due for a complete road reconstruction. An example is Simcoe Street west of George to Aylmer, which was resurfaced this summer.

2021 Budget

Press conference for the City Budget process, with Councillor’s Pappas, Vassiliadis, and Riel. November 6, 2020

Money is always a challenging subject and any municipal budget covers a vast array of costs. You can check the footnotes below to access more information about how the city collects money, and what it does with that money. Your Municipal tax dollar is the most effective and efficient one you spend. It gets you roads, sidewalks, police, fire, and paramedic services, clean drinking water, parks, and a host of other things that are so synonymous with good quality of life that it is easy to take them for granted. This also means it is the one where you most directly see, if you look for it, the impact of investment of those dollars.

I did not campaign on freezing or lowering taxes. A growing city like ours needs smart investment into key facilities like arenas, an aquatic centre, parks and greenspace. For many years aging assets and new infrastructure were neglected in the city budget. Without a moderate tax increase, we cannot move forward on the projects the community has told me they value.

In addition to smart and forward thinking investments through our budget process, the City is constantly pursuing funding opportunities from senior levels of government. The City is also cultivating innovative partnerships with non-profits, the private sector, and post-secondary institutions to build on shared mandates and bring in new perspectives, in addition to securing the benefits of joint funding initiatives.

Looking Ahead

While 2020 was not the year we had planned for or hoped it would be, I am proud of what we have accomplished despite these challenges. The City has made progress on some key projects as mentioned above. Residents have quickly adapted to the online Council meeting format and continue to provide insightful and important delegations.

You have the right to a transparent government, and my goal is to work with Council to create a clear plan that will make it easier to understand where we are going, how to get involved, provide input, and hold us accountable. It is our responsibility as elected officials to make sure our work represents the needs of residents, while also providing City staff with clear direction and expectations, all while working within our jurisdictional mandate.

Thank you for reading, and here’s to a better 2021!

The report came to General Committee on September 9, 2019. You can access it here: https://pub-peterborough.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=25444

This happened in January 2019. Councillor Baldwin had brought forward a motion during the previous term of council, which unfortunately did not pass. I supported it, and in 2017 the Province mandated that Councils must have one. You can find info on the provincial legislation here: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/01m25

AMO, August 2019, Fixing the Housing Affordability Crisis: Municipal Recommendations for Housing in Ontario”, https://www.amo.on.ca/AMO-PDFs/Reports/2019/Fixing-Housing-Affordability-Crisis-2019-08-14-RPT.aspx

Peterborough Housing and Homelessness Update, https://www.peterborough.ca/en/news/update-on-homelessness-service.aspx

Among the many great organizations in Peterborough, the YES Shelter for Youth and Families does critically important work. https://yesshelter.ca/

Details about the Rapid Housing Initiatives can be found here: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/nhs/rapid-housing-initiative

Find lots of information about the Official Plan and the other work that supports it here: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/doing-business/official-plan-update.aspx

Find out more about the TMP here: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/news/city-wide-transportation-master-plan.aspx  and provide feedback here: https://www.connectptbo.ca/moveptbo

More on the Cycling Master Plan: https://www.connectptbo.ca/cycling 

Additional streets and road work information can be found on our construction map.

You can find more information about the budget, and how your tax dollars get spent, at this link: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-hall/where-your-tax-dollars-go.aspx

A delegate is simply someone speaking to Council about an issue on that evenings agenda. You can find our more about being a delegate through the Clerks Office: https://www.peterborough.ca/en/city-hall/speaking-to-council.aspx  You need to register through this site: https://forms.peterborough.ca/Clerks-Office/Request-for-Delegation

 

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