Warden's Closing Address 2023
It’s hard to believe we‘ve come to the end of the council year so quickly. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s truly been an honour to work with all of you over the past year to advance Grey County’s priorities. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this Council for the first year of our term, and I think we can all be proud of the progress we’ve made together.
We first gathered in this Council Chamber around a year ago. We had a mix of experience with nine first-term County Councillors, a handful of second term councillors, and a few grizzled veterans. Some more grizzled than others! Now, twelve months later, we’re running at full speed, and I’m pleased to feel a true sense of cohesion around this table. That isn’t to say that we always agree completely on everything, but I believe we have established trust and understanding which allows us to work together, as a team, for the good of Grey County. Teamwork is of the utmost importance when it comes to tackling the large challenges that come our way. We are stronger together and we have shown that this year.
The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. Supporting the vulnerable people of Grey County is central to our mandate with the services we provide, including housing, social services, licensed childcare, paramedic services and long-term care.
This past year, we have provided 13,000 nights of emergency shelter for people dealing with unsheltered homelessness, and also worked with partners to establish an overnight warming centre at Safe N’ Sound.
Through our Paramedic Services and alongside community partners, we’ve supported countless struggling individuals with the SOS program, connecting them with essential needs like healthcare, meals, mental health care, and other vital supports. We’ve also seen the SOS service expand to more locations around Grey County, reaching even more people where they are. The community paramedicine home visitation program has also grown to more than 450 patients. Just think of the impact that makes for the people who need it.
Very soon we will be opening the doors of Grey County’s first supportive housing centre at 14th street in Owen Sound. Here, residents will have a safe place to stabilize their lives and learn the skills they need to live independently.
This November marked the first anniversary of the Early Learning Hub at the Sydenham Campus. Our Early Learning and Child Care staff have done an incredible job creating a space to support early childhood educators, connect them with training and resources, and make sure they’re equipped to give our youngest residents the best start in their learning.
In long-term care we’ve continued to colour it for the residents entrusted to our care. We’ve also made important decisions to move forward the Rockwood Terrace redevelopment project, confirming high quality long-term care will continue being offered in southern Grey County for decades to come.
Outside of our own services, we saw the grand opening of the new Markdale Hospital. Grey County previously supported the hospital with a $1 million dollar contribution, and it was exciting to see the project fulfilled. In addition, it was this Council who voted earlier this year to support mental health and addiction services at the Brightshores Wellness and Recovery Centre with a $1 million dollar commitment over five years.
These achievements only scratch the surface of the work happening every day to support those in need in Grey County. We must also recognize the vital work that happens day-to-day across our services.
Looking to other County divisions, we’ve seen sustained growth all across Grey County. I commend our Planning staff for their efforts to keep everything moving in a year where we’ve also been adapting to several changes added to our plate through Bill 23. I may occasionally make a barb at our Planning staff, but I assure you it is in admiration.
Over in economic development the team has continued to support business and the local workforce through the Sydenham Campus, Business Enterprise Centre and several other initiatives like the Local Immigration Partnership and the Regional Job Fair. This year our Council also endorsed our latest Economic Development, Tourism and Culture Master Plan and gave our support, as a partner, to the Beaver Valley Sustainable Tourism Strategy. Grey County also joined the Hydrogen Hub, and we continue to advocate Grey County and our region as a clean energy leader. I’d also be remiss not to mention Grey County was again recognized as one of the Top21 Intelligent communities of 2023 by the Intelligent Communities Forum.
Looking back, one of the highlights of the past year was having the privilege to help cut the ribbon on the Arnott General store in Moreston Heritage Village. The new “old” building has been spectacularly recreated and is another gem to be discovered at Grey Roots.
In Transportation Services, we’ve successfully completed two major reconstruction projects, on Grey Road 18 and Grey Road 7. In addition, we’ve completed two shared urban projects. In Hanover Grey Road 28 is being upgraded to support future development in the town, and over in Meaford a new turning lane on Grey Road 7 will improve safety near Georgian Bay Community School. Further investments have been made to extend the lifespan of our roads with 19.5 kilometres of asphalt overlays completed on Grey Roads 2 and 19.
I could go on, I want to go on, but we’d be here all day if I were to go through everything that has been accomplished. I haven’t even mentioned services like Provincial Offences, forestry, the Clerks, Finance, IT, and more. None of the work we do or things we’ve accomplished this past year happened in isolation. They were a collective effort of the leaders around this table, CAO Kim and our senior staff, and the skilled and dedicated staff on the front lines and behind the scenes. Although I can’t possibly list all our accomplishments, I can offer my sincere thanks to all of you on council and on staff for your devotion to the people of Grey County. Thank you.
As a County, there is only so much we can do on our own. We rely heavily on our partners at all levels of government, especially the provincial and federal governments. Over the past year, we have advocated on behalf of the residents of Grey County on a number of issues such as long-term care funding, homecare support, affordable and attainable housing, and funding for supportive housing services. We will continue to advocate, making sure our residents’ voices are heard on these important matters.
Our efforts to weave reconciliation with First Nations into all that we do is ongoing. Reconciliation is not a box to be checked, one and done. It is a journey of hesitation and wrong turns……but with good hearts and faith we will persevere to get it right.
I’d like to thank my colleagues on Southgate Council, in particular Deputy Mayor and County Councillor Dobreen. While I do my best to fulfil my duties as Mayor and Warden, sometimes scheduling conflicts make it impossible. I appreciate your stepping in when needed.
As I said at the beginning of my address, this is just our first year of the term. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. I know we have more challenges to overcome but I have complete confidence we will meet those challenges. Former Prime Minister RB Bennett once said, “Let us begin right…...and not be deterred from our duty because the actions which that duty lays upon us seems temporarily unpopular.”
Together we are stronger, and I look forward to the many things we will accomplish as a team over the next three years.