December 11, 2012
Welcome, council, staff, honored guests, members of the media. It is with great pleasure I address you today. I wish to thank my mover and seconder and all of council for bestowing this honor upon me. You have asked me to serve as your warden for 2013, words I do not choose lightly and I accept.
As all of us assembled here today realize, families have always played a huge role in supporting politicians at all levels. I have always had the support of my family in my political roles as Mayor and in the past as a community volunteer.
It has often been said it takes a community to raise a child and I would like to re-jig that phrase and suggest it takes a community to nurture a politician and joining us are some of the people I depend on for advice, support and wisdom.
Today allow me to introduce to you my family and my community supports: here with me is my wife Alanna and my daughter Lily, my mother Shirley and Eric and my mother in law Anna.
I would also like to acknowledge the staff and members of council from the Township of Greater Madawaska who are present with me this morning. Your humor, support and encouragement is much appreciated as I assume the responsibility of Warden of the truly wonderous County of Renfrew.
With us today are other friends and/or neighbors and coworkers I wish to acknowledge.
It is also my pleasure to extend a special welcome to all of the Past Wardens in attendance today. Welcome to you today and every day after. We are truly fortunate to have the benefit of your wisdom, your time and your dedication. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work and commitment to the County of Renfrew.
From an early age, I learned the importance of public service and the positive impact citizens can have on a community. Public Service is an essential component to defining and forming a community. It has often been said the municipal sector is the closest to the people and most responsive to the people, and I have yet to see that disproved.
During my conversations with members of this chamber I made a commitment to maintain the tone established by Wardens Sweet, Rathwell and Visneskie in the Chambers based on professionalism and courtesy. Of course, as a council we will not always agree, but I am confident councillors will communicate and debate based on respect and appreciation of all rational arguments. I suspect the tone and climate established when I arrived in 2006 was established by the previous occupants of this chair and office.
In this chamber we have the best women and men to represent the diverse interests of our community. I've appreciated our past conversations, the advice and the opportunity to learn more about the backgrounds and unique skills and passions each councillor possesses. I know that as a collective team these fine people will strive to make our great county an even better place to live for everyone.
I commit to you today that my term as Warden will be one based on openness, inclusiveness and the free flow of communication amongst council and Renfrew County as a whole. I will with the assistance of council and staff strive to engage and inform the public in all ways possible. This will expose ourselves to all the information necessary to make the most informed decisions on behalf of our community.
WARDEN’S ADVISORY COMMITTEE
During my conversations with the three former wardens currently sitting in this chamber it became apparent we have a wealth of experience and expertise sitting here which we need to benefit from. This advisory committee will be comprised of myself, Wardens Sweet, Rathwell and Visneskie and four other members of council and will have responsibility for the engagement and commitment of the provincial and federal governments for the orderly and much needed and often delayed expansion of Highway 417.
This is the critical infrastructure component required for our continued economic stability and doubly important for our future economic development. Highway 417 brings interested companies/investors, visitors and future residents to our area.
This committee will also be vital in assisting in developing proposals and evaluating initiatives involving the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and submissions to the federal and provincial governments when they pre-consult on the federal budget. Not every budget at those levels needs to predominantly focus on the needs of larger urban centers.
To build a strong, sustainable local economy, I believe we have to do three important things: first, we must have effective management of our taxes in order to keep them as low as possible and predictable over a multi-year cycle; second, we must encourage new business opportunities in our economy to keep our private sector job base resilient and well equipped for the ever changing global economy; and third we must retain the ones presently providing economic stability to our community.
As Warden I plan to deliver, as have past councils, efficient and well-managed budgets by ensuring the process maximizes our ability to oversee spending by ensuring the right materials continue to be presented and the right practices are set in place.
To accomplish this, we as council will set targeted strategic goals used to measure against our budget to ensure the monies are allocated appropriately. Another crucial step to make sure our taxes are kept at a reasonable and affordable level is on the income side of the equation. We need to ensure we are receiving proper payment for the services we are providing.
One of our major employers, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, has seen some major changes. This is a vital institution and facility to the economic well being of Renfrew County. We look forward to continually working with members of the community and elected representatives and AECL as it evolves and continues as one of the world’s premier nuclear research facilities.
Renfrew County enjoys a strong and emotional relationship with CFB Petawawa and we wish to support the base and its many serving members and civilian employees as they continue with the move in of the 450 Helicopter Squadron in 2013 and the wrapping up of the Afghanistan campaign.
The five-year review of the County Official Plan is continuing and the Active Transportation Plan will be completed. The Strategic Plan will be coming to council early in 2013 and will highlight the priorities and the strategies of council for the next five years.
Council will continue to press the province on our concerns with the points needing clarification in the Provincial Policy Statement. This document, if clarified in a fashion supporting continued rural and small urban land use development, can be beneficial to all communities in Renfrew County. If the clarity is not there, it can be a threat to our economic well being.
We will continue to pursue the development of a leased facility for the OPP at Renfrew County Place. It has been long demonstrated the OPP need a consolidated, modern facility and the County remains the ideal provider.
County staff and political leaders will continue to support and lobby on behalf of our partners in agriculture, forestry, industrial and retail as they transition in this increasingly challenging and global economy. We value your contribution and your investment of sweat equity and in some cases tears.
To ensure that we continue to deliver reliable and predictable social services in Renfrew County, I believe we must work together on several important issues in our community. First, we must ensure the proper services and resources are in place for our senior citizens; and second, we must aggressively continue to build quality, affordable housing throughout our municipality.
Demographics indicate the number of senior citizens worldwide will more than double in the next few decades. The World Health Organization recommends creating "age-friendly and all inclusive communities". To prepare for this massive change to the demographic makeup of our community, I am committed to working with the different organizations in our community to develop an approach on how to best deliver effective and consistent services to the seniors and people with needs in our community.
Putting forth a plan to make our community "age-friendly and all inclusive" is crucial to sustainability in our community and part of our responsible social plan for the County of Renfrew community.
With respect to affordable and assistive housing, there is still much work to be done in our community. It is my firm belief that housing is a basic human need, and it is absolutely incumbent upon us to work toward all members in our community having access to safe and affordable places to live. Facilitating the construction of affordable housing is how we can make this a reality, and, we nor our citizens, nor the provincial and federal can afford to wait to serve our communities.
We have boundless possibilities in our arts, culture and tourism industries in Renfrew County. We live in a part of the province and country envied by many and treasured by all. Our connection to Canadian history mixed with our evolving social diversity and the vibrant arts community is second to none. Renfrew County is fortunate to share the county with the vibrant and intriguing Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn community, and it is a treasured relationship which needs to be constantly developed. We need to properly showcase these unique attributes to our residents and visitors. Our partnerships with OVTA and the various cultural groups need to be fostered and expanded.
The County will continue to take an active role in healthy living by participating in a health promotion competition with Lanark County. The efforts of Warden Sweet, Mayor Shulist and Reeve Stack has not been in vain and we will win the next challenge. Our elected officials and staff worked hard to shed some pounds and we look forward to another competition in 2013.
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus is a consortium of eleven Counties and two single tiers in eastern Ontario and has developed some strategic priorities to focus on in 2013. We support the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus priorities in the following areas:
I want to echo the comments of Wardens Sweet, Rathwell and Visneskie in extending an open invitation to these chambers to our Federal and Provincial members to come and provide an update on the various initiatives and to continue to work with our council on the critical ongoing issues that we face.
I look forward to continue working with MPP John Yakabuski on his long time initiative to provide a fair and equitable distribution of our gasoline tax as well as other initiatives. We thank the Federal government through MP Cheryl Gallant for sustainable gasoline tax at the federal level and the investment of $30 million in the Eastern Ontario Development Fund for economic development awarded through the Community Futures Development Corporation.
As your Warden in the new year, I would like to renew the pledge of other Wardens and to accept any invitation from our local municipalities to come and appear before your councils. There are some new members of County Council as well as a large number of council members at our local municipalities and I would welcome the opportunity to come visit your communities to speak to councils on the many services and programs delivered by the County of Renfrew on behalf of local municipalities. As well, I extend an invitation for your councils to attend any meeting of Renfrew County Council or committee. I also encourage local communities to invite committee to your community and to attend the meetings when they are held there.
Please continue to work hard on behalf of our communities. We depend upon you for information and recommendations. We challenge you to be innovative, informative, thrifty and visionary on a daily basis and you do not disappoint. Once again we call on you to provide thoughtful papers and policy options with clear goals, costs and comparators upon which we can make informed decisions.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great honour and humility that I sit here before you today addressing you for the first time as your new Warden. This is a role which I do not take lightly. I understand the immense responsibility you have graciously bestowed upon me. I will encourage council to adopt an agenda in 2013 to make our community everything we know it can be.
Members of council, staff and our community, today we embark upon this journey together. A journey that will undoubtedly be challenging and require patience and appreciation for each other and our individual points of view and diverse goals. I am absolutely honoured to be taking this historic journey with all of you.
We live in a truly beautiful and amazing community with a quality of life amongst the best in the province and the world. It is with great pride that I take on the responsibility of leading this council. I look forward to working with all of County Council and staff to ensure a positive future of Renfrew County. The future is indeed bright and positive for all of Renfrew County.
To each and every one of you, have a wonderful Christmas and I hope an extremely busy and successful 2013.
Warden Peter Emon
December 11, 2012