Happy New Year everyone, thank you for joining Council and me as we ring in 2023. Today we will reflect on our successes over the past year, and our hopes and wishes for year to come.
Please join me in welcoming:
Deputy Mayor Anderson and Councillors Faretis, Rowley and Wheeldon this afternoon.
His Worship Jim Harrison, Mayor of Quinte West joined us earlier.
Her Worship Mandy Martin, Mayor of Cramahe and our County Warden is with us.
Chief Warrant Officer Hough, Squadron Chief from ATESS, the squadron assigned to Brighton for ceremonial duties has joined us.
We welcome the members from the Royal Canadian Legion – Brighton Branch.
And Legion Chaplain and Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church Minister Rev. Wanda Stride is with us.
My thanks to Caroline Birch for putting everything together for today’s levee and Parks & Recreation staff for helping with the set-up.
And my thanks to Down Beat.. for entertaining us this afternoon.
We know that in Brighton we live, work and play on the Gunshot Treaty Lands of 1788. It is on these lands and on our shores that the Mississauga Anishinabek met with representatives of the Crown to facilitate the opening of these lands for settlement. Let us be reminded of the responsibility we all have in making sure that we respect these lands and waters that give us life and sustain our lives and livelihoods. Together we will work to forge partnerships with the indigenous nations, in particular our friends of the Alderville First Nation and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, as we also work to be better treaty people.
2022 was a very busy year for our little municipality from a multi-million dollar upgrade to the wastewater system with the new force main and pumping station – with more to come in 2023 as we wait for the Environment Ministry to approve the Environmental Assessment for upgrades at the plant itself to reconstructing more sidewalks and rural roadways than any year before. We continued our work with the storm water master plan, implementing proper operations of those systems. And we have the support of the same ministry as they work with us on those implementations. We undertook the process to combine and update several recreation based planning documents into one overall parks, trails and recreation master plan, we anticipate that this will be completed this year with implementation plans to be included in this year’s budget. We also opened the Pickle Ball courts to much fanfare and will consider some upgrades for better functionality. In Planning we will continue to monitor the significant pressures placed on us through various bills passed by the provincial government, with the laudable wish to get more houses into the market place for attainability, and how to best address those legislated responsibilities without impacting the property tax payer. We have implemented Community Improvement Plans that will allow for brownfield redevelopment and improvement opportunities and a Municipal Accommodation Tax that will be levied on short term stays in the Municipality and invested back into Economic Development opportunities. We took possession of not one but two new (or new to us) firetrucks this year and continue our work toward a new modernized combined ambulance/fire station to better protect the community and respond to urgencies and emergencies in Brighton.
And somewhere in there our staff managed to run an effective, efficient and accessible municipal election in which we received a significantly higher voter turn-out than our neighbours and most other municipalities across Ontario. But I guess it’s easy for me and six others to think of the election as a success, given the outcome.
With our new Council elected, educated, oriented, inaugurated and with three meetings under our collective belt, we are ready in the next few weeks to tackle the first budget of this term. A budget the will help set the course for strategic planning and determine how best the municipality will be able to carry on with the forward thinking path that we set over the past four years. We know that the impacts of the economy are hitting everyone in the pocket book, and while you have been saddled with 7%, or so, cost pressures at the grocery store and in other parts of your day to day life; the municipality’s expenditures fall in what we call the non-residential price index which has seen 15% or more inflationary pressures – from the chemicals we buy to keep drinking water safe, to asphalt and cold patch these have all risen at twice the level that bread has, the best we can hope for is that our growth levels will help absorb some of that impact, but we didn’t grow by 15% last year! And so Council and staff have some work to do.
Once we have the budget under our belts, your Brighton Council will next look at tackling a strategic planning process to help guide Council and Municipal staff for this term of Council and set guide posts for Brighton’s future well beyond the term. We will be asking you to weigh in on those strategic concepts and offer your advice and ideas so that we can capture how best you want Brighton to grow and what you want this Council to focus on for the term. We are committed to working with you for our community’s future.
I am enthusiastic about how this Council has already come together to understand their roles; it gives me hope that we will not see Members of Council fall into the pitfalls that we saw in the last term. I am enthusiastic that this Council is ready to roll up their sleeves and get the work of the community done, we have already seen Members coming out to help when the roads became impassable – to aid emergency and public works crews as we sheltered travelers from the storm we saw just over a week ago.
I look forward to what 2023 will bring and to what Council is able to accomplish in our first year together.
It is budgets, strategic plans and analyzing results that make a municipality; but it is people that make a community. And when it comes to our fantastic community I look at you and realize it is the people of Brighton who make this a great place. From those of you who put your names forward to work with us on committees and boards who help make our municipality run more effectively and with input from the community, those of you who volunteer with vital health care services like the Victorian Order of Nurses or Community Care to those of you who work with charitable organizations like Helping Ukrainians Get Settled and the Brian Todd Memorial Community Fund. So many people complain behind a keyboard, but here in Brighton we take action when there is a need to fill. We don’t just look to government to solve our problems, we take matters into our own hands, we open our homes to people in need, we roll up our sleeves and say “how can we help”. It is our army of volunteers in Brighton that makes this place we call home a true wonder.
As His Majesty said in his Christmas message, to those of you who live a life of service, from our emergency services and military personnel to our public servants, teachers, nurses and snow plow operators, to those who volunteer in our community, you are the reason we continue to have hope for a future of kindness.
It is with a goal of greater kindness that I have entered 2023. And so I wish you all a happy New Year – and hope for your success, for your happiness and that we all keep kindness in our hearts the whole year through.