November 2019

What did City Council do?

Committee Night

Committee Night is an opportunity for all of Council to learn about the work that is happening with each of the Cities committees.  We heard from the Age Friendly Waterloo, Town & Gown, Culture, Economic Development, Uptown Vision, Waterloo Park, Active Transportation, Municipal Heritage and Sustainability Committees.  It was really interesting to hear how each committee feels aligned to and is working on priorities within our strategic plan.  An emerging theme was how each committee intends to view their work through the lens of Equity, Inclusion and a Sense of Belonging (a key strategic pillar for the City).  It was also very interesting to highlight the connectivity between the various committees and the desire for each committee to work together on issues.

Asset Management Update

This month Council reviewed the final report cards in our Asset Management journey, for fleet and parking.  Fleet represents 1.1% of all assets at the City, while parking represents 1.5%.  These asset classes are in better financial position as the funding shortfall is projected to be $50k in Fleet and none in parking.  Fleet assets are represented by 330pcs of equipment, while parking includes 17 lots and the uptown parkade.

From a public engagement perspective there were three main takeaways to this work.  The first is that overall satisfaction of City assets is high, green infrastructure is of emerging importance to residents and increasing funding in order to maintain our assets in quality condition is important.

A few takeaways I have as we move into the next phase of planning under the Asset Management journey are that the City of Waterloo are industry leaders in Asset Management Planning; having won multiple awards and given a multitude of presentations to other municipalities regarding our work.  Also, this work is highly comprehensive and the funding shortfall we are facing is not unexpected.  Virtually all municipalities are facing similar deficits and it is incumbent upon Council and staff to follow through with planning to help us reduce or eliminate the Infrastructure Deficit.

The City of Waterloo’s annual funding shortfall is $20-$23 million dollars ($17 of which is tax based, $3-$6 of which is enterprise based).  The City owns $2.3 billion worth of assets (replacement value) and the next step in this journey is addressing the shortfall.  A proposed long term financial plan will come forward as part of our 3-year budget review (starting in December), with plans to address this coming from a partial tax increase above inflation, partial Waterloo North Hydro dividend allocation and an increase in preventative maintenance in order to help certain assets reach their useful life.  More to come on this topic in the months ahead.

Uptown Public Realm Strategic Implementation

Council approved funding to begin implementation of the Uptown Public Realm Strategy (see my March newsletter for more –  The main works that were approved were for preparing a feasibility study on the Laurel Greenway project (linear park from Laurel Trail to Waterloo Park), minor improvements to Willis Way, a shade structure in Waterloo Town Square, initiating discussions with landowners pertaining to the Civic Common initiative (activate LRT stop at Allen Station and connect Brewmeister’s Green Heritage Green and the Region of Waterloo pumping station on William Street) and lastly to look into preparing a 3D model for the whole Uptown in order to be more efficient and cost effective when analyzing these decisions.

Carnegie Library Funding

Council approved funding to upgrade the Carnegie Library.  The Carnegie Library is owned by the City of Waterloo and is a designated heritage structure, having been built in 1905.  The last tenant of the building was Habitat for Humanity, but unfortunately we have not had a tenant for a number of years.  Based on conversations our Economic Development team have had with prospective tenants, in order to meet their needs, we will need to invest in the building in order to meet building code and AODA requirements.  Although the investment is significant, this meets a number of the City and our Economic Development staff goals, namely; increasing employment in the Uptown (a significant focus for many years), increasing tax assessment from the property, meeting the needs of a significant heritage asset.

Winter Control Modernization Review

The Province of Ontario offered municipalities funding in order to find efficiencies within City operations.  The City of Waterloo used these funds to review our Winter Control processes.  This report highlighted 20 opportunities for efficiencies over 4 categories.  Upon full implementation the report hypothesizes that we can save between 7% and 13% off our winter control budget, while increasing service levels to residents.  The four categories were; Labour Management – including suggestions such as redesigning shift times and overtime management, Standard Operating Procedures – tandem plowing, equipment assignment, Trails and Laneways – creating a route priority system, researching machine attachments for purchase and Salt Optimization – sensors on plows, west side salt shed.  The report also looked at Future State Proposals such as emerging technology, geothermal road heating and looking at winter control through a Vision Zero lens.  A lot of interesting data and items for us to action as we continue to look at ways of improving this vital service throughout the City of Waterloo.

Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan

The ECDMP is required to be prepared every 5yrs per Provincial regulations.  In the City of Waterloo it is used to highlight our 80×50 (reduce GHG emissions to 80% of 2011 levels by 2050) target and identified the processes, programs and projects to help us get there.  In addition to summarizing historical GHG’s it highlights short term, medium term and long term actions.  I found the graph below to be very helpful:

The three biggest things that will help the City of Waterloo reach our target involve renewable natural gas, deep energy retrofits in buildings and electric vehicle adoption for our fleet.  Our work on this in conjunction with the Climate Emergency Declaration discussed below is a main focus of our current Council.

DC Bylaw Update

The City of Waterloo approved an update to our Development Charges bylaw.  DC’s are funds that developers pay to the City in order to ensure that growth pays for growth.  The Provincial government is making significant changes to DC’s in Ontario under Bill 108, which may jeopardize the funding model particularly for ‘soft services’ (libraries, recreational facilities, etc).  In order to continue collecting these we need to have our DC bylaw in place by January 1, 2020.  Once the changes around ‘soft services’ are more clearly defined, we will then need to pass a new Community Benefits Charge.  DC’s are prescribed in the Provincial DC Act and the methodology for collecting them must be followed.  Growth projections show our population at 133,482 today, 147,079 in 2029 and 160,183 in 2041.  The major change proposed by Mayor Jaworsky and supported by Council was to reduce the number of rates we have from 3 rates (Single Bedroom, 2 & 3 Bedroom, 4+ Bedrooms) to 2 rates (1-3 Bedrooms and 4+ Bedrooms).  The thought process is that this will continue to discourage 5 bedroom dorm style units (by having a rate for 4+), while encouraging 2 & 3 bedroom family units (by blending the charge with single bedroom units).  The Region of Waterloo’s DC bylaw has only a single rate, which underscores some of the unique challenges each municipality has in how they operate.

Climate Emergency Declaration

This month I was happy to second a motion by Councillor Bonoguore to declare a climate emergency in the City of Waterloo.  The emergency outlines specific actions (creation of a corporate climate action plan, capacity building for staff, exploration of a carbon budget) that we will take to help us do our part to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees as per the COP21 Paris Agreement.  As I highlighted during the discussion I think we need to do a better job of highlighting important policies that have been successful on this topic, such as; the Regional Countryside Line initiative and LRT adoption, which will help us protect our farmland and limit urban sprawl.  Initiatives such as our green building policy, which have had tangible benefits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on new projects such as the Waterloo Memorial Rec Complex expansion that is forthcoming.  This declaration is not an indictment of our progress, it is an acknowledgment that the objectives are achievable, but more work needs to be done.  This is why this Council was the first municipality in the area to identify Climate Change as a crisis during our Strategic Planning discussions.  This is why we have asked for a suite of metrics to help us identify our progress on this issue and have asked that all business plans are connected to the Strategic Plan, in particular on this topic.

So why is this necessary if we are working so hard on the issue already?  For me it boils down to four main reasons:

  • Honesty – it is imperative that we name, frame and deepen our intention to solve this problem.
  • Leadership – this declaration further signals this as a top priority for Council, encouraging residents, not for profits and the business community to tackle the challenge and that we will support wherever possible.
  • Embed – this will ensure that climate action work is embedded in everything we do at the City, not just buildings and fleet, but also transportation, planning, community services staff, etc
  • Capacity – this signals to staff that Council supports increasing our capacity to tackle this challenge. Capacity in the form of time/person power, but also knowledge and education and ensuring that those staff with a desire to do more will be supported.

A recent quote I heard has stuck with me and that is ‘When it comes to environmental issues, unfortunately all success is temporary and all failure is permanent’.  It highlights the need to continue to remain vigilant and to continue to codify this language into the operations of the City for future leaders.

In what was an unusually busy month, Council also received the Uptown Vitality Report and a Transportation Master Plan update.  We also updated our Uptown Sidewalk Patio terms, put a pause on the Waterloo Award for 2020, extended our Parkland Dedication bylaw, gave early approval on a number of capital projects, expropriated 275 Lester Street to add a pedestrian walkway, changed the capital project for the RIM Park pavilion upgrades, received information on the Beechwood West #1 Service Levy and a whole lot more.  If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a meeting.

Outside of the Council Chambers

On the neighbourhood front, I attended the first official Vista Hills Community Association meeting, including a town hall style format where I provided information and answered question on a number of topics including Beechdrops Park, Traffic Calming, Grand River Transit plans, Platinum Drive update and more.  I also MC’ed the City’s first ever Neighbourhood Summit at CIGI.  It was great to see so many enthusiastic neighbourhood volunteers from across the City coming together to make connections and learn about ways to improve their communities.

I continue to hold a number of resident meetings each month.  This month I met with residents regarding traffic safety, new development and construction and more.  If you’d like to set up a meeting to chat about an issue that is important to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

I joined the Climate Caucus this year, which is a group of municipal elected officials that are working together to share best practices on how local municipalities can tackle the effects of climate change.  As part of that group I was able to attend a City Builder Webinar, hosted by Vancouver’s Climate Policy Manager.  This webinar discussed the response the City of Vancouver had to their Council declaring a Climate Emergency in January.  It was fascinating to view the 6 Big Moves that they are undertaking along with 53 actions they intend to pursue under these ‘Moves’.

I had the privilege of attending the Zonta Film Festival opening this month, which promotes female filmmakers.  Later I attended the film LIKE, which was an eye opening look at social media, particularly for youth.  Lastly, I also had the pleasure to attend opening night of the Wonders of Winter in Waterloo Park.  Celebrating the hard work of City staff and local volunteers who put on the lights in the Park every year was wonderful.  Please check out the lights in the park, as I do with my children every year!

Did I miss something, want to get together for a meeting to discuss any of the above or any other issue in our community?  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at or 519-575-0093.