THE MUNICIPALITY'S ROLE IN SHAPING KINGSTON'S FUTURE
Text of Remarks by
Mayor of the City of Kingston
To: The Kingston Technology Council
Friday, September 15, 2006
The Harbour Waterfront Restaurant
Given that the Kingston Technology Council has just had its Annual General Meeting, which is a time for review and
for planning the year ahead, I especially appreciate the opportunity to
talk with you today about how our municipal government --- the City of
Kingston --- is positioning itself for the future…. A future that includes knowledge-based enterprise.
particular, I want to share with you some thoughts on why I believe
that our municipal government must play a leading role in creating the
kind of community in which these types of organizations will want to
establish themselves and grow.
I mean a community that is healthy both socially and economically.
The two are inseparable and they are both essential to the KTC’s membership.
We can only claim to be a socially
healthy community if our citizens can find and afford decent housing,
if our children get a good start in life, if families feel safe in our
neighbourhoods, and if they can access vital services like health care,
education, or recreation.
Similarly, we can only claim to be an economically
healthy community if our citizens can find work; if our young people
can stay here to pursue their dreams; if our innovators and
entrepreneurs take the temperature of our business climate and find it
warm and supportive, and if those who want to invest here know we are
open to new ideas and new arrivals. These two components of community
health --- social health and economic health --- come together in that
somewhat elusive concept: quality of life.
I would argue that local government
bears a large share of the responsibility for creating and maintaining
a community’s quality of life.
Of course, we don’t do it alone.
Our local institutions, private
businesses, not-for-profit organizations and associations, and even
individual citizens are part of the effort.
consider this: the City of Kingston spends at least 225 million dollars
a year providing a wide range of community services.
That’s just our operating budget; we spend another $60 million on utilities.
Our capital budget is more than $100 million a year.
Council and staff have a responsibility to allocate those resources wisely for two reasons.
First because it’s taxpayers’ money.
And secondly because the way we allocate those resources affects our quality of life… today and tomorrow.
in my own experience, this is where elected officials face one of the
greatest challenges: balancing the costs of efficient, effective
service delivery today with the need to invest now for services that
will only begin to deliver benefits years down the road.
Historically, we have perhaps given too little attention to addressing that second need.
For the most part, our current Council is justifiably proud of what we have accomplished in three years.
I hope that pride is shared by our staff and of course by the community.
should not forget that in the midst of all the momentum established in
the past 33 months, Council and staff felt the loss of our CAO, Bert
Meunier, more deeply than many would realize.
they moved forward at all through that difficult period is a tribute to
the staff and ultimately to Bert. Bert understood, as Council does, the
challenging financial circumstances of local government.
We are expected to deliver more and
more services, with only the municipal property tax base and some
cost-shared provincial funding as primary sources of revenue.
in a community like Kingston, where so much of our property is
publicly-held and does not generate property taxes, the residential tax
base carries an especially heavy load.
This must change.
And the only way we can change the
situation is by increasing the level of economic activity by private
firms whose commercial and industrial taxes then relieve some of the
burden from residential taxpayers.
That won’t happen overnight, certainly not in a single budget year, but we are making progress.
For instance, building permit activity in 2006 is running well ahead of last year and it’s not all because of City projects!
In fact, two-thirds of the value of
building permits issued for the first six months of 2006 was for
non-City projects, and we expect that more than half of the permits
issued in the second half of the year will be private sector and
That provides jobs for our people,
places to live and work, and of course, cultural and recreational
services for our leisure hours.
It will also increase our municipal tax base.
Housing starts were up by 41 per cent in the first six months of this year compared to last.
When you realize that across the province, housing starts declined by 4.9 per cent in the first half of the year, you realize that Kingston has momentum on this front as well.
And it’s a good mix of single family homes, semi-detached, and multiple unit buildings.
I have been quoted as saying that if
elected to a second term as your Mayor, I would keep the community’s
feet to the fire, pushing for action on those priorities which we agree
are the foundation of Kingston’s economic and social health.
These are priorities of not next year or perhaps even a year from now, but three, five, ten years down the road.
And I will tell you, I was not misquoted. I will do just that!
What does all this have to do with knowledge-based enterprise?
Those of you who follow the thinking
of people like Richard Florida on the rise of the creative class, or
Professor Meric Gertler on the development of innovation clusters know that quality of life is a major determinant of choices that people and organizations make in deciding where to establish enterprises and grow their ideas.
It is particularly important to the
types of top-notch talent we want to be able to attract to Kingston,
whether those people are working in a start-up technology company or
one that is well-established, at one of our three post-secondary
education institutions or any of our hospitals.
But building a strong, healthy community is about more than attracting business from beyond our borders.
It is also about growing our own; it’s about keeping our brightest and most talented people here.
It’s about interesting work… safe,
friendly neighbourhoods… places where you can raise a family…access
services to keep them healthy… places that offer a multitude of
opportunities for cultural and recreational pursuits when the school or
work day is done.
On these counts, Kingston has a lot
going for it: extraordinary heritage, a waterfront that is the envy of
many, green spaces, education and health care services of the highest
But we also have some significant challenges.
I’ve already mentioned one of them: an
insufficiently diversified tax base that will allow us to pay for all
the services our citizens demand and expect, whether at home or work.
I would argue that the second major
challenge to establishing the climate in which knowledge-based
enterprise particularly will flourish is public infrastructure.
municipality has an absolutely central role in making sure the
infrastructure needed for social and economic health is here in spades.
Early in this Council’s term, we
agreed on a small number of priorities designed to start to address our
These came to be known as the Group of Seven.
Virtually all of them support a higher quality of life than citizens can claim today.
And all of them will be much sought by the creative class.
Let me describe where I think each of these projects fit in the City’s efforts to make quality of life a real competitive advantage for Kingston.
115 million dollars, the upgrade to the Ravensview sewage treatment
facility is the largest single capital project undertaken by the City
of Kingston in its history.
addition to being a major step forward in our efforts to be more
environmentally responsible, it will also allow sufficient capacity for
economic expansion in the central City and Kingston East, and provide
an immediate economic stimulus through the construction phase.
I know I speak for all members of
Council when I say that we are exceedingly proud to be taking this step
toward protection of the water quality all along the St. Lawrence
Once finished, Ravensview will be one
of the largest Biological Aerated Filter installations in North America
for secondary treatment.
This is biotechnology --- one of the innovation clusters of special interest to the KTC!
Ravensview will be state of the art in North America.
Instead of being embarrassed by what we are doing to part of our environment, we can be proud of how we are protecting it.
But that’s only one of the reasons the project is special.
The other is the major support we got
from both provincial and federal governments for this work; 50 million
dollars worth of this project is being financed from these sources.
And not a penny is coming from municipal capital reserves!
This project started under a previous Council and I congratulate them for having the foresight to get things in motion.
Isabel, I know you put a lot of time and effort into this project and it is bearing fruit. Thank you!
I want to point out that there are several local connections in the implementation of this project.
Two of the firms with integral roles
in it have offices right here in Kingston: engineering firm, J.L
Richards, and process specialists, XCG Consultants.
And I know that our local alternative energy cluster, SWITCH, has pushed for inclusion of a new cogeneration facility utilizing biogas to produce electricity and heat.
And we’ve listened.
What a terrific way to showcase the municipality’s leadership on the clean energy front.
Construction is also under way on the
new Regional Sports and Entertainment Centre just north of Princess
Street in our downtown.
When it opens in December 2007,
Kingstonians will no longer have to leave town to take in a performance
by top Canadian or even international stars.
In fact, we’ll be inviting others to come to Kingston to enjoy the city and the sports and entertainment events available here.
Do not underestimate the drawing power
of a facility of this type for keeping or attracting young people,
helping our institutions attract talented faculty, researchers and
Not everyone is an elite athlete or an entertainment star, or wish to go to see them in action.
We want a place to go to watch local
stars (primarily our kids!) play a game of hockey, learn to figure
skate, speed skate, play lacrosse or indoor field hockey.
We want a place to hold community events, a place to mark important social occasions.
That’s what the new Multi-Plex is about: local sports and community events.
Those people who work in knowledge-based organizations are just as concerned about these services as the rest of us.
How quickly we forget why we chose a
new facility over renovations to the old… when we started this project,
we knew that some of our local teams were embarrassed by the quality of
our community rinks.
In fact, the situation is so bad that
league convenors were starting to warn us that we might not even be
able to stay in their leagues because of the quality of our facilities!
day one, I’ve thought that we should put the multi-plex where the
largest concentration of families are… and that’s Kingston West.
I am extremely pleased that this
project will now move forward in that area and that we can then focus
on turning our old community rinks to new purpose.
We will have recreational facilities
in those neighbourhoods… ones that provide a broader range of safe,
healthy programming for our young people.
Kingston is blessed with an extraordinary array of talented artists and performers.
And we have been able to attract a variety of touring acts to perform at the Grand Theatre.
But most of them have struggled to perform well in an increasingly inadequate facility.
And the audiences for those performers have found the Grand increasingly inadequate as well.
Make no mistake; artistic and cultural
performances such as those offered at the Grand will be much sought by
knowledge workers along with our other citizens.
With Council’s decision to invest in the Grand, that is going to change and we are going to do it right!
Sure, we’ve had a hiccup on the
implementation front, but we’re going to put that behind us and move
this project through to completion.
The Grand will be a jewel in an
extremely vibrant arts and cultural scene, complementing our other
venues for amateur and professional productions and community-wide festivals.
The revitalization of Market Square was one of the first of the Group of Seven projects to get under way.
There are several aspects of this project of which we should be particularly proud.
First, every aspect of Phase One construction was finished on time and on budget --- staff deserve a lot of credit for this!
Second, the community was heavily involved with this project.
The City partnered with community
groups such as the Downtown Business Association, the Cataraqui Region
Archaeological Foundation, and of course the market vendors who were
displaced to Clarence Street, while the work was going on.
This collaboration has enabled us to capture historical elements of the site and portray them in a completely new way.
We have been true to the original vision of this project, and the end result is terrific.
We are well on the way to a beautiful
new public space that got rave reviews --- and extensive use --- in its
first winter of operation.
I am extremely confident that this will continue.
it’s just not possible for a municipal official to talk about
infrastructure without talking about roads, but today I’ll just touch
on one of them.
John Counter Boulevard is a major east-west arterial link in the City of Kingston serving local and regional travel demand.
It is already the primary east-west
route to industrial and commercial land uses in the area just this side
of the 401, from Sydenham Road to Division Street.
And it runs right past both the VIA station and the bus station.
Whether you’re a student, a business
person traveling in and out of the city, or a tourist coming to town to
experience one of our many attractions, smooth transportation
connections will be very appealing!
John Counter Blvd is slated to be a
key link in the City's east/west arterial network linking to: Princess
Street, Division Street and, in the future, Montreal Street…. But only
if it can handle the traffic!
That’s why we are in the early stages of reconstructing this entire section of road.
This will take at least 3 years but work will proceed.
In August, Council took another
step forward with another of our Group of Seven priorities by voting to
purchase the old Kingston and Pembroke Railway right-of-way.
The vision for this project is to create
a major urban-rural recreational trail, which could eventually run from
City Hall to Sharbot Lake. Our part of that trail is 8.5
kilometres in length and it appears we will be able to conclude an
agreement with Bell Canada’s real estate company to acquire the land.
The K&P Trail could provide a significant recreational
boost for our citizens as well as making our community even more
attractive to visitors looking for a low-impact outdoor recreational
experience. For this entire project to become a reality, we will need
to work cooperatively with our neighbours in Frontenac County. And we
are doing just that.
I would like to talk a bit about how the City is working with
other community organizations focused on innovation clusters of
interest to KTC members.
On the Academic Research & Development
front, much of our work with Queen’s University doesn’t get as much
attention as the challenges on Aberdeen Street but it will pay
For instance, we have recently
transferred ownership of all property but the J.K. Tett Centre on King
Street to the University for development of an arts campus that will
embrace and enhance the types of community uses now on the site. And we
are working closely with the University to develop an Advanced Research
Institute on land currently owned by the federal government.
On both fronts, it can be said that we
are working to take assets that are underutilized or even dormant and
put them to new purposes, entirely consistent with the knowledge-based
While the City of Kingston does not drive our community’s spirit of entrepreneurship directly, we can influence perceptions of our community as a place open to entrepreneurship.
We can do that by working even harder
to improve the level and quality of service at City Hall to those with
new ideas and the passion to implement them.
are also showing leadership at Council by being forward-looking and
being willing to take at least some risk in identifying and launching
projects that will move the rest of the community forward.
By the way, you should know that the
small business advisory service at KEDCO has really ramped up its
service level and is now regarded as one of the best in the province. 
On the biotechnology front, I’ve already referred to the importance of the biogas component of the Ravensview project.
We were also one of the first
municipalities to introduce biodiesel to our fleet operations, and we
have been working with local bioremediation experts to test out new
ways to clean up any leachate coming from Belle Park.
I should also congratulate KEDCO for
its leadership over the last several years in helping to create a new
biotech-focused organization serving the Eastern Lake Ontario Region:
the Eastern Lake Ontario Regional Innovation Network… ELORIN.
know many Kingston-based organizations are active in that network ---
Parteq Innovations Inc. and Dupont Canada are just two of them.
In both bio-based industrial products
and biomedical applications, I hope we will see many local successes
from this important collaboration.
This community has produced some amazing innovations in the information technology sector, the most recent of which is surely ADAPCIS.
I know their resource allocation software is being introduced in hospitals from here to Halifax.
This innovation is the direct result of having tertiary care hospitals in our midst.
And it’s a good example of what we all
need to do more of: look to our strengths, find the stars in our midst
and help them move forward.
I am hopeful that with the support of
many in this room, ADAPCIS will be one of the success stories we point
to in years to come, but not the only one.
In particular, I would hope we could re-engage St. Lawrence College more fully in the local IT sector.
You’ve had some great programs there; let’s build on that legacy.
this front as well as many others, I hope that KTC and its members will
pick up the phone or stop by City Hall if there are ways we can advance
While much of the
economic development work we need to do is obviously directed through
KEDCO, there may be other partnerships that would be mutually
For example, the
City could be part of an “employers group” that looks for job
opportunities for the “significant others” of new talent arriving in
And while the policy precludes us from
showing preference to local vendors in our procurement programs, we
could consider whether there are ways to test new community innovations
in some corner of City operations en route to full commercialization.
I’ve kept you long enough.
I am quite happy to take questions at least for a few minutes.
I know you need and want to get back to your day-to-day work.
I only hope you realize that the City
does want to play a major role in creating the kind of community in
which your organizations and all of our citizens can grow and prosper
in the years ahead.
 Information provided by Jeff Garrah in August of 2006; Evaluations done by the provincial government.