Good evening. I’m honoured to be here and humbled by the trust that you have placed in me to be your Mayor once again.
Everywhere I go in New Westminster I’m struck by what an incredible place we live in. We are blessed with active, engaged residents and businesses that take pride in their city and rightfully demand that we be our best. I have to admit, it can be difficult both meeting and managing expectations in such an environment. It requires hard work and a collaborative approach to ensure New Westminster evolves as a livable, dynamic, responsive city. When I look around the table this evening and consider the incoming council the citizens of New Westminster have chosen, I am confident we will rise to the challenge.
Two people who have done that many times over are Councillor Lorrie Williams and Councillor Bill Harper. Throughout their time on council, Lorrie and Bill worked collaboratively with other councillors, city staff and community members, tackling issues on behalf of their city.
Bill’s passion for building a robust local economy, ensuring high-skilled, family-supporting jobs remain in New Westminster as we shifted away from our industrial past, is well-known. His leadership of our Intelligent New West initiative since its inception saw New Westminster become a globally-recognized SMART 21 community and a municipal leader in open government. Lorrie’s love of her community shone through her time as a city councillor, as she spearheaded initiatives such as Wait For Me Daddy in Hyack Square and a new Animal Shelter, soon to break ground.
Needless to say, their retirement leaves big shoes to fill but the deep and positive impact both have left on New Westminster will last for a very long time. Thank you for you service Lorrie and Bill. While we won’t be at the council table together, I know you have my number. Something tells me I’m going to be hearing from both of you.
Over the past four years much has been accomplished in our city. The Front Street Mews which saw a historic part of our downtown revitalized and exposed to sunshine after more than half a century in the shadow of the parkade, was opened. A new Official Community Plan to guide New Westminster’s future growth and development was adopted following unprecedented public engagement and input. And, to ensure affordable housing options are available in the community, ground was broken on projects in the downtown New West and Queensborugh neighbourhoods.
Several other important projects now underway will continue to take shape. The installation of our publicly-owned dark fibre network, BridgeNet, means New Westminster now belongs to a select group of forward-thinking municipalities that are laying the infrastructure necessary for innovation and economic growth. Library upgrades in the works will ensure library staff can continue to provide the excellent service the community deserves while enhancing the overall library experience. Our efforts to reduce the City’s carbon footprint and live up to our sustainability goals will be enhanced by actions currently underway such the solar garden program and sustainable transportation initiatives outlined in our Master Transportation Plan. And, highlighting the riverfront that led to our founding over a century and a half ago, we will continue efforts to establish seamless riverfront connectivity from one end of the city to the other.
There is no doubt then the coming council term will be as busy as the last. New Westminster continues to evolve and grow and we must ensure the infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of our changing community.
The next four years will see the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre redevelopment project move forward. Important collaboration with neighbouring municipalities and senior levels of government on tough issues like transportation and affordable housing will take place. Council will oversee implementation of critical work recently completed such as our Future Forward economic development plan, public engagement strategy and asset management plan. We’ll work with city staff and the community to develop a new Child & Youth Friendly Community Strategy and Social Equity Policy that will ensure we put our commitment to creating an accessible, caring, inclusive, safe and welcoming community into action. And we’ll continue the significant work of reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. We are committed to reconciling our past relationships with all indigenous communities in order to move forward in a positive, constructive way together.
So, we have a lot of work ahead of us. To my returning colleagues, Councillors Johnstone, McEvoy, Puchmayr and Trentadue, welcome back. The unique skills and independent perspectives that each of you bring to council has already had a positive impact on this community.
And, of course, welcome to Councillor Chinu Das and Councillor Nadine Nakagawa. Councillor Das, I know your expertise in urban planning and social issues, along with your extensive community volunteer work will be an asset to our council deliberations. Councillor Nakagawa, your passion for community and for advancement of issues such as affordable housing, community engagement, reconciliation and childcare is well-known in New Westminster. I know I’m not the only one eager to have your input on these and other issues at council, though I likely am the most excited of your new colleagues to have someone younger than me at the council table.
Four years ago, as I outlined the work ahead of us as your new Mayor, I said that we couldn’t do it alone, that for us to succeed at our work, we needed to harness the ideas, passion and knowledge that rest in the hearts and minds of our citizens. I still believe that. The past four years has shown what we can accomplish as a community by working together.
Once again, I invite everyone to get involved. Let’s tackle the issues together. Let’s build upon our accomplishments and make New Westminster an even better place to live, work and play. Now, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.