Good evening everyone. I’m proud to be here and honoured by the confidence you have placed in me as your Mayor.
We live in a great city. During my time as a city councillor, I was reminded of that fact time and again. Whether out in the community, learning about a new program or initiative being developed by a local organization or community volunteers, or here in council chambers, listening during open delegations as citizens expressed their views, it’s always been clear that New Westminster is a community rich with talent, energy and ideas. In the months ahead, I look forward to working with everyone in our city to harness our assets and ensure our community continues to thrive and grow.
Creating a healthy, happy and vibrant city takes hard work and dedication, and today New Westminster is blessed with a strong foundation to build upon. For more than a decade, our city has been moving forward, making investments that have paid – and will continue to pay – dividends for our livability and quality of life: new public spaces like Westminster Pier Park, Hyack Square and an all-wheel park in Queensborough; new civic facilities like Anvil Centre, Moody Park Outdoor Pool and the expanded Queensborough Community Centre; new policies that serve the community such as the secured market rental housing policy and family-friendly housing policy; new developments that are attracting new residents and spurring business growth. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people who haven’t been to New Westminster for a while say how impressed they are at how far we’ve come.
Many have played a part in the progress I’ve just mentioned, but where we are today is in no small part due to the tireless efforts and vision of a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Throughout his tenure, His Worship Mayor Wayne Wright has driven our city forward. His unbridled energy and enthusiasm for this community, and his experience, have served our city well. Wayne, it has been said that the definition of success, or a big part of it, is to leave the world a bit better than you found it. By that definition, you have achieved success ten times over. On behalf of councils, past and present, and of every resident, business person, organization, volunteer and Royal City “booster”, thank you for your service. New Westminster is a better place today because of you.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Councillor Betty McIntosh for her years of service on Council. Betty, it has been a pleasure serving with you. On behalf of your colleagues, thank you for your strong representation of your community.
It’s clear that, as a community, we have come a long way. And working together, there is more to do. To my incoming council colleagues: Councillor Harper, Councillor Johnstone, Councillor McEvoy, Councillor Puchmayr, Councillor Trentadue and Councillor Williams, I look forward to each of you bringing your unique and diverse perspectives to bear as we deliberate and work on behalf of our neighbours. How we deal with the important issues of today shapes the community we will enjoy tomorrow. It is no small task that your community has entrusted you with and I know you will do our city proud.
Over the past months, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to talk about the challenges that lay ahead. On the doorstep, in our local businesses and at our parks and community facilities, it has been made very clear that our city needs to work hard to address some key priorities.
Time and again, transportation was raised as front and centre on the minds of residents. It’s no secret that New Westminster’s geographic good fortune of being located at the very centre of the bustling Metro Vancouver region can also work against us as we move about our community. As your Mayor, I pledge to work with council and staff to explore strategies to build a transportation system that works. First and foremost we need to begin by implementing the City of New Westminster Master Transportation Plan. There is no magic or easy solution to the challenges we face, but I believe the implementation of our Master Transportation Plan is essential to address our community’s biggest issue. We also need to be prepared to look outside of our borders. New Westminster is part of a larger transportation system and many of the issues we face are regional in nature. Next year Metro Vancouver residents will be asked to participate in a transportation referendum. The success of this referendum will be critical if our region is going to create an efficient and sustainable transportation system for the future.
While we tackle important transportation issues, we must also continue our efforts to ensure New Westminster’s local economy remains strong. In fact, we can’t build the livable community we all desire without it. Over the next four years, we need to recognize the importance of preserving our commercial and industrial lands while exploring new ways to build on our strengths and create new opportunities for employment and economic growth. One such opportunity exists in Sapperton with the future Royal Columbian Hospital expansion which presents us with some unique opportunities for maximizing economic benefits for our city. Working with Fraser Health and other key stakeholders, we will explore ways to leverage both new and future projects in close proximity, such as the Brewery District and Sapperton Green. With city initiatives currently underway such as Intelligent City and District Energy, we’ll provide the modern infrastructure necessary to attract and retain the businesses of the future. And by working with our BIAs and Chamber of Commerce, we’ll encourage the development of a vibrant and diverse retail sector for the benefit of the entire city.
To create a healthy, happy and vibrant community your council is committed to improving the parks, culture and recreation offerings available to residents. High on the priority list will be the redevelopment of Canada Games Pool and completion of a Fraser River walkway that will link the entire waterfront of New Westminster as well as Queensborough with a new pedestrian bridge from Quayside. We’ll also explore the promotion of public art through beautification of public infrastructure and new ways to activate our commercial areas by supporting the creation of parklets and of outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants throughout the city. To provide residents with more opportunities to remain active and engaged, we will explore the development of an additional artificial turf field and continue to encourage special events, parades and festivals on our streets. And, we’ll carry on with our efforts to build a community that works for everyone, through pursuit of affordable housing initiatives, family-friendly development policies, additional child care facilities and a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.
As we work towards all of these goals, we realize that we can’t do it on our own. Our success depends on how well we as a council harness the ideas, passion and knowledge that rest in the hearts and minds of our residents. To do this, we will look at new ways to make it easy and convenient for residents to give feedback to council. We will work with city departments to ensure more information and data is available through an open and accessible data program. And we will explore ways to provide residents with more opportunities to engage through community forums and at city festivals and events. We need to move beyond traditional forms of consultation and embrace true collaboration with our residents.
Tonight, on behalf of city council and city staff, I extend an invitation to everyone in our community to join us in the work ahead. New Westminster has a long history with wonderful traditions and a past burgeoning with achievement. Over the years, we have embraced opportunity when it has presented itself and made our own opportunity when it hasn’t. It’s what has defined us over more than one hundred and fifty years. That spirit is alive and well right here in this council chamber and throughout our great community. Working together, let’s embrace it and build a brighter future for our city.