Recently a columnist in the Globe and Mail identified Waterloo Region as one of two Ontario success stories in the Canadian economy. We continue to grow the equivalent of a small town every year as new investment and new jobs signal a strong local economy. The people of Waterloo Region have worked together to create a community that is successful and which is forward looking
But there is still more to do and the new Regional Council will have many new and ongoing challenges. These include:
Supporting economic development and job creation – Although we have done well with investment and jobs, the Region needs to more aggressively market itself in a very competitive world to get investment which creates employment. We need to continue to be on the leading edge. We are in the process of creating a new economic development corporation in partnership with the area municipalities to co-ordinate and better focus our efforts
Building and refurbishing infrastructure – such as roads, transit, water supply, and sewage disposal for our residents and those interested in investing in our community. This Region and its municipalities need to refurbish and build the infrastructure to maintain what we have and to service the growth that this Region will see as it grows to more than750,000 people over the next 18 years.
GO Service – Although we have limited Metrolinx GO service and bus service, we need to work hard with the Province to increase the GO trains to KW and bring GO service to Cambridge so that local employers can have better access to the GTA job marker for employees and local people can have better access to the GTA to avoid the problems of the 401.
Affordable and supportive housing – these are ongoing challenges for many. Although we are building more affordable housing, the waiting list never falls below 3000 persons and families looking for affordable housing. The need is especially acute for supportive housing for those with medical, physical, and psychological needs.
Homelessness and social service supports – Poverty and homeless continue to be major issues in all communities and we need to develop more strategies working with our community partners and the Province to deal with the issues of poverty.
Quality childcare – Despite new Provincial initiatives, quality childcare continues to be a challenge for many. Most recently we opened our home day care program to non-subsidy parents looking for quality childcare but there is a need for more quality licensed childcare.
Cultural community – Our cultural community still faces challenges. Regional spending on culture has increased significantly over the last decade. However we need to sustain that funding and help our partners find more sustainable funding in the years ahead.
Services and taxation – The Region has been able to keep its taxes close to the rate of inflation. Unlike the Federal or Provincial Government, we are not allowed to run operating deficits so all costs must be covered each year. Property taxes in the Region are at or below those of most other cities in south central Ontario and we need to work to manage any increases.