Good News Bad News Day for Milton

If you’ve been following the news recently, yesterday was a bit of a roller coaster for Milton.

downloadEarlier in the day we found out that CN, despite its assertions to the contrary, must apply to the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) for approval of their proposed intermodal in Milton.

What does this mean? It means that it isn’t going to be smooth sailing as they thought it would be.  In the grand scheme of things it means it’s another hurdle CN must climb before anything is approved.

You can read about the decision here (Inside Halton/Milton Canadian Champion – Rachael Williams)  Further to that, there is a decision pending to see if CN has to complete a full environmental assessment with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) as part of their plans.  If this is ordered by the CEAA, CN will have yet another hurdle to overcome before anything happens with the intermodal facility.

Is it good news for Milton? Yes it is.  It goes with what Halton Region municipalities have been asking for since day one.  Follow the process any other developer would have to follow in Milton.  Is it perfect? Not at all, but it shows CN that they simply can not make assumptions and they do indeed need to follow a process.

There’s the “good news” for Milton.  Now, to the bad.

mevAfter close to 8 years of planning by the Town of Milton, Halton Region and Laurier University, the Province of Ontario made a decision for a new location of a university campus.  It wasn’t Milton.

The Province announced yesterday that the City of Markham (the municipality that tried for an NHL arena without a franchise) was the winner and approved a new York University / Seneca College campus beating out 12 others including Milton – which was considered a favourite – and Barrie.

You can read about this decision here (Inside Halton/Milton Canadian Champion – Rachael Williams)  Dr Max Blouw, who is the President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurier University, stated that they will indeed re-submit the proposal to the Province of Ontario in 2016.  The small sliver of a silver lining is that all is not done with new university campuses in Ontario.  They did say that in spring 2016 there will be another bid process opened up and the Milton Education Village has another shot.

I spoke of roadblocks earlier and this is one for Laurier University and the Town of Milton’s plans for the Education Village – located at Tremaine Road from Derry Road to Britannia Road – and potential economic development along with much needed job opportunities for Milton.  The Education Village, along with the Derry Green Corporate Business Park, is one of the keys to job growth and success in the Town of Milton.

In a press release by the Town of Milton (see here) we have committed to forge ahead with these plans and continue our advocacy with the Province to approve this campus.  Laurier University along with Dr Max Blouw willl press on and resubmit their proposal in the spring of 2016.

The question remains is this.  Why not Milton? Milton being the fastest growing municipality in Canada, is a prime location in the GTA for a university campus.  It has the full support of all parties involved including the Town, Halton Region and Laurier University along with their future partners.  The land is ready, available and serviceable.  There is also a facility in place that will be part of the campus up and running – a little thing called the Mattamy National Centre for Cycling which is now being prepared for the Pan AM Games in roughly 50 days.

All the pieces are in place, yet brushed aside by the Province.  These questions will hopefully be answered over the course of time and between now and the next proposal date, I will continue to advocate to the Province of Ontario, our MPP and anyone else who will listen, that the Milton Education Village / Laurier University campus should be approved as quickly as possible.

Jobs, economic growth and not to mention the Province of Ontario’s long time promise of post secondary spaces are keys to success.  Maybe the Province thought that a few token announcement of a couple of additional GO Trains and a quick payment of ice storm funds would suffice for Milton.  Not in my opinion.

Its time the Province of Ontario sees this.  With Milton growing as fast as it is, at the behest of the Province itself, with close to 400,000 residents expected by 2041, the provincial government must recognize that this is a priority area and the right decisions need to be made at the first opportunity, not as an afterthought.

Town of Milton New Years Levee

Wondering what to do on New Years Day of 2014? Why don’t you come down to Milton Town Hall for the annual Mayor’s New Year Levee.

All the fun starts at 1pm and goes until 3pm.  Lots to see and do, so I look forward to seeing you then.

From Michael Gregory at the Milton Canadian Champion

Milton town councillors are inviting residents to join them for a festive kick-off to 2014 at the annual New Year’s Day Levee.

The traditional celebration will take place Tuesday, Jan. 1 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Milton Town Hall.

“Milton council is pleased to continue this tradition,” Councillor Cindy Lunau said in a news release. “We invite Milton residents and their families to join us in celebrating the new year.”

The event will feature musical entertainment and refreshments from La Rose Bakery and Tim Hortons.

Milton residents will also have a chance to discuss Town projects, and learn about council initiatives for the upcoming year.

Levee festivities date back to the mid-17th century when the governor of New France hosted an event to update citizens of the happenings back in Europe.

The tradition continues to be celebrated by many municipalities across Canada.

Stuff A Bus Returns March 23rd

This JUST in.  No, really it just came in my town email.  I just finished up editing a previous post and I thought I’d share this bit of news.  Seeing how Metro is in ward 6 I thought you should know.  If youre outside ward 6….well come on out as well :)

March 20, 2013

All are welcome to participate in Milton Transit Easter Stuff-a-Bus

Milton Transit will be holding its annual Easter Stuff-a-Bus event on Saturday, March 23, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will be held at the Metro Supermarket at 1050 Kennedy Circle, Milton. Residents of Milton are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the Salvation Army food bank.

“On behalf of Milton Council, I would like to thank everyone who has come out at past events to help less fortunate members of our community during festive seasons, and our corporate partner Metro for hosting this event again,” said Milton Mayor Krantz. “We were told by the Salvation Army that last year’s contributions from the Milton community stocked their bare shelves in time for the Easter season and beyond, so we know we are making a difference!”

At the 2012 Easter Stuff-a-Bus event, more than 1,800 lbs of food donations were collected in addition to cash donations.

For more information on this event or on Milton Transit, call 905-864-4141 or visit the Town’s website, www.milton.ca/en/live/transit.asp.

– 30 –

For further information, please contact:

Paul Cripps – Director, Engineering Services

905-878-7252, ext. 2501

Liliana Busnello, Communications Specialist

905-878-7252, ext. 2154

Here is a link to the Milton Canadian Champion Editorial urging Milton residents to “Stuff the Bus”

Stuff that bus, Milton

Easter is around the corner and the holiday weekend will be filled with customs and traditions, including the celebratory feast many families will sit down to enjoy.

But not all local residents have the means to put such a meal on the table, not at Easter or at any time of the year.

While the Salvation Army, which operates the local food bank, doesn’t hold an official Easter food drive, there’s still plenty of opportunity to assist those less fortunate.

No doubt Salvation Army officials and volunteers would be the first to admit how much they wish they could announce the closing of the local food bank due to a lack of need. But that, sadly, isn’t the case — poverty does exist in Milton. Many recipients are the working poor or those who have been caught in a financial squeeze.

So how can you help?

Milton Transit will hold its annual Easter Stuff-a-Bus event this Saturday at Metro. A 40-foot bus will be parked at the Kennedy Circle supermarket from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with volunteers accepting donated bags of food for the Milton Salvation Army Food Bank. Residents, who can either bring their own filled bags or purchase a pre-made bag at Metro for $5.99, are encouraged to board the bus and find a spot for their donation.

If you can’t make the event, food can be donated throughout the year at The Salvation Army Khi Community, 3-100 Nipissing Rd., or at the fire stations on Steeles Avenue and Derry Road, as well as at donation pantries located at Metro, Real Canadian Superstore,  Longos and Walmart.

As well as non-perishable food, donations of household cleaning products, toiletries and baby items (especially size 5 and 6 diapers) are appreciated.

Come on Miltonians, stuff that bus.

St Patricks Day Weekend

Yes, its St Patricks Day Weekend.  Blarney stones, green beer and jigs will be the order of the day this coming Sunday.  Lots of fun to be had by all but we should also remember to enjoy the celebration and party responsibly.

Here is an article from the Milton Canadian Champion about Halton Police’s plans this weekend.

http://www.insidehalton.com/community/milton/article/1593505

Halton police watching on St. Pat’s weekend

Halton police announced Friday they will be out in force on the lookout for impaired drivers during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend to ensure it is remembered for its festivities and nothing else.

Police are reminding residents to plan ahead if their evening is going to involve any amount of drinking.

Such planning can include assigning a designated driver, calling a cab or using public transportation.

Police said being prepared ahead of time is key to avoiding the temptation to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

The consequences of impaired driving are severe and can result in licence suspensions, vehicle impoundments, fines and even jail.

Police said those who drink and drive not only put themselves in danger, but their passengers and other motorists as well.

Residents who suspect a person is driving while impaired are asked to call 9-1-1 immediately.

The Halton Regional Police Service has stated it is committed to combating drinking and driving and keeping Halton’s roads safe.

Keep Taxes Low

Its a message we hear from many Milton residents throughout the year and especially around election time.  The next municipal election is to be held on October 27, 2014 in case you are wondering.

In a recent letter to the editor, one of my council colleagues brought up some concerns about spending at the local level of government.  You can find his letter here.

In a recent edition of the Milton Canadian Champion another resident expressed their views in agreement with council working towards keeping taxes as low as possible.  Milton does have the lowest tax rate in the GTA but over the last many years, the current and previous councils has been unable to keep the rate of increase in spending at or below the rate of inflation.

I’ve long been a supporter of the concept in keeping any increases at that level.  Long before I became a town councillor, I have talked about responsible tax increases if needed and made it part of my election campaign to vote against any increases in spending over the rate of inflation.  Sadly, I have not been able to support any budget since being elected.  It will continue to be my focus in the coming years & elections to keep the increases manageable.  To me its about affordability of living in Milton.  We continue to grow our residential tax base but still seem to dip into the pockets of taxpayers each year.

I don’t want to re-hash the budget debate of 2013, which saw our council approve an increase of 3.04% and as some saw on my Twitter feed, I posted my tax bill that has increased close to $100 for 2013.  Yes, property values did increase through MPAC assessments and those increases will be phased in over a few years, but to me $100 is a big hit to the household budget.

There are perceptions that Milton is a “rich” town.  While the average household income of Milton families does increase, so do their expenses and the cost of living.  Gas prices, water rates, and the cost of food hit us all.

But getting back to this past budget, we had an opportunity to have our increase roughly around 2.0-2.25% but there were 3 additions to the budget that pushed it to the 3.0% level.  The first one was to introduce Saturday transit service.  While many of my regular readers know I do support having a transit system in town as we continue to grow in population and with the hopeful addition of a Laurier University campus at the Milton Education Village, the need for transit will grow.

I outlined in a previous post that the numbers do not support the addition of Saturday service…yet. We will be receiving the 2013 Milton Transit Master Plan later this month at a council meeting that will provide details and projected growth in our transit system for the next 5 years.  However, at the time we were discussing the budget, we didn’t have this information.  Despite objections of a few council members including Councillor Malboeuf and myself, council approved the Saturday service (cost of approximately $80,000 for September to December 2013) which means roughly $240,000 per year starting in 2014.  This didn’t need to be approved as of yet and could have saved Milton taxpayers money.

Another item that was included in the budget was a change in parking bylaw times from 3 hours to 5 hours.  Every poll that was completed online and speaking with residents themselves during this discussion, I found that it was almost a 50/50 split on whether we stick with 3 hr limits or go to 5hr.  Of those that approved of the change to 5 hr’s many of you said it yes as long as it didn’t increase costs.  Well it did increase costs to roughly $65,000 per year for these changes.  Scheduling had to be changed to incorporate the shifts of the workers and extra signage as well.  Another cost that didn’t have to be implemented in 2013 or even ever.  Staff reports clearly said this would cost money and didn’t keep with the rest of the GTA municipalities that currently have 3 hr parking limits and are making it work.

Finally as Clr Malbouef outlined in the letter there was the $100,000 infrastructure renewal fund that was approved on the day of the budget meeting.  Combining these three initiatives pushed the increase to 3.04% and to a point where I couldn’t support the budget.  I did find it interesting however, that Clr Lambert, who voted in favour of two of the three ventures during budget discussions and when it came time to approve the the full budget, voted against it saying the rate of increase was too high.  If he didn’t support those two items, the rate of increase would have been lower and possibly more acceptable to taxpayers.  To me, it is a bit hypocritical to say one thing and do another to appease taxpayers come election time.

I’ve already stated my intentions to seek the position of regional councillor for wards 1, 6, 7 & 8 in the next election.  I find that there is a lack of leadership at both the local level and at the Region of Halton in these wards and with the many changes Milton will be facing in the coming years, we need to ensure there is a strong, effective voice at both the Town of Milton and the Region of Halton to fill this void.  Milton only has 3 voices around the Region table and as we continue to grow in size we need to maximize the quality of those voices when it comes to the needs of Milton taxpayers.

That being said I would encourage the taxpayers of Milton to contact the members of council who supported the increase in taxes over the last 2 budgets and hopefully as we move closer to election time in 2014 the message will be loud and clear….keep taxes low.