On November 22, 2022, Selwyn Township Council held its inaugural meeting. Council was sworn in and then each councillor, the deputy mayor, and the mayor were invited to make their inaugural remarks. Below is my speech.
Selwyn is a diverse community comprised of those who live on farms, in urban enclaves, in waterfront homes, and in a fully serviced urban Village. Mary, Brian, and I were elected in our wards but now, like Sherry and Ron, we must, and we will consider and represent the interests of all the people of Selwyn.
As a council and staff, we have two challenges before us. First, working as a team, we must be managers. We must manage the maintenance and enhancement of our services and infrastructure.
The second challenge is that while managing, we must also be leaders. Leadership is tougher than management because it entails dealing not with what is immediately before us, but instead, with all that lies beyond the horizon.
Leadership demands engaging in an existential conversation regarding who we are and who we wish to be. In many ways, the five of us are joining that conversation already in progress. The conversation is reflected in our official plan, in our strategic plan, and in the goals of our staff departments.
But part of that conversation should, I think, now become more intentionally focussed upon the pivot point at which we find ourselves due to the most fundamental issue that lies before us — growth. Everything else we address in the next four years will be affected, and informed, by growth.
Growth is necessary because we must play our part in addressing the nationwide housing crisis. We owe it to those in Selwyn now and those wishing to move here, to provide more and more affordable housing. Growth is necessary because we owe it to ourselves to be a vibrant community in which people can work, live, play, and invest. We must accept the responsibility to not just manage how we grow, but to lead it.
Over the next several years, growth will occur throughout the township with the creation of new lots on which new homes will be built. Our largest area of growth, though, will be Lakefield South. When completed, it will be home to 2,500 to 3,000 new neighbours – close to the current population of Lakefield. Let us begin the exercise of our leadership by considering Lakefield South a blank canvas. Let us establish a vision regarding the neighbourhood we wish to build there, within the community we wish to be.
Let us accept the leadership challenge necessary to create, through our development of Lakefield South, a process and showpiece that will inform the growth that will inevitably follow — more in and around Lakefield and Bridgenorth, and more spilling over Peterborough’s borders. Let’s do even more than that. Let’s accept the challenge to make Lakefield South a nationally recognized benchmark in how community building can and should be done. We can do this.
Let’s be clear, the Ontario government has committed to seeing 1.5 million homes built in the province over the next ten years. It has the power now to largely dictate the process through which those homes will be built. Its new Bill 23 proposes to increase that power. We must lead within those provincial parameters. Further, a lot of work has already been done to advance the development of Lakefield South and elsewhere in the Township and we must also lead while respecting that work.
But here again, is the fundamental question before us — we can manage or lead. Leading means that we do not bemoan the power that is not ours, but rather, responsibly apply that that remains. Responsible leadership, in this case, means seeing developers as partners who share our desire to create the best possible community.
We have an extraordinarily professional and skilled staff. We have an exceptionally strong council of which I am sincerely humbled to be a member. It is the strength of our council and the professionalism of our staff that affords me the confidence to propose what I have, and the assurance to know that we can do it.
I thank my wife Sue, daughter Jennifer, and granddaughters Kenzie and Anna who encouraged me to undertake this endeavour and then helped to realize the goal, the many volunteers who supported my campaign, those who engaged me in conversation when I knocked on every door in Village, twice, the staff and my fellow councillors for their dedication to community, and I thank Anita Locke for her years of public service.
I am looking forward to working with the other members of the council, staff, and others, as we critically assess the pivot point at which we find ourselves, and develop the processes and partnerships, based on transparency and trust, that will allow us, together, to lead our way forward.