Council has approved its strategic plan to take it to 2022, focusing on long-term planning and innovation, defining priorities and providing council with direction.
The biggest difference between this and former strategic plans, says Lord Mayor Betty Disero, is that it provides not only for tactics to reach its goals, but a timeline for achieving them and a process for measuring council’s progress at the end of 2020, ’21 and ’22.
This council decided to bring in a consultant to help with the strategic plan, says Disero, and the result “was a higher level of thinking,” in terms of goals and participation.
Rather than looking at specifics, she says, the goal of the plan is to “move beyond day-to-day operational responsibilities,” and look at “what kind of community we want, and how to get there. It also talks about measuring performance at the end of each year, to ensure council is accountable.”
Accountability, she says, “has been a big thing for all members of council, even during the election.”
For example, in the section that calls for delivering smart, balanced growth, the plan states council should have an action plan approved by the end of 2020. By the end of 2021, uncontrolled growth should “no longer be on the list of top three things cities value least,” as measured by a public survey, and by the end of 2022, 50 per cent of the public, again by public survey, should “agree or strongly agree that the Town delivers smart, balanced growth decisions.”
Disero says there was “a high level of participation from the community” toward developing the plan, including input from council, town staff, community stakeholders, and residents. Participation took place by way of interviews, focus groups, special meetings, and online engagement, and shows what can be accomplished by working together, says Disero.
The plan is categorized into five tasks:
• Find innovative ways to protect heritage, agriculture, and other assets that ensure the community remains distinctive and sustainable.
• Deliver smart, balanced growth that results in improved positioning as it relates to the eight strategic pillars of the community vision: a prosperous and diverse economy; strong environmental stewardship; an inclusive, integrated, healthy town; a centre for culture, heritage and recreation; mobility choices; a well-planned built environment; a prosperous and sustainable agricultural sector; and well-managed municipal finances.
• Elevate the customer service experience.
• Excel in having a positive workplace culture where team and excellence abounds.
• Strengthen two-way communications – ensure information is timely, easy to find, and simple to understand.
Early in the term, when it became obvious it would take longer to do a good job of creating a strategic plan, council had a working plan to follow, says Disero. There have been some setbacks, with some ambitious objectives taking a little longer than planned, she adds, such as the completion of a transportation master plan, a culture plan, approval of a cannabis bylaw, a review of the noise bylaw, short and long-term rentals, the economic development review and community wellness.
All are proceeding, she says, “and we’re getting there.”
While the strategic plan puts in motion goals for this term of council, future councils “can take on this plan, with minor adjustments. It’s really a template for any community, taking the fundamental function of government and setting it out for the future.”
Having a good mix of councillors with diverse strengths and experience, she says, has been helpful. Debates may sometimes take a little longer, “but it’s worth it. In the end, we get a better outcome.”