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Planning Oshawa’s future

Councillors want more action, less words in strategic plan

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Any document that is set to lay out a city’s priorities for the next five years can get a little wordy. However, it was action that city councillors were concerned about in a special meeting of council.

The June 12 meeting was held to discuss the refreshed version of Oshawa’s Strategic Plan, which plans out city priorities from now through to 2019.

“It’s everything coming together to build the city we want to have,” said Mayor John Henry.

The meeting, a chance for councillors to weigh in on the plan before it is passed through council chambers, saw discussion return several times to making sure the plan was more than just words on a page, but rather concrete action would be seen throughout the city following its approval.

“If we’re going to say something in this document, we have to be committed,” said Councillor Dan Carter. “If we’re talking about innovation, excellence and a gold standard of how we operate, we better commit to it.”

Councillor Doug Sanders said the same, reiterating the city must be accountable for what the plan lays out.

“We’ve got to be accountable for everything we’re passing through this document right now,” he said.

The plan describes five categories of focus – or “strategic goals” – for the city to focus on over the timeframe. In order of priority, they are economic prosperity, accountable leadership, social equity, cultural vitality and environmental responsibility.

The original draft of the plan saw cultural vitality come ahead of social equity. However, councillors felt the latter was more important and moved it up the list.

Within each strategic goal, council priorities are also identified. For example, a fiscal game plan and building and diversifying the economy are listed under economic prosperity and deliberate community engagement under accountable leadership.

However, one theme that does not have identified council priorities is environmental responsibility.

However, Henry says despite this, the city is already doing several environmental initiatives.

“We’re addressing the environmental issues as we speak right now,” he says, referring to the work being done at Second Marsh and the improvements to the city’s waste collection.

While the city deals with numerous priorities on a daily basis, narrowing down the priorities to five categories is helpful, Henry says.

“The number of items we deal with every day is much greater than five, but what it does is it focuses, it gives guidance, it gives direction to our team throughout the city, to all aspects of city employees,” he says. “When you execute a plan, you can do great things, but with no plan, it’s hard to do anything.”

The public will also have a chance to comment on the document, even with the plan going set to go back to staff over the next couple weeks before coming back for approval at council’s final meeting before the summer break on June 29.

However, as the plan dictates deliberate community engagement as a priority, council decided it was only right to hold a public meeting.

That meeting is slated for some time in September, before the plan’s final approval at the end of that month.

Citizens will also be able to provide feedback through the city’s website.

“This is an overall community strategy and we really want the public to be a part of the success of our community,” Carter said.

A full version of the Oshawa Strategic Plan can also be found on the city’s website.