Mississauga. If you ask organizers of the 2013 Western GTA Summit, conversation and collaboration were two of the most important things to emerge from the one-day gathering.
Two days removed from the summit, co-chair Brian Crombie said the most critical part of the coming together of civic leaders, social services providers, community agencies, politicians and residents was, arguably, the networking that took place. Mayors who might not meet regularly had a chance to speak directly, municipal staff touched base with their counterparts in other towns and cities, and representatives from various sectors of society had a chance to liaise.
Crombie said he must have walked away with a dozen business cards and had numerous “great” conversations as well.
While there was much discussion about the central question (“Are we facing economic gridlock?), Crombie was satisfied even though no tangible solutions to the problems facing the region were brought forward.
“I think when you rush into how you’re going to get it done, you end up failing,” said Crombie.
He believes first talking about the problems, developing a vision and plan, and then moving forward is the way to go.
For example, when it comes to transit and transportation improvements across the region via Metrolinx’s Big Move, Crombie feels the focus has been on how to pay for it instead of selling its many benefits to residents. Crombie said he’s made as many as 30 presentations leading up to the summit and was surprised at how many people didn’t know anything about the Big Move.
He wondered how people could get behind a plan when they don’t know what it entails.
Overall, Crombie was pleased with the summit. He felt it had excellent participation with Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Caledon, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, Barrie and the regions of Peel and Halton involved.
“It was probably one of, if not the largest, gatherings of people … from a public policy standpoint,” said Crombie. “I think we accomplished our objective of ensuring the western GTA has a voice and what’s important to us is being heard.”
The summit was centred around three pillars – live, move and thrive. Panelists delved into each pillar and the consensus was there’s a need for more walkable, livable neighbourhoods, investments and improvements to the transit and transportation networks and finding a way to get the economy moving without leaving the most vulnerable of society behind.
Crombie was impressed by the message from the final mayors’ panel of the day, saying the time for talk is reaching the end and, to borrow a phrase from Nike, it’s time to “Just do it.”
He also liked Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees’ message of removing politics from critical decisions for the betterment of the community.
Mayor Hazel McCallion, speaking at Council on Wednesday, said there wasn’t enough time for some of the later-joining municipalities and regions to encourage residents to participate. She also was a little disappointed in some of the GTA mayors who didn’t vocalize strong support for the Big Move.
“If mayors at the local level are not prepared to stick their necks out, how can you expect the Province to move forward on it?” said McCallion.
The plan is to take the feedback received from the summit, send out a questionnaire to participants and then summarize the responses. That final report will be released in the near future.
Crombie said Rogers TV will take the eight-hour meeting and distill it down to an hour-long segment