IN 1827, Colonel William Chisholm initiated his plan to build a shipyard at the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek. From there, the shipbuilding and timber industry was established in the area, attracting merchants, sailors and settlers to the shoreline. However, it wasn’t until 1857 that the Town of Oakville was officially recognized as a municipality. Population growth within the town remained stable for the next several decades, until the Ford assembly plant was built following the Second World War. “Since Ford came and opened up in 1952, the growth has been pretty fast,” says Mayor Rob Burton. “In the last 10 years, we’ve slowed it down a bit.”
Presently, the Town of Oakville retains a population of over 182,000 residents within 13 traditional neighbourhoods. Growth is controlled with a comprehensive Official Plan, according to Burton, and each member of the community works hard in order to maintain the town’s strong financial groundwork; this allows for desired stability in terms of Oakville’s infrastructure, facilities and services that are highly valued by its residents. “We believe in a complete community,” he says. “We don’t believe that a community can be strong and sustainable if it isn’t complete; that means we’ve got to make sure that everybody participates and we’ve got to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind.”
In light of Oakville’s bicentennial, Vision 2057 has been established as a collaborative effort between council, town staff and the community to help build a brighter future. Incorporating crucial elements from The Town of Oakville Strategic Work Plan, the Liveable Oakville Plan and the Town of Oakville Sustainability Plan, it aims to provide an in-depth analysis of how today’s actions may affect the future – emphasizing key aspects such as creativity, preservation, affordability, and liveability. “Vision 2057 is kind of a master master plan for the town,” says Burton. “Our residents – I would say – have long-term, high-achieving visions for themselves and they want the same for their community. In consultation with our community, Vision 2057 ties together all the different master plans that most municipalities in Canada would have into one coherent framework with a unified vision of being Canada’s most liveable town.”
Burton believes that Oakville is “one of the smartest communities on the planet,” which is why community involvement in town plans has been such an integral part in its development. He explains that published community engagement guidelines are present, outlining the level of communication residents can expect in return from the town and its staff for their own highly engaged commitment to its progress. Another piece of important documentation, the downtown strategy, has also been implemented to “strengthen the appeal of the community ties to the downtown and increase the visits to the downtown” by both residents and newcomers.
Not only are the citizens of Oakville engaged in their community’s growth, but they are also the healthiest and longest lived community in Canada, according to a report from their health department; this outstanding statistic was one of the main contributing factors
toward improving the town’s existing health care system to the best of their ability.
“When we had a chance to basically quadruple the size of our hospital and take it from the 1960’s – which was when our hospital was built and equipped – to a 2015 state-of-the-art, second-largest hospital in the country, we jumped on it,” says Burton.
The crossover of Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital to its new location has also presented the opportunity to reinvent its old downtown site. Burton explains that council’s current vision for the site is to designate space for housing, a park and a community centre. However, in their partnership with the Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network (MLHIN), the town has yet to heed a concrete outline. “It’s a difficult partnership, because they have not been able to make commitments upon which we can plan,” says Burton. “So, it’s not at all clear how that may move forward. I’d love them to be, but we’re getting to the point where they really have to make a decision.”
In addition to promoting sustainable use of community space, Oakville is also committed to the year-round conservation of valuable energy. Not only do they participate in Earth Hour annually by reducing their non-essential energy consumption, but for the past 10 years, they have also hosted the Oakville Conserves Energy Fair. When it comes to preserving energy, every little bit helps, and residents are also encouraged to do what they can in order to support the cause. “We permit homeowners to feed the grid from their own renewable energy projects at their home – so, rooftop solar and so on,” says Burton. “We own and operate several renewable energy projects across Ontario, and we’re seeking opportunities to do more.”