Mayor Chris Friel believes that Brantford city council is making headway on key issues facing the city halfway through its mandate.
Friel made the statement during a recent interview with Brant News, in which he reflected on events since the 2010 municipal election.
The election of many rookie councillors in October 2010 provided the opportunity to “repair relationships” with Six Nations and the County of Brant and get the city’s “house in order after a series of lawsuits and confrontations,” Friel said.
The recently formed tri-council, which brings together city, county, and Six Nations leaders to craft a co-ordinated message about land claims, is an important example of relationship-building, Friel said.
“The fact that we’ve agreed to the concept of joint lobbying is a big initiative from where we were as communities four years ago,” he said. “It’s quite remarkable. It was a big turnaround and it’s making a difference with us being able to go forward and have a realistic approach to development.”
The mayor said economic development is tied to finding a solution to unresolved land claims that “are killing development in our community.”
“We can’t solve the land claims issues, but we can help put a rational process to it for Six Nations,” Friel said. “We want to indicate when we go to lobby (upper levels of government) how much of an impact it’s had on our community.”
Finding a collaborative approach to boundary adjustment with the County of Brant will also help spur development, Friel said.
“We absolutely need to negotiate this and we have to negotiate it relatively quickly so we can move forward and grow the communities in the way they need to be growing,” he said.
Friel pointed to Laurier-YMCA project negotiations and the opening of the renovated Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, with a realistic timeframe to finish the renovations, as positive outcomes from council’s first two years.
“We (also) finished the water treatment plant, which is even now improving the quality and taste of our water and making our water supply remarkably secure, which I think people should be really appreciative of,” he said.
Regarding the Greenwich-Mohawk brownfield site, Friel expects demolition to begin before the end of the year.
“I think it’s pretty exciting, the projects that we’re going to be able to put together,” the mayor said.
Friel has canvassed each councillor for priorities that will guide council during the city’s upcoming budget process. Along with the aforementioned issues, the mayor’s list includes social projects such as neighbourhood hubs, a crime prevention strategy and addiction and mental health services.
“I believe that the ward councillors are the best people to address issues within their wards,” Friel said.
Conflict is always to be expected in council chambers, but Friel said he has seen more co-operation between councillors during recent months.
“Everybody wants it to be that we’re all loving each other and patting each other on the back,” he said. “Well, that doesn’t really happen in municipal government, or government at all. There’s always going to be people who don’t like each other. There’s always going to be confrontation.
“I have noticed in the second half of this year much more willingness in the level and degree of co-operation among members of council and it has been a benefit. I’m feeling positive about this council going forward over the next two years.”