Burlington's 2018-2022 Plan: From Vision to Focus prioritizes key strategic directions for City

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 16th, 2019



The 2018-2022 Plan: From Vision to Focus is the City’s work plan that prioritizes key strategic direction from Burlington’s long-term 25-year Strategic Plan. From Vision to Focus details key goals and actions required to move priorities forward during this term of Council and was approved at Council last night.

News anal REDIn the media release the city sent out there is very little in terms of detail. The Gazette put together a lengthy piece setting out what the city wanted to get done in each of the five focus areas. That article can be accessed HERE.

City staff did a lot of work leading to the completion of the document that now takes on a life of its own. Council members were given the opportunity to talk at length on what they saw as the vision for the city; those conversations were one-on-one which was important.

There was a series of joint workshops with the 2018-2022 Burlington Council and the Burlington Leadership Team to reconfirm the specific focus areas and define goals and actions required to execute on the plan.

Burlington’s relationship with Strategic Plans in the past was disappointing. The Gazette got to look at documents that were decades old that were not much more than a collection of photographs accompanying clichés and bromides.

StPlan flip charts

The ideas were all over the map – it was the first time there was a deep dive Strategic Review exercise for the city in more than two decades.

The 2010 Strategic Plan was a serious effort to pull staff and council together on a vision – it didn’t work out quite that way. When it came to using little coloured dots to indicate choices and preferences it became painfully clear that staff and council were not only not on the same page – they weren’t in the same room.

Councillor Sharman with his back to the camera faces off with Councillor Meed Ward at a Strategic Planning session. Each ciouncillor was new to municipal politics and each brought different personalities and styles to the job. They both add to the colour and flavour of Council

Councillor Sharman with his back to the camera faces off with Councillor Meed Ward at a Strategic Planning session in 2011 They work together more easily two elections later.

The 2014 Strategic Plan was better but the leadership on Council just wasn’t there to ensure that the views of the elected were heard and made front and center.


We started here …


… grew into a 25 year plan.

That changed when the Strategic Plan was made into a 25 year document rather than a four year term of council document. It was a huge step forward. There however does not appear to be any record of a debate on doing from four years to 25 years – it just got done.

The Strategic Plan has four pillars that were turned into focus areas for the V2V document – with a 5th added.

City resources will be aligned to ensure progress is made in the 5 identified focus areas:

• Focus Area 1 – Increasing Economic Prosperity and Community Responsive Growth Management (updated based on Council approval on July 15, 2019)

• Focus Area 2 – Improving Integrated City Mobility

• Focus Area 3 – Supporting Sustainable Infrastructure and a Resilient Environment

• Focus Area 4 – Building More Citizen Engagement, Community Health and Culture

• Focus Area 5 – Delivering Customer Centric Services with a Focus on Efficiency and Technology Transformation

V2F focus areas

The vision and a summary of the goals that will get us there.

“This plan is a living document. Other updates to this document are in progress and an updated version will be available September 2019. Of note, some initiatives identified in this plan may go beyond the 4-year term and will be carried over into future years for continued implementation.

“The 2018 to 2022 Plan: From Vision to Focus will be monitored and reported to Burlington Council on a regular basis and progress evaluated and reviewed. (It wasn’t clear during debates if the review was to be every six months or just once a year – what was very clear is that this initiative is in the hands of council and not something the planners get to keep to themselves. It is perhaps the most ‘political’ document this council has produced.)

“There may be changes along the way, such as: global, regional, and city circumstances changing, events occurring, and other levels of government influencing further updates to the plan document.”

V2F reflects what Council wants in a way that Grow Bold did not; if Council takes the document seriously it should serve the residents well going forward.

Some members of the current Council struggled with the level of detail. Others had interests that took them in a different direction. Others still had different ideas on what a council member is really supposed to do.

Mayor Marianne Meed-Wards said: “This work plan lays out what we want to focus on as a City and Council in the next four years to get us to where we want to be by 2040 (our vision).

This is a living document that will be re-calibrated year over year — we want to get the wheels in motion to make it easy to fulfill the matters that are top of mind among our residents: the tree canopy, green space, and growth and development.

“I believe there is an appetite for visionary aspirations among staff at the City of Burlington, and I can tell you the community is already there — they are ready for this. I’m proud of this plan and want to thank and congratulate staff on all the great work they have put together in it.”

V2F timeline

There is a road map with time frames.

Mary Lou TannerMary Lou Tanner, Deputy City Manager, the woman who gave the city the Grow Bold concept said: “The commitment from the Burlington Leadership Team and Burlington Council to work towards common objectives in partnership with our community is at the root of this important four-year plan.

“The City has clear focus areas and key actions we need to achieve”; that point is now at least clear.

“Our capable staff continue to work hard to move our strategic priorities forward so that our city sees the benefits and residents feel the positive impacts to their quality of life. Staff is committed to letting Council and our community know how this work is progressing and how we have moved the needle for Burlington. ”

Staff at this point is to a considerable degree a beleaguered bunch of people. The turnover rate is high – good people are seeking greener pastures – for good reasons.

During one of the presentation last week given by Director of Human Resources pointed out that Burlington is at the 50th percentile when its pay rates are compared with their peer groups.

Burlington is not paying people terribly well – the benefits are good – but the salaries are not attracting the best and the brightest.

The Escarpment and the lake are great attractions but the cost of housing means many of the younger people who are in that 50th percentile cannot afford to live in the city – and have to spend an hour or more getting to their jobs. The only upside is that parking is free.

Burlington is looking at ways to get to the point where staff are at the 65th percentile – something that is not going to go over all that well with the voters.

Background links

Related new story:

V2F – in depth.


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1 comment to Burlington’s 2018-2022 Plan: From Vision to Focus prioritizes key strategic directions for City

  • Penny Hersh

    This is all well and good, but I do not think it is possible to have a 25 year plan. Things change as we speak. Who would have predicted a year ago that the Province would be downloading services to the Municipalities?

    Residents would be better served if City Hall concentrated on increments of 1-2 years, and keep planning fluid for the next 25 years. So much has happened that could negatively affect the way Burlington looks and what services are available for residents now.