Re-Elect Sandra Yeung Racco (Ward 4) on October 22, 2018
Using Technology to Advance the City
Creating a Unified & Healthy Economy
Taking Arts & Culture to the Next Level
Vaughan is now connected to the TTC subway service – the first time the subway has extended into the 905 – as an essential link to a regionally integrated transit network. The subway, along with other improvements to transportation infrastructure, will help everyone in Vaughan move around faster.
In addition, the opening of the subway has helped Vaughan create a more vibrant and exciting downtown where we are attracting world class head offices, businesses and entertainment attractions.
Recognizing that traffic gridlock is the number 1 issue for most people in Vaughan, I have been working closely with City and York Region staff, as well as outside agencies to make improvements to our existing road infrastructure. One key improvement is to fill in the missing link between Dufferin Street and Keele Street along Teston Road.
A few years back, the provincial and regional governments invested heavily to expand Teston Road and to bring a full interchange to Teston and Highway 400. But because of a gap on Teston – the “missing link” – between Keele and Dufferin, Teston is not being used to its full capacity.
Many drivers take Teston every day, and completing the connection between Dufferin and Keele will help ease traffic access to the 400. Right now, drivers are forced to take Dufferin down to Major Mackenzie or up to Kirby Sideroad, adding both time and congestion to the commute.
A framework has been developed to guide environmental assessments of the area, including planned enhancements of east-west connectivity, accommodating current and future transportation volumes and taking into account the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists.
The environmental assessment process is expected to take 2-3 years to complete.
Another key road project is the extension of Langstaff Road between Weston Road and Highway 7, which I believe will be beneficial in diverting heavy truck traffic away from busy Highway 7. Extending Langstaff will not only help alleviate truck traffic, it will enhance safer travel across Highway 7, especially through the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre area.
This proposed extension will help improve traffic flow and reduce congestion, further improve pedestrian and cyclist movement, and ideally enhance transit travel time.
A business case study was undertaken earlier this term by York Region, which proved this to be a worthwhile project to explore. Currently York Region is undertaking a study examining the proposed improvements to Langstaff from Weston to Highway 7 with a possible connection across the CN MacMillan Rail Yard and interchange improvements at Highway 400 and Langstaff.
The targeted completion of the study is next spring, and I look forward to moving ahead on this important project.
We are taking steps to address traffic gridlock, one of the biggest issues facing residents not only in Vaughan but the entire GTA.
In addition to the new VMC subway station and transit hub, our ward (Ward 4) is fortunate to have both the Rutherford GO and Maple GO stations. However, the lack of parking availability at both locations has resulted in illegal parking and GO riders receiving tickets.
Working closely with Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency, we have been able to successfully negotiate expanded GO Train multi-level parking structures at both locations.
The Rutherford GO Station will augment its current 971 parking spaces with a six-level parking structure featuring an additional 1,915 spaces, as well as a redesigned surface parking lot of 310 spaces, totalling 2,225 spaces for this station.
This project will also see the construction of a 2nd platform, upgrading the existing platform to meet GO’s current design standards and a “road under rail” grade separation at Rutherford Road. To help improve traffic flow around the station, Rutherford Road will be widened from four to six lanes from Wesburne Drive to Peter Rupert Avenue.
All of these upgrades will help alleviate the traffic jams that we are currently facing and provide riders with more spaces to park their cars.
The Maple GO Station will also increase its total parking to 2,445 spaces (a big increase from the current 1,245) with a five-level, 2,000 space parking structure. The project will also see construction of a 2nd platform at the station, upgrades to the existing platform and widening of the rail bridge over Major Mackenzie to accommodate three tracks.
Construction for both projects will start in 2019. I believe these projects are positive and forward thinking and when completed will be much appreciated by the community.
To replace trees lost to aging, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation and storm damage, we are implementing a multi-year strategy to rebuild and maintain Vaughan’s urban tree canopy.
Through prudent budgeting, the City of Vaughan is replanting about five times the normal number of trees annually. The plan includes moving and replanting some trees, planting replacement trees and removing stumps, which will also help to minimize neighbourhood disruptions.
In 2017 we replanted 7,310 trees, including more than 6,700 boulevard trees. By the end of 2018, 4,000 trees are expected to be planted on streets and another 1,000 in parks.
Due to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation over the years, horticulture staff are removing all remaining Ash trees and using various other tree species to ensure no new trees are infected and to promote the survival rate of newly planted trees.
Since the Tree Replacement Plan began in 2015, more than 15,000 new trees have been planted. The strategy has also seen the removal of 394 tonnes of CO2, creating a healthier environment.
Edgeley Pond and Park will be an iconic and sustainable open space at the centre of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC), located at the northeast corner of Highway 7 and Jane Street. It will be the heart of the community and a signature amenity for the new downtown. Throughout this project, the City of Vaughan is advancing construction of essential storm water infrastructure to manage flooding risks and unlock development potential, while creating an attractive public destination within a green environment.
Thanks to the support of the Vaughan business community, we are now witnessing the construction of the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital. This $1.6 billion project will be Canada’s first hospital featuring SMART technology systems – medical devices that can communicate with each other directly, maximizing patient care. Construction is on schedule and we look forward to celebrating the opening of the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in late 2020.
Expert consultants have been engaged to undertake a detailed study for a new Community Centre, Neighbourhood Branch Library and District Park in Block 11. The project site is 7.53 hectares, going from Major Mackenzie Drive in the north to Valley Vista Drive in the south, and from Thomas Cook Avenue in the west to valley lands in the east.
Known as a Functional Programming and Planning Study, the review is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, followed by design consulting.
The City of Vaughan’s 2018 Active Together Master Plan highlights developing indoor pools within future major community centre developments, including Block 11, and plans to develop a branch library in Block 11. It also confirms that amenities such as gymnasiums, tennis courts and a waterplay facility should be located in Block 11.
Further, the potential for an outdoor rink or skating trail is being explored. (Planning for the community centre will proceed without the inclusion of a twin pad arena at Block 11 site, as had previously been considered).
Other program components for this location will include teaching rooms, an indoor therapy pool, mutli-purpose fitness room, a multi-use sports field, basketball courts, indoor track, multi-purpose and program rooms, and an outdoor playground and trails.
Community information sessions are being planned for early 2019, with detailed design of the community centre to follow. Pending budget approval, construction is expected to begin in 2021.
I am taking a very active role in the City of Vaughan’s efforts to improve service through technology. We have launched a Digital Strategy to define how the City interacts with citizens across multiple platforms, including on-line engagement, access to data and content, public connectivity, digital literacy, e-services and mobile apps.
In 2017, Vaughan made a commitment to develop a plan to improve livability and create opportunities for citizens by binding the power of technology and data. I was named Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Smart City Advisory Task Force (SCATF), which comprises industry experts, subject matter specialists and engaged citizens.
The primary objective of this task force is to provide advice to staff and Council on how to develop a Smart City strategy, with consideration of the role of artificial intelligence, the Internet of things (known as IOT – the interconnection of devices in everyday objects, such as kitchen appliances, enabling them to send and receive data) and big data. We want to better understand and harness these technology advancements to improve the lives of Vaughan residents and increase the capacity of our local businesses.
Vaughan’s Digital Strategy and the Mayor’s SCATF are focused on leveraging technology to create convenience and comfort for our citizens, promote democratic participation, provide opportunities for societal transformation, improve business productivity and facilitate investment.
Recommendations were adopted by Council to make Vaughan a world leading Smart City and I am personally committed to achieving this goal. At the same time, I recognize that technology needs to be carefully managed to protect privacy and ensure that we are always putting people’s needs first. There is much work to be done to ensure that Vaughan’s progress as a Smart City is executed appropriately and effectively.
Retaining, restoring and maintaining our green space is an essential component to building a strong community. I have been a strong supporter of the urban-agricultural renewal of MacMillan Farm.
The City-owned MacMillan Farm property is a hidden jewel of Ward 4 and the City of Vaughan plans to polish this gem into an urban agricultural parkland with many features for Vaughan citizens. This property is currently occupied and closed for public use, however, a Master Plan study for the property is planned to be undertaken in future years. The City proposes to create a sustainable green space that provides cultural, recreational and educational opportunities for residents and visitors.
The City plans to maintain and protect the two historical houses while creating opportunities that promote active living and healthy physical, social and educational development of all ages.
The design will incorporate themes of nature, food, agriculture, heritage, tourism and education and the goal is to enhance awareness and the appreciation of the environment.
Property designs will combine parklands and urban agricultural elements together. This could include:
A landmark in Vaughan’s history, the MacMillan Farm property is a site of early settlement in the City. Two historical houses remain on the property – the William Cook and the Valentine Keffer Houses.
If approved, the future of the land will create opportunities for partnerships with organization associated with urban farming while maintaining the land’s natural heritage and character. The City wants the MacMillan Farm to become an inviting green space for all Vaughan residents to appreciate and enjoy.
Though out my terms as a Vaughan Councillor, I have been passionate about building economic growth and providing trade opportunities for Vaughan businesses.
Creating highly skilled jobs and by supporting Vaughan companies to expanding revenue channels has been a priority of mine throughout the years. I don’t just talk about trade, I have personally led several successful trade missions to China that have resulted in creating highly skilled quality jobs and revenue growth for many Vaughan companies.
In 2015, I led an international delegation mission of Vaughan Companies to China and Hong Kong in collaboration with Premier Wynne’s mission to China. I planned and coordinated meetings in seven cities supporting Vaughan companies and strengthened relationships with our friendship and economic collaboration cities that were developed and nutured over a decade. These bilateral partnerships resulted in signed agreements worth $165 million CAD in revenue and 860 new jobs through Vaughan companies in Ontario over a five-year period. The goal of these mission trips is to provide business match making opportunities between companies in Vaughan and China.
The City of Vaughan’s international business development program encompasses three objectives: attracting foreign direct investment; creating export development opportunities for local businesses; and creating learning opportunities for the City’s administration. The goal of the international mission trips is to provide business match making opportunities between companies in Vaughan and China. The goal of these mission trips is to provide business match making opportunities between companies in Vaughan and China.
The 2010 and 2012 Business Missions included business meetings, conferences, company tours and networking sessions in Shanghai, Beijing (Funhill District), Xuzhou, and Hong Kong. The schedule was customized with programs that include private meetings and business visits to help opening the market for Vaughan businesses to trade with China. Vaughan officials visited Zibo, a city in Shandong Province, with whom the City signed a Letter of Economic Intent.
In 1995, the City of Vaughan entered into a Friendship City agreement with Yangzhou. Since that time, Vaughan has established economic co-operation relationships with other Chinese cities; Yiwu in April 2011, Zibo in November 2012, and Shanghai Changning In November 2012.
Establishing a gateway to export Vaughan products to China, builds on the “Edge City” and gateway concepts articulated in the City of Vaughan Economic Development Strategy.
I played a strategic role in helping to create a program designed to help international businesses experience a smoother transition when making the decision to grow and locate in Vaughan, by creating the Bridge@Lebovic a commercialization centre.
The Bridge@Lebovic is an affordable co-working space designed to promote collaboration between cutting-edge businesses.
The Bridge@Lebovic is part of the Vaughan International Commercialization Centre’s Soft Landing Program, one of a suite of progressive economic development initiatives led by the City of Vaughan. The VICC Soft Landing Program mitigates the risks associated with entering new markets by connecting established businesses to short-term rental opportunities, international organizations with in-market contacts, and localization services.
In addition, Soft Landing members have access to technology testing opportunities and matchmaking services which include a directory of available soft-landing space including company profiles, site specifications, and contact information and access to in-market representation services. A variety of desk rental options are available including premium desks with large workspaces and lockable cabinets, and virtual offices with a dedicated mailing address and phone extension.
Having a strong background and passion for the arts, promoting and developing arts and culture in the City of Vaughan has always been a key priority for me.
At the City of Vaughan, we proudly celebrate art and culture as a vital part of civic life, fundamental to building a diverse and purposeful city. Aside from fostering community engagement and civic pride, arts and culture help to develop strong networks and give people a sense of belonging and involvement.
Art and culture also play a key role in the inclusion of youth in society by offering opportunities for leadership and development, so they can contribute positively to their community.
The City of Vaughan, especially with the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC), is a growing destination of choice – a reflection of the City’s diversity and emergence as a thriving urban centre. Cultural development, including public art, will help us continue to create extraordinary experiences and enhance a sense of place.
I am very proud of my role in developing the VMC as a top destination for cultural entertainment in the Greater Toronto Area. It is a place where state-of-the-art facilities and workspaces will provide a vast range of experience for all users – residents, visitors and businesses.
Investing in arts and culture creates value for the City. Major cultural facilities serve as an anchor for creative and cultural development, raising Vaughan’s cultural profile.
The City is currently working with one of Canada’s top consultants on a feasibility study for a Performing Arts and Cultural centre in the VMC. The study will allow residents, artists, creative industry professionals, and innovative technology providers to give input to help shape a creative facility and services.
This project builds on previous work that provides stepping stones to building our art and culture capacity. I have been a strong supporter of the development, implementation and promotion of a number of critical studies, including:
As a Council we have worked hard to ensure that the City offers various art and cultural programs and events for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Annual cultural celebrations like Heritage Months, art exhibition on the SLATE gallery at City Hall, the Vaughan Film Festival, Vaughan Culture Days, Mayor’s Lunar Gala and Lunar New Year celebrations, VMC city activations as well as a variety of citywide cultural attractions continue to make the City of Vaughan a prime destination for arts and culture across.