Even amidst a global pandemic, York Region continues to make "significant progress" with its strategic plan.
The release of York Region’s Community 2021 Report highlights collaborative efforts to achieve year-three priorities as outlined in the region's 2019-2023 Strategic Plan: From Vision to Results.
The four-year strategic plan ensures continuous improvement in the services provided to York Region residents. They set benchmarks for performance and contain specific, measurable, achievable, and time-based objectives and action plans.
The 2019-2023 plan outlines four main priorities: to increase the region’s economic prosperity, support community health, safety and well-being, build sustainable communities and protect the environment, and deliver trusted and efficient services.
“Despite York Region’s wide-scale response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, significant progress on priorities and objectives outlined in the Strategic Plan continued,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson. “These accomplishments demonstrate our collaborative efforts and commitment to ensuring high-quality programs and services are available to residents, and that York Region remains a strong, caring, safe community.”
Bruce Macgregor, chief administrative officer for York Region, stated in his May 5 Committee of the Whole Finance and Administration report that “anchoring the plan in core services to ensure the region continues to meet its legislative obligations while remaining flexible and responsive to residents’ needs” was “critical in maintaining progress during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The plan identifies 31 performance measures based on priority areas. The community report for each year determines whether performance measures are trending in the desired direction. For 2021, 23 of 31, or 74 per cent of the Strategic Plan’s performance measures trended in the desired direction.
A key success highlighted in the 2021 report is the continued implementation of the Regional Fiscal Strategy, which helped to build reserves while reducing the debt level for the region. Between 2017 and 2021, the reserve-to-debt ratio grew from 86 per cent to 147 per cent.
The region also achieved top scores in the Ontario Chief Drinking Water Inspector’s report, with 100 per cent of samples meeting provincial standards. The purchase of six more electric buses moved the region closer to the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2051, and the planting of 92,154 trees and shrubs occurred through the Regional Greening Strategy Program.
Five, or 16 per cent, of the 31 performance measures did not trend in the desired direction, while three performance measures had no data for reporting.
Maintenance of the number of transit ridership per capita is one performance measure that reported a decrease in 2021, with COVID-19 being the primary cause due to work-from-home initiatives, school closures, and changes in ridership behaviour.
An increased percentage of regional roads with sidewalks and/or dedicated bike lanes in urban areas was another performance measure not met. The expectation is that the trend will either be maintained or increased as the region continues to include pedestrian and cycling facilities as part of road improvement projects.
The objective to increase the percentage of individuals and families remaining stably housed after six months who were homeless or at risk of homelessness is the third performance measure that did not meet desired outcomes. In 2021, 74 per cent of individuals and families who were previously homeless or at risk of homelessness remained stably housed after six months. Again, COVID-19 impacted this outcome by limiting reporting capabilities by housing support staff, tightening the availability of affordable housing, and increasing financial instability. Implementation of housing stability programs such as subsidies, case management counselling, and emergency and transitional housing will support the desired increase in this measurement.
A decrease in the number of megalitres of treated water consumed per 100,000 population did not occur. Increased residential water usage during dry, hot weather and replacement of one of the central bulk water supply meters resulting in increased accuracy in total water demand volume readings were causes noted.
Finally, the region did not maintain the percentage of core regional assets with a condition assessment rating of fair or better condition. The primary cause was the issue of aging roadways. The next Annual State of Infrastructure Report, scheduled for fall 2022, will review road replacement strategies.
Additional information in the 2021 Community Report includes financial statements for the region, York Regional Police achievements, regional committee activities, and awards and recognition.
To read the Community 2021 report and the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan: From Vision to Results, visit: https://www.york.ca/york-region/plans-reports-and-strategies/corporate-strategic-plan.
Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Review