Posted by Nick Aroutzidis on Apr 27, 2019
May 2, 2019: Sarah Hamza (Festival Theater Productions 2019), Mark Smith will introduce, and Jo-Anne Hood Tidman will give thanks. 

Head Table:  Our President Paul Roulston, invites, Mark Smith, Josef Frank, Elizabeth Gaffney, Charlene Gordon, Mike Gruszczynski, Bob Gulliford and Katherine Hahn, to join him at the head table.

Today at Rotary:  Gord Steed introduced Stratford Mayor, Dan Mathieson, who has been on City Council since 1995 and is in his fifth term as mayor. Over the years he has served on many boards and committees in healthcare, municipal affairs, law enforcement, athletics and education, including his current role as Board Chair of MPAC. He holds a B.A. from Guelph and a Masters of Public Administration from Western.  In 2012, Mr. Mathieson was chosen by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for community leaders who are technology innovators.  As well, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for public service.
Program speaker Mayor Dan Matheson giving his State of City address to club.
The mayor set the stage for his Annual Address to Rotary with demographic information. More than 21% of Stratford residents are over the age of 65, less than 14% are under 15, and only 15% are between 16 and 29. The population has grown by 3% since the last census, primarily retirees relocating to Stratford.  As is happening elsewhere, there is a hollowing out of the middle class, meaning there is a “have and have not” disparity in income levels. This poses a challenge for delivery of services, especially given recent changes in provincial government funding.  Although there is new money for social housing, the funding for Ontario Works to help people find jobs has deceased.
This City is the largest landlord in the county with 600 public housing units. Fifty-five new families were added to the list for subsidized housing this year and 25 remain on the waiting list. Some new units are under construction and the City also encourages private builders and home owners to create affordable rental accommodation.
At 4.1% Stratford has the lowest unemployment rate in Southern Ontario. Manufacturers currently have about 300 vacant spots for skilled workers. In 2018 the Skills Connect program helped train about 100 workers with 43% retention after a year.  While recruitment of new industry is desirable, it’s most effective to sustain and grow existing businesses. These have invested $100 million in Stratford since 2015 (eg. Stackpole, here since the 1950’s, recently increased its building size and added 87 jobs).  In 2018, industrial land sales exceeded $2 million, new serviced industrial land will be needed by 2021.  With $2 billion in farm receipts in Perth County, Stratford is the ideal locale for industries that support agriculture. Trillium Hatchery, a consortium of Ontario egg farmers, is a leading-edge facility that opened in 2018 and is already at capacity, hatching 20 million eggs per year.
The City works collaboratively with surrounding municipalities and county governments in Perth and Huron, amalgamating services, lobbying for support and sharing resources.  Intercounty and interregional transportation has been a major initiative, and the $1.5 million over 5 years, promised by the last government remains intact.  This will provide bus services to assist people in accessing employment, education and medical services.  The City continues to advocate with Go Transit for extension of services to Stratford. However, without electrified rails beyond Baden, bus is the most likely solution. Improved transportation in the Toronto-London corridor would also help tourism. The Stratford Festival had 10% and 8% increases in sales and revenue last year. More productions and a longer season would mean increased employment and ancillary spending here.
Stratford is a generous and caring community, the envy of many similar sized and larger cities. The soon to open Stratford Perth Hospice is a recent example, for which Rotary acted as champion. Community support for our hospital has helped recruit doctors.  A new physician arriving in September will bring us to 29, the maximum allowed by the province.  Specialists are at 90% of the max.
This year property taxes will increase by 2.6% ($100/yr for an average $290K home).  Provincial transfers continue to decrease, accounting for only 4% of the budget, even though municipalities are responsible for 76% of the infrastructure (roads, sewers etc.). The balance comes from property taxes and user fees.  Stratford’s debt is $68 million, less than 10%, of its $800 million in assets.
There are ongoing challenges which must be addressed. Although Stratford’s cyber security was at or above industry standards, we are still recovering from a recent cyber-attack and we are working with the OPP and RCMP, as one of 20 municipalities in Canada who were similarly victimized. Investigating and re-establishing security for 12 servers, 300 computers and 40 different software programs takes time, but all services and communications should  be back on-line in the next few days.  The Canadian Organization of Municipalities is working with experts to build a collective security strategy.
There is great uncertainty around the proposed Community Hub,  since the new provincial government has yet to confirm the previous $10 million pledge, putting the companion $13 million in federal funds in jeopardy. Recent announcements about amalgamation of provincial ambulance services could affect services here, despite our recent investment in five new garages and integration of services in Stratford and Perth County.  The City is working with the Assoc. of Paramedics and others to address potential negative impact.
The City is nearing completion of its 4-year Strategic Plan, comprising four pillars: social responsibility, public infrastructure, transportation, and public services. Public input has been solicited and is welcome. The City’s website is the best way to get accurate information, access services,  and communicate with councillors (once all is up and running again!).
Mayor Mathieson paid tribute to the 400+ employees who work for our City and his fellow councillors. He is proud to work with them and honoured to be Mayor.
Bob Lightfoot thanked Mayor Dan for his service to the City and for this annual update, which is always well attended and much appreciated by the Club.
Scribe: Pat Shewen
Newest Paul Harris fellow presented by club to Sue Orr surrounded by family members. The club and International Committee also donated $1000 to “Sleeping  Children Around the World” to honour one of her causes.
Rotary Announcements
Katelyn Aitcheson announcing Rotary club Golf Tournament May 12, 2019.
Jim Hayes announcing the club’s Food Drive donations this week of $1345.
“Dinner, Ponies and Slots” On Friday May 31st the Social Committee has arranged a bus trip for our members to enjoy the excitement of playing the casino, harness racing and savouring the award-winning buffet dinner at the Top of the Fair Restaurant at Western Fair District in London. The cost of $65 per person is a great deal as it includes dinner, gratuity and motor coach transportation. This is an opportunity for your friends and family to join you and your fellow Rotarians to not work on a project but to just have some fun together. To reserve your seat contact Roger Black at 519-625-8588 or Thanks!
The Stratford Festival would like to extend a special spring savings opportunity for the Rotary Club. See Little Shop of Horrors, an engaging musical comedy with a twist, and save!
Enjoy matinee performances of the Little Shop of Horrors on the following dates:
  • Monday, April 29
  • Friday, May 3
  • Tuesday, May 7
  • Monday, May 27
B-seating zone only. Use promotion code 86228 to access this special offer.
I hope you can take advantage of this special offer. Directed by Donna Feore, Little Shop of Horrors is brought to vivid life from the creative team that brought you The Rocky Horror Show! Experience how love can grow, with this unique musical comedy.
Visit our website or contact our box office, at 1.800.567.1600 to take advantage of this offer, with our thanks.
Make-ups: No report. 
May’s Attendance Committee:  Gord Steed (I/C), Ed Dujlovic, Kevin Nonomura, Mimi Price, Katherine Hahn, Colleen Brown, Wendy Wilkinson, Steve Weed.