Linda Jeffrey never stops learning. Learning, and taking action on how to make Brampton even more enjoyable, is what she does every day. It seems fitting that the city’s biggest accomplishment in 2017 was gaining considerable financial support for a new higher learning institution in downtown Brampton.
In December, Brampton council approved the city budget, which includes $150 million over ten years in support of a Ryerson University and Sheridan College joint campus, along with a joint-use community centre. Although Jeffrey highlighted the need for a university when she ran for mayor in 2014, and shared details with the public as progress was made, it wasn’t until the budget was passed that the deal was sealed.
“It was a unanimous decision by council,” said Jeffrey. “As Canada’s ninth largest city, it’s long overdue. It is causing ripples across the province, across Canada. People are very excited and they want to be a part of it.” She also pointed out how the business and investment community is taking an optimistic, second look at Brampton and how the benefits will ripple across the city.
The new Brampton facility will be the first Ryerson campus outside of Toronto. Space will be available for 1,000 students and there’s hope the provincial government will increase that figure. According to details from Ryerson, programming at the new institution will be focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), with an emphasis on advanced technology.
Jeffrey says, when she was elected, about 50 per cent of the city infrastructure was 20 to 25 years old. In an effort to take advantage of provincial and federal funding, the city now has an asset management plan to prioritize its needs and execute accordingly. That includes redefining city parks and implementing bike lanes where possible.
Remarkably, she says, the city has an astonishingly-high diabetes rate.
“Right now, one-in-ten people have diabetes in Brampton, and we’re projected to go to one in six,” said Jeffrey. “So what do I do as a mayor? I have to make it easier for people to exercise, have more fun inserted into their day and go cycling. They can take their bike to the GO station, take their bike to a bus, get on board and get where they need to go.”
Jeffrey would like to see the city public transit used more and has even invested in electric buses. She said transit ridership is up by an unprecedented 17 per cent in Brampton, making it one of the fastest-growing transit systems in Canada. In December, the city announced that Brampton Transit’s Züm Queen will provide direct service to two subway stations on the newly opened TTC subway extension.
“My community is very young, with the average age 35, very diverse, and very well educated,” added Jeffrey. So how do you keep that kind of demographic close to home? “For me, it was always about finding a way to keep my young people here, so they go to school, start a business, buy a home, become millionaires, and have a great feeling and energy in their city and want to stay here.”
Since she was elected, the municipal credit rating has improved and, one could certainly agree, the city is more stable.
“It’s an exciting time for me, to be a part of a city that’s turning a corner,” she said. And, she continues to learn.