Future given structure with Dysart Strategic Plan

By Vivian Collings

Dysart et al’s first ever Strategic Plan was presented by Strategy Corps employees and approved by members of council during their regular meeting on July 26.
It is considered a “living document” that promises to provide long-term guidance for some of Dysart’s most pressing matters, which includes the lack of affordable housing, to both council and staff members.
A strategic plan is meant to act as a guide to help an organization with decision-making processes as well as inform the municipal budget and staff business plans. It provides staff and council members with an insight as to how their daily work is helping to achieve larger goals.
“Unsurprisingly, many of the issues and the key actions within this plan that will have the most meaningful impact on your community do not fall neatly into four year terms of council. These will require sustained planning, investment, commitment over time that will cut across multiple terms of council. Although I’m sure we’d all love to see housing, affordability, and supply addressed within four years, is that a reality? I’m not so sure. You’re looking at a longer term, but there are real things that you can move the dial forward on in a four-year term of council,” said Stacy Hushion, a consultant with Strategy Corps.

The document was created by Strategy Corps with significant input made by council and staff members through one-on-one interviews, workshops, and digital surveys.
“As consultants, it was really our role to facilitate the conversation, but every word, especially on this page, was drafted by all of you. One of the most powerful things is that we started with a mock-up of a vision that you refined over several sessions, so I think you can feel comfortable going into this that this is authentic to Dysart,” Hushion said.
One of the key insights from the consultation process with staff and council members is Dysart has a beautiful, pristine natural environment, but it is evolving and growing, and the municipality must support and facilitate this growth while preserving a “small town feel.” Another is municipal administration should continue to focus on technological improvements, and lastly, Dysart should seek and use resources from Haliburton County as well as other municipalities and community partners.

Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts said, “This is quite exciting for Dysart to be at this stage in the strategic plan and it was something that this term of council was committed to doing as an outgoing thing, if you will. We all have the three and a half years of knowledge, some of us many more than that, on council that really helped, and the staff input was key to this plan, being a corporate plan.”

Dysart’s strategic plan has five pillars.
The first is Sustainable Growth and Environment. Some goals of this pillar are to protect and respect the environment and to ensure the municipality has enough appropriate housing to support the demand.
The second pillar is Infrastructure Planning and Investment with a goal to focus on renewing and expanding existing infrastructure.
The third is Economic Development and Prosperity with goals to renew the downtown core, expand access to broadband services, and continue to support arts and culture.
The fourth is Governance and Operational Excellence with goals to enhance customer service experiences and implement contemporary municipal processes and services.
The final pillar is A Vibrant Community with Great Services meant to strengthen community engagement and support an age-friendly, safe, and active community.
John Matheson, principal at Strategy Corps, said, “It is a really important thing to have completed a strategic plan, as much at the end of a term of council as at the start of a term of council. It’s a big stock-taking of things that are real … As we all know, there’s so much that we would do if resources were unlimited and jurisdiction was infinite and this kind of thing. It’s so important that we ground our work in things that are doable.”
Hushion said that in order for the plan to be successful, it must be linked to master plans, asset management plans, and other key documents within the municipality to ensure the document won’t “sit on a shelf.”

At the end of the presentation, council members were pleased with the final plan.
Roberts said, “When I read the plan, I really feel like this captured everything that was said. There was great collaboration with council, which was really nice to see, really creative thinking … It’s really satisfying to see all of the workshops and then to see the final document. This is meant to be something that you are constantly looking at, reflecting on, tweaking, going forward, and hopefully in four years from now, our future council says, ‘Let’s review that and see where we’re at,’ and they will have a building block of that first plan.”
Ward 2 Councillor Larry Clarke asked Hushion and Matheson if it would be beneficial to update the plan on a regular basis.
Matheson said a regular review of the Strategic Plan every two years is common for municipalities, but it shouldn’t be changed too often to avoid frequent revisions.
Ward 4 Councillor John Smith said, “I really believe that this is a solid start here. This is something that Dysart hasn’t had before, and, so, I say, congratulations to the mayor for making sure we got this done before the end of our term. It’s only going to be useful if we try and build on this. Although there’s a number of metrics identified here, really as part of each year’s operating plan or budget process, it’s going to be setting the goals associated with those metrics … that’s the critical thing for me in terms of next steps, and so this plan can serve as a framework to do those things for literally years to come, and it can be revisited two or three years from now.”
Dysart et al’s Strategic Plan can be read here at