2021 Highlights

1. A County that works together

 Workforce readiness and attraction

Oxford County joined other community partners in 2021 in sponsoring a campaign to attract and retain youth in the employment market. Led by Community Employment Services, the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board, and Future Oxford, the "Behind our Industries: Youth Employment" series drew on input from youth to develop short videos and online content showcasing a diverse range of local career opportunities. Featured jobs at Oxford County focused on long-term care and wastewater treatment. 

 Tourism initiatives to support the local economy

Tourism Oxford initiated several programs in 2021 that help to strengthen and broaden Oxford County's economic base. The Oxford Fresh signage program, a partnership with the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture, used laneway signage to support local farms in advertising and selling locally grown and raised food directly to customers. The Oxford County Spark program, modelled after CBC's Dragon's Den, asked local entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas for tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships for a chance to receive a $3,000 grant. More

Future Oxford welcomes new members

Future Oxford welcomed six new members in 2021, spanning multiple age groups and representing both urban and rural centres of the County. The Future Oxford Partnership is a volunteer group that provides guidance in advancing the Future Oxford Community Sustainability Plan. More 

 Oxford Economic Stimulus Fund

The Oxford Stimulus Fund, in partnership with Community Futures Oxford and Oxford Connection, helped several local businesses and non-profit agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund provided local businesses with flexible loans to restart businesses closed during the pandemic, revitalize downtown cores, support tourism, and hospitality operators and more. More

2. A County that is well connected

Cycling Master Plan

The second phase of the county-wide Cycling Master Plan invited residents to submit their input through a virtual public open house, online survey, and interactive mapping tool. Also in 2021, the County recruited volunteers to serve on the Cycling Advisory Committee, a group that provides advice and recommendations to County Council and helps to foster bike-friendly communities. The Cycling Master Plan focuses on promoting commuting by bicycle, connecting roadway cycling routes to off-road trail networks, and enhancing tourism opportunities. 

 Broadband expansion in rural areas

Oxford County was the recipient of a $5.2 million fibre-optic expansion project to bring high-speed internet access to northeast Zorra Township last year. To date, Oxford County has received $10 million in funding through Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) to deliver high-speed internet to 1,700 underserved homes and businesses throughout Oxford County. More 

 3. A County that thinks ahead and wisely shapes the future

 Updates to agricultural policies

As part of Phase 1 of the Official Plan update, Oxford County started the process of updating its agricultural policies in 2021. With more than 87% of the land in Oxford County considered agricultural, land-use planning policies are designed to ensure farm land is sustained and protected for the long term. Updates to a municipality's Official Plan are required under the Planning Act to ensure they remain consistent with Provincial legislation and policies, and that they continue to reflect local planning principles and objectives as the community continues to grow and change. More

 Sustainable energy initiatives

In working towards its commitment of 100% Renewable Energy, Oxford County updated its Facilities Long Term Renewable Energy Plan to identify 100 potential renewable energy opportunities at various County sites. The sites were evaluated and ranked to help develop a multi-year capital plan for renewable energy projects. More

Oxford County also updated its Green Fleet Plan as part of its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A total of 82 fleet recommendations are highlighted in the 2021-2025 plan, including replacing 35 half-ton pick-up trucks with hybrid electric vehicles and introducing the County’s first half-ton pick-up battery vehicle in 2024. More

 Ensuring child care availability

Oxford Community Child Care and Oxford County continued to work together to boost the number of licensed child care options-- and spaces-- in the County. A 2021 promotional campaign focused on helping private in-home child care providers become licensed. Licensed home child care providers are thoroughly screened, supported, and monitored by a child care agency. More

Oxford County further partnered with Fanshawe College to boost enrolment in its Early Childhood Education program. The recruitment campaign included a video featuring local ECE professionals and current students highlighting the rewarding benefits of working in early childhood education and the employment opportunities available locally. More

 Asset Management Plan systems enhancement project

Oxford County started a systems enhancement project in 2021 to better improve available data that is used for asset management planning. Asset Management is the coordinated activity of realizing value from public assets, such as buildings, bridges, water and wastewater systems and other infrastructure. Asset management planning is a legislated requirement of Ontario municipalities and supports economic development and community wellbeing. More

4. A County that informs and engages  

 Oxford County Library adapts services during pandemic

Oxford County Library showed its creativity and adaptability early in the pandemic, pivoting to virtual services and events, hosting "tech talks" to help others adapt, and working with community partners to facilitate continued sharing, learning and growing. The Library continued its annual teen photography contest in 2021, working with Oxford County Archives to encourage self-expression among youth while cultivating an enduring historical record of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Family Literacy Day, the Library offered a full day of free virtual programming livestreamed through social media. And, the popular Oxford Reads program established a County-wide book club for Emma Donoghue's fictional novel, The Pull of the Stars, culminating in a virtual gala hosted by CBC’s Chris dela Torre. Readers were able to experience an intimate discussion with the author as she provided insights and explained her extensive research for the novel, which is set in Ireland at the height of the 1918 Spanish Flu.

 EarlyON Story Stroll

EarlyON Story Strolls opened in Tillsonburg in 2021, giving residents a chance to enjoy the outdoors at the Kinsmen Participark Trail while building child literacy. Each month story signs are updated on the trails, telling a fun and informative story for the whole family. The Story Stroll is a joint project with Oxford County Library and the Town of Tillsonburg. 

 Engaging the public on the 2022 Budget

Oxford County sought input on its business plan and budget from the community through the 2022 Budget Survey. Respondents were asked about the services they receive from both the County and their local area municipality. Information from the budget survey helps to provide a better understanding of how well municipal services are understood, how they are valued, and which ones are a priority for residents.

 Spotlight on sustainability in CBC Radio-Canada feature

Journalists from the French language CBC Radio-Canada toured Oxford County last November for an update on Oxford County’s 100% renewable energy goal. The group visited several sustainable energy sites, including the net-zero energy facility at the Waste Management & Education Centre, Woodingford Lodge’s solar installation, and the Paramedic Services “green fleet,” including Canada’s first hybrid ambulance. Their stories from the tour appeared on CBC radio, television and web sites. More

5.  A County that performs and delivers results

 Responding to the housing crisis and homelessness

Human Services of Oxford County continued to leverage provincial and federal funding last year to address the housing crisis, including the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and the Social Services Relief Fund. 

  • Funds from the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative were used to help people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of experiencing homelessness, by funding rent deposits, assisting with utility bills, providing emergency shelter, and ensuring the availability of many other services and supports for adults and children. More 
  • Construction work progressed on three new affordable housing projects in 2021: 1231 Nellis Street in Woodstock, offering 62 of 98 units for seniors at affordable (controlled) rents; 738 Parkinson Road in Woodstock, a modular development that will offer eight affordable units for people transitioning to permanent housing; and 91 Mill Street East in Plattsville, offering 22 affordable units. More 
  • The County's home ownership program broadened eligibility for low-to moderate income households in 2021, potentially allowing more people to purchase their first home. Drawing on the federal and provincial Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) program, the County's home ownership provides 20-year interest-free loans and up to 5% of the purchase price of the home for eligible participants. More
 Road safety reviews to improve community safety

Oxford County continued road safety reviews of targeted communities in 2021 to help keep roads safe for pedestrians, motorists and communities. This included the installation of a new pedestrian crossing in Woodstock; traffic calming measures and speed zone changes in Beachville; and planned electronic feedback signs in Uniondale, Thamesford, Tavistock and Delmer. More 

Also in 2021, the County established the criteria to declare Community Safety Zones and how they can be used with automated speed enforcement (speed cameras) for traffic calming. Community Safety Zones are used where public safety is of a special concern and allow for increased speeding fines within the zone. More 

 Introducing a Committee of Management at Woodingford Lodge

The COVID-19 pandemic placed heightened attention and scrutiny on long-term care in Ontario. To ensure a continued focus on continuous improvement, Woodingford Lodge established a Committee of Management in 2021 to focus on  funding accountability, service standards and quality care, and financial and operating oversight. The committee role is fulfilled by Oxford County Council. More

 Paramedic Services continues to serve above and beyond in pandemic

Oxford County Paramedic Services continued to serve above and beyond in 2021, actively seeking ways to support healthcare and community partners through the COVID-19 pandemic. Paramedics provided COVID-19 assessment and testing for people who could not get to an assessment centre; delivered end-of-life crisis care and symptom management as part of a pilot program that allowing palliative patients to stay in their home during the pandemic; delivered thousands of vaccinations to vulnerable populations across Oxford, including long-term care residents; and offered COVID-19 rapid testing for school-aged children. 

Paramedic Services also released its updated Land Ambulance Response Time Performance Plan in 2021, showing the service continues to meet provincial targets for responding to emergency calls. 

Drawing on the provincial Municipal Modernization Fund to improve service delivery

Oxford County leveraged approximately $425,000 in Municipal Modernization funding from the Province in 2021-- and about $1.35 million to date-- to find efficiencies and cost-savings and modernize or upgrade service delivery. Service delivery reviews that took place in 2021 included a Paramedic Services Deployment review, a transportation network service delivery review, an accounts payable digitization feasibility review, and a water and wastewater service delivery review. Modernization funding is awarded through two streams: a Review stream to fund service delivery, administrative expenditures or budget reviews; and, an Implementation stream to undertake projects that increase municipal efficiency and effectiveness based on the findings of those reviews or other evidence-based reports. More

 Enhancing Archives services during pandemic

Oxford County Archives continued to augment services and expand virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. While continuing to respond to research queries online and through telephone service, Archives also moved more research resources online in 2021 for public access, including Oxford County and township records, house of refuge and county jail records, voter’s lists, military records, school records and vital statistics. The research online is printable and often searchable. Archives also found success posting videos on the Oxford County YouTube channel and the Archives Facebook page. Live events and interactive tours allowed them to stay connected to the public. Some of the more popular programs included “Oxford Local History Day,” the Halloween video series “Oxford’s Dark Tales,” and “A Moment in Oxford’s History.”

6. A County that employs people who make a positive difference

 Oxford County paramedics launch “A Wish to Remember”

Oxford County Paramedic Services launched “A Wish to Remember” in 2021, a volunteer-led program that helps grant last wishes to palliative care patients. Volunteer paramedics, or the Wish Team as they are referred to, accompany patients on trips to visit special locations that would not be possible without the support of trained medical staff. The program's first patient, Nancy, was a Woodingford Lodge resident who had lived most of her life on a farm near Foldens and wished to visit her old farm to see her horses and cats one last time. You can watch Nancy’s story online here.

 Valuing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace

The Oxford County Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee was launched in 2021 to provide advice and recommendations to the Senior Management Team in building a supportive, diverse and inclusive workplace that is  representative of the community. This work aligns with Oxford County’s Strategic Plan, which commits to a supportive work environment and culture that values diversity and the views and contributions of others.