By Emma Nicholls, 2nd Year, Journalism, Durham College with files from the GOCC
January 20, 2015 – On Thursday, January 15, to a packed audience of business leaders, Regional Chair Roger Anderson addressed the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce (GOCC) at its 11th Annual Regional Chair Luncheon at the Quality Hotel and Conference Centre, sponsored by Collins Barrow Durham, LLP and Roy Nichols Motors Ltd. Mr. Anderson focused on three key issues pivotal in importance to Durham Region in 2015: the Pickering airport, Durham’s energy and revising the councils in their respective communities.
Chair Anderson’s keynote was not his usual speech where creating jobs in Durham is a top priority for the next four years. His speech targeted three areas: restructuring of Regional Council; the future of two of our core industries, GM operations in Oshawa and electricity generation; and the development of the Pickering airport.
In his view, we have tremendous potential in Durham Region to create a virtual cycle of innovation, job creation and environmental benefits. It has the building blocks; it just needs to stack them in a new way, to design a future for Durham Region that harnesses current strengths and new technology to our advantage.
“Two of our core industries – automotive manufacturing and electricity generation are in a state of transition and more importantly are in a state of uncertainty,” Anderson said.
“I think we must constantly remind our federal government and our provincial government about the strategic value of nuclear and the carbon-reduced future. Nuclear power, without question, will allow Ontario to produce and move goods, protect our environment and thrive while still addressing climate change goals,” added Anderson.
When the Province was pursuing new nuclear development at Darlington, our status as energy capital seemed secure. But Ontario has deferred the new build indefinitely.
With the Darlington reactors undergoing refurbishment and the planned closure of the Pickering Nuclear Station in 2020, our electricity output will decline significantly, at least in the short term.
So the critical question is: do we give up our claim of energy dominance and go quietly into the night? Or do we marshal our resources to create a new reputation for energy excellence and leadership?
“The past, present, and future of GM is in Durham Region,” Anderson noted, “so I hope that GM will choose to renew their industry for the 21st century and I hope Ontario will help support that choice, here in Oshawa.”
Recently the Province announced a $50 million investment in research and development of fuel-efficient auto parts at Linamar, a Canadian company in Guelph. “I hope that the auto sector in Durham can expect similar support,” chided Anderson.
Anderson noted he has an upcoming meeting with the President of General Motors Canada, and “we will let GM know how supportive we are of their continued operation in our community. We will share the opportunities we see for them to be innovative and successful in Durham. We can’t be there for each other unless we communicate,” adding, “I will challenge them to step up for the future of their industry and for the people of Oshawa, Ontario and Canada.”
“I can’t get any of these jobs; I can’t get any of these companies, without UOIT, Durham College, Trent, Lakeridge Health and Rouge Valley. If I don’t have them I’ve got nothing to offer people,” he said. “They’re very important institutions in Durham and I enjoy our relationship.”
Anderson also mentioned reviewing council structure across the region, including the number of council members.
“Regional council must be restructured so its governance is viewed as fair, effective and responsible to an evolving community,” he said. “Our challenge is to make the councils both equitable and more importantly, effective to all of our residents.”
Finally, as he wrapped up his speech, he talked about airport development. In June 2013, Jim Flaherty confirmed the government of Canada’s intent to develop a regional reliever airport in central Pickering. At the time, this announcement felt like a turning point for Durham.
“First and foremost I think there are some six to 10,000 jobs there that the federal government and the Durham Region can no longer ignore,” said Anderson. “After 40 years it’s time they made a decision.”
“For 40 years, the Region has had to include the proposed airport in our official plan and consider its potential effect on infrastructure, population and employment forecasts for our community,” stated a frustrated Anderson, adding “but we have no power to advance or alter the federal plans.”
He noted that Durham Region was excited when public consultation and meetings on a new airport footprint and land use plan took place in 2013 and when last year, Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt seemed very committed to moving the project forward and there was tangible interest from the airport and aeronautics sector and that the revised airport zoning regulations, a first step, still have not been produced. “With a federal election on the horizon, I hope that additional delay is not the government’s game plan,” stated Anderson, “and with a majority in Parliament, there should be no barriers to progress on the airport early in 2015.”
The luncheon left business leaders with a few things to think about.
“I thought it was a great turnout, with great representation here today from all around the region,” said Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce President, Jeff Hayes. “All the renewable sources and low-impact sources of energy and power generation that are here, we can be world leaders in that.”
Bob Malcolmson, CEO and General Manager of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, said although all topics were important, one stood out to him as the priority.
“Energy is extremely important because without the energy … it could hurt General Motors,” he said. “If you (aren’t) able to turn the lights on you can’t run a business.”