Falling revenues, the pressure to complete stimulus projects and rising demand for social services will be among the challenges Durham Region must tackle in the coming year, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The extension of Hwy. 407 and GO Transit are among the lights at the end of the proverbial tunnel, Regional Chairman Roger Anderson reports. “I intend to drive my General Motors product from Brock Road in Pickering to Hwy. 35/115 across that 407 sometime in 2013,” he assured during his annual address to the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, held January 21 at the Oshawa Holiday Inn.
Anderson called on members of the business community to speak to their MPPs and Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne and urge her to approve the environmental assessment that must be complete in order for construction of the highway to begin.
The extension of GO Rail through Oshawa and Bowmanville with new stations along the way is equally promising, Anderson said. Federal funding will help develop Durham’s long-term transit strategy, ushering in bus rapid transit along Hwy. 2 with service every 7.5 minutes.
Meanwhile, a long-term transit strategy undertaken last year is nearing completion. “The goal is to make transit a convenient and attractive option for moving people, so that we can relieve congestion on all of our roads,” Anderson explained.
Next month, theRegion will complete a study of our goods movement network to identify gaps and opportunities. “We must optimize the potential of all our transportation assets – roads, rail, airports and harbours – to bolster their efficiency and effectiveness and more importantly to support economic growth, your businesses and the people who work here,” Anderson said.
The Regional Chairman recognized the challenges over the past year. “Last year when I spoke to you, our community was reeling from the global market meltdown and the crisis in the auto sector,” he reminded. Though the Region’s unemployment rate of 9 to 10% is still “too high,” there are “modest signs” of recovery, such as strong Camaro sales. AndersonOshawa facility. urged GM to build more products at the
The Region is optimistic about the future. Next month, the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance will submit a bid to the provincial government to create a Research Innovation Centre that would promote research commercialization efforts, investments and job growth, AndersonDurham” and could also help attract companies from across the globe. noted. The new wind tunnel at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Automotive Centre of Excellence, meanwhile, “will be huge for
Population growth was another important topic. “Over the next two decades, Ontario‘s population growth will come mainly from immigration,” Anderson said. “To build a sustainable future workforce and a competitive economy, Durham must attract and retain the expertise and global connections of new Canadians.”
Together with community partners, the Region has formed the Local Immigration and Diversity Partnership Council, which is creating an immigration portal that will offer employment and business information about Durham in multiple languages. “The goal is to create a culture of inclusion and promote Durham Region as a destination of choice for both newcomers and new industry,” Anderson said.
Chamber CEO and General Manager Bob Malcolmson was buoyed by Anderson’s message. “We agree that Hwy. 407 is critical to Durham’s future. Our Chamber has a long standing formal policy that outlines the importance of the highway and the Chamber will include the 407 as part of our pre-budget submission to the McGuinty government,” he said.
“If more infrastructure stimulus money from the federal government is available, we should look at getting service to development lands, particularly around the university. Together with the 407, this will help ensure we’re ready to capitalize on opportunities when the economy rebounds,” said Malcolmson. He was also pleased that Anderson identified nuclear energy as a priority.