January 22, 2014 – On Tuesday January 21, Regional Chair Roger Anderson addressed a packed audience of business leaders at the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce 10th Annual Regional Chair Luncheon at the Oshawa Golf Club, hosted by Collins Barrow Durham, LLP and Roy Nichols Motors Ltd. Mr. Anderson focused on three key issues pivotal in importance to Durham Region in 2013: transportation infrastructure and the proposed Metrolinx funding model; the provincial decision on nuclear power and the federal confirmation of the Pickering airport project.
“It is great to finally see work progressing on the 407 east extension and the Lakeridge interchange,” stated Anderson. “After years of waiting it is under construction and moving ahead quite rapidly.” To get ready for the 407, the Region has had to modify its roads capital forecast and in 2014, it will be designing and planning for road improvements along Winchester to cope with the added traffic.
The 600,000 square foot GO Transit East Rail Maintenance facility underway in south Whitby will bring 300 to 400 jobs to Durham and cost in the range of $300 million.
The Chamber raised questions and concerns about funding and timing of the Lakeshore East GO Rail extension identified by Metrolinx as a priority in their ‘next wave’ of projects to be funded under the Metrolinx investment strategy submitted to the Province last spring. To clarify Mr. Anderson said, “The Region’s priority is now,” adding “GO Transit has EA approval, but unfortunately, no money.”
The Province has not yet responded to the Metrolinx recommendations released mid 2013, nor their own Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel report released in December. From a Regional perspective the preferred model would be that no one would need to go to Toronto to work but stay in Durham to work.
In 2009, GO did a feasibility study on alternative routes for the Lakeshore east extension that examined both the CN and CP rail corridor options. Completed in 2011 the EA concluded that the benefits of the northern route in the CP rail corridor outweighed the cost of crossing the 401. The concept of bridging over the 401 from the CN rail line to the CP line has been in the Region’s Official Plan since 1993. Durham Region, Oshawa and Clarington prefer taking the line north of the 401 as it will make the trains more easily accessible to our current and future population, which will be primarily north of the 401. GO Rail stations on the CP corridor would be much easier to integrate with Durham Region transit services, less costly, and more efficient to serve, attracting more riders to go to and from the station by local transit, and reducing the need for massive parking facilities. The CP corridor also puts the stations much closer to economic development opportunities in central Oshawa, Courtice and Bowmanville.
The Region shares the Chamber’s frustration and without a funding strategy, there is no time frame for building the Lakeshore East project.
Anderson applauded the Chamber for sending Metrolinx its views on the transit investment strategy and urged the Chamber to keep asking the tough questions. Regional Council shares the Chamber’s view that funding tools like parking levies and road tolls do not make sense everywhere in the GTHA. Some of the proposed tools would be unfair to rural parts of the Region that have little transit service.
Mr. Anderson noted Regional Council also made a submission to Metrolinx, recommending funds raised from the new revenue tools must be put in a dedicated fund for transportation projects, stressing the use of an HST increase or gas tax increase as a funding tool should be applied province-wide to ensure no adverse impacts to the GTHA relative to the rest of Ontario.
The new high frequency PULSE Service introduced last July on Highway 2 from downtown Oshawa to the Scarborough U of T campus expected about 575,000 passengers, but by the end of December it carried just short of 1 million riders. “It certainly supports the premise that, if we build frequent, reliable transit, people will use it,” stated Anderson.
Mr. Anderson took aim at the provinces position of NO to new nuclear stating, “for the province to walk away from nuclear is wrong, it is passing up on 6000 permanent jobs and 8000 jobs during construction and I can’t tell you the revenue the Region lost.” He clearly reiterated the Region’s ongoing support for expanded nuclear generation in Durham and his disappointment with the Provincial decision to delay the Darlington new build project. “Like the Greater Oshawa Chamber, I see this as a missed opportunity, not just for Durham but for the Province and for Canada,” Anderson warned. “Ontario has this tremendous asset of excellent nuclear energy technology and expertise. Yet, both the federal and provincial governments have failed to leverage our strengths in nuclear energy as a key strategy for rebuilding our economy.”
“They should be promoting new build at Darlington as the showcase for a high-value, technology-rich, strategic industry,” Anderson said. “Instead, they are taking a short-sighted, narrow view of our nuclear generation capacity as simply another piece of infrastructure.”
Anderson is hopeful that senior governments will rethink their decision before it is too late. Regional Council will continue to encourage the Province to recognize nuclear as an essential part of Ontario’s energy and economic future. Anderson urged the Chamber to remain vocal and ensure the Province understands, “no company will move to a province and setup shop that can’t guarantee a good reliable source of energy at a good rate.”
Anderson also addressed the confirmation last June that the federal government intends to build a regional reliever airport in central Pickering. Noting this announcement is a turning point for Durham. “Finally, we have a decision to proceed, the announcement is Big Big news,” stated Anderson, encouraging the Feds to get on with it. The Pickering Airport Lands have been a key structural element of the Regional Official Plan since 1978. A reliever airport in Pickering could generate in excess of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. Combined with the business potential of the 407 east, the airport will be a huge catalyst for economic development and international investment in Durham.
He reassured the audience that the future of the Oshawa Airport in its current role will continue for 10 to 15 years or more, while the Pickering airport is developed and suggested the Oshawa facility will carve out a new role and continue to bring value to Durham Region.
To round out the presentation, he touched on the Region being well positioned to attract investment with a triple a credit rating and strong financial management. “Durham is actively promoting investment in Durham to the rest of the world,” Anderson stated. During the Region’s 2013 mission to China, it held introductory meetings and toured businesses in three cities: Zibo, Wuxi and Hong Kong. In Wuxi, the Xishan Economic and Technological Development Zone offered Durham Region office space at no cost for one year. The Region’s 2014 budget proposes to engage a business consultant in Wuxi to develop leads for Durham Region. This is a great opportunity for the Region to develop leads in Wuxi for a fairly small investment.
During a brief question and answer period Anderson addressed the Economic benefits of the Oshawa Harbour noting any community with a deep water port is a winner. “The Port is a big win for Oshawa and the Region,” Anderson stated, “it was a big selling point in China and a bigger selling point when the Region went to France noting many were surprised Durham Region had a deep water port.” He encouraged Oshawa to keep up momentum.