In his annual report card to the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, Regional Chairman Roger Anderson handed out gold stars to the Region for its waste diversion and regional transit efforts but gave the McGuinty government a failing grade, saying it must recognize there’s “an Ontario east of Markham Road.” The provincial government can redeem itself by fulfilling its promise to extend Hwy. 407 from Brock Road in Pickering to Hwy. 35/115 in Clarington. Its current plan to extend the “lifeblood of the Region” only to Simcoe Street in Oshawa is shortsighted, Mr. Anderson warned.
Such a plan would cost the Region an estimated $255 million because it would need to improve several regional roads. “(The province) signed an agreement to build (the highway) from Pickering to 35/115,” Anderson reminded business leaders in his annual address, delivered January 25th at the Oshawa Golf and Curling Club.
In a meeting in Oshawa in late November, Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said the economic downturn has forced the Province’s hand and it now doesn’t have the money to construct the highway to 35/115.
But a promise is a promise, Mr. Anderson maintains. “It doesn’t say (the government will build the highway) if they have the money,” he says of the agreement. “It doesn’t say if they have to plow it or if they have to put salt on it.” If the Province is having financial problems, “we can work around it. We can’t work around Durham spending $255 million to fix their mistake.”
The Regional Chairman urged the Chamber and its members to contact Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office, urging him to fulfill its promise. “We deserve the 407; we have waited long enough for the 407,” he said. “I’m tired of waiting. You should be tired of waiting.”
Mr. Anderson also addressed waste diversion. Thanks to an expanded waste management program, diversion rates in the Region have hit 52 per cent from the mid-40s four years ago. But in order to meet its next target of 70 per cent, the Province needs to step up with a revised Waste Diversion Act.
Completion of the environmental assessment for the Courtice incinerator was another key milestone. It was approved at the Region and then by the Province “as a safe and responsible way for Durham to manage its residual waste,” Mr. Anderson noted.
Durham Region Transit ridership, meanwhile, has increased 31 per cent since its inception. But for it to become a viable alternative to the car, the Region needs about $300 million to build a strategy that includes more vehicles so buses arrive more frequently and offer more connections between routes. The Region has applied for funding from federal and provincial partners.
The launch of the Durham Community Immigration Portal last March is yet another feather in the Region’s cap. The web-based resource is designed to support new immigrants and businesses. Over the next few decades, growth in Ontario’s population and labour force will come primarily from immigration and Durham will need newcomers to help grow its economy.
Mr. Anderson applauded the new Regional Innovation Centre announced by the Minister of Research and Innovation in December. As part of the Ontario Network of Excellence, it will support collaboration between research and business. UOIT and Durham College are integral to the initiative and their “tremendous growth” in recent years is credited with helping revitalize Durham’s economy.
The new Automotive Centre of Excellence and the Energy Research Centre at UOIT are important investments. Mr. Anderson encouraged the business community to “seize opportunities” for innovation and partnership in such areas as waste management, the energy sector and green technologies.