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The Front Lines – April 2018

Originally published April 10, 2018 in eNews.
By Gary Valcour

Fresh from an invigorating southern sojourn, I arrived at our latest GR Committee meeting with loins girded and ready to tilt at an or all of the many windmills that pop up on the group’s radar. Sadly, it was pretty tame with nary a windmill in sight.

The group was pleased to welcome a new member, Peter Garrett, from Durham College. We agreed to add a couple of items to the standing items list and those will include items of interest from the College and University. For those who have not taken the opportunity to attend a meeting of the GR Committee you may be interested to know that the Standing Items include updates related to the Port of Oshawa, The Oshawa Executive Airport and Pickering Airport lands, Highway 407 Employment Lands, issues from the Joint Chambers group, the City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham.

In addition to these standing items are any new issues and items raised by committee members or any Chamber member. From time to time the committee is treated to presentations by interested (and usually interesting) parties on any matters that may be within the Committee’s general purview.

There was little real news. The Port expects the Seaway to open late in March and looks forward to the first foreign vessel and the accompanying Top Hat Ceremony early in April. It was reported that the Port has already booked a number of ships for the opening of the season. The Committee is still looking for some updates from the Oshawa Airport management on questions raised at a recent presentation and hopefully we’ll be able to report on that soon. The Pickering Airport development or lack thereof continues to be of great interest to all businesses in the region and we hope to get some word on that though no one is holding their breath. No doubt the airport issues will be part of the discussion at the upcoming Transportation Roundtable organized by the Joint Chambers group.

Kyle Benham gave the group some updates from the City’s perspective including a Streetscape initiative coming forward in April. There seems to be no current information on the progress of identifying new employment lands on the 407-corridor other than some disappointment in the relatively small tracts that may be available. There was no report from the Region so we’ll have to wait for April’s meeting to get that out.

Doug Yates, our member representing General Motors, gave us some thoughts on the prospects related to Carbon Taxes in light of the recent election of Doug Ford to lead the PC Party in Ontario. As most members know, the Federal Government has decreed that there will be a Carbon Tax in place unless it is supplanted by a similar plan in individual Provinces and then only if it is suitable to the Feds. The Ontario Liberals have already announced their plan but Mr. Ford seems to be on a different page and if his Party should take over government in June, there may be implications for all of us on the Carbon Tax front. Stay tuned. Nancy reported on the second presentation related to Bill 148, the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act”. It was well attended and very informative. Finally, but hardly least, the Region is in the process of reviewing its Development Charges By-law. This by-law can have a major effect on our ability to attract new business and new development to our area and thus should be of serious concern to all those interested in our economic well-being going forward. A background study is supposed to be ready about March 27th and there will be Public Meeting and opportunities to be heard on the issue following that release. We encourage all our members to look at this bylaw in its current and proposed format and make your voices heard either through the Chamber or on your own or both. We look forward to any and all input our members may have on the matter.

As we gear up for a busy election year there will no doubt be a host of issues which the GR committee will tackle and we look forward to hearing from you, our members, on all of them.

Our next GR committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. in the Chamber Board Room.