Originally published October 2, 2018 in eNews
By Gary Valcour
Welcome to another year of excitement and informative content from your Government Relations Committee. As most of you know by now, the Chamber’s committee years begin in September and run through June the following year. We’re fortunate to have most of our former members returning and we’ve added a couple of new faces and voices to the discussion.
Speaking of voices, we are smack-dab in the middle of what many refer to as the “silly season”. Yes it’s Municipal Election time as you can see from the blossoming blight that is election signs cluttering the roadways and fences. Given the general paucity of true media coverage, it can be tough to get any useful information on the candidates (of which there are legion) and thus make an informed decision when you cast your ballot(s). Our Joint Chambers group hosted one session for the Regional Chair’s position and you can watch the event by clicking on the link here. I urge you to do so.
We will also be hosting an event to showcase mayoral candidates and have invited all other council candidates to attend. The date is October 11, 2018 so put it in your calendar and register today on our web site.
Before I report on our latest meeting, I would like to update the record, so to speak. I reported earlier that Regional staff had not responded to our written questions regarding the Region’s Development Charges by-law. While it took a while, I did receive a response to the various questions we asked. Sadly, the proposed new by-law had already been enacted by the Regional Council by the time I got the response. Perhaps some of these questions might be asked of the current spate of candidates for Regional Government at one of the forums or in person when you get the chance.
At our latest GR meeting I invited the committee members to read over the 81 Policy Proposals slated for consideration at the then upcoming Canadian Chamber’s AGM. I believe the various policies are available for review by all Chamber members either through a link on our web site or by checking the CCC website directly. I will warn you that it’s pretty dull stuff, though that doesn’t mean it’s all unimportant. As a succession of Chamber Presidents have discovered (and our CEO sees annually), the process for advancing and reviewing major Policy matters at the CCC is seriously flawed. Despite the protestations to the contrary, the vast majority of proposed policies are extremely parochial. Moreover, there is simply not enough time to consider the vast numbers of them and that was true this year. FYI, if there is no time for a policy to be debated on the floor, it reverts to the CCC Board to decide whether it will be adopted or not. This process would seem to be less than fully democratic and fair to all Chambers and Boards of Trade across the country. There were a few good policies adopted including one proposed by our colleagues in Whitby which we were pleased to support.
Our GR committee was advised that the City would be submitting comments to the Minister of Transport in response to the Ministry’s cross-Canada consultation on the review of the modernization of the Canada Marine Act. The CMA was the legislation from 20 years ago that created the current governance structure of the major ports in Canada, including our own Oshawa Port Authority. While many in the marine industry and most Port Authorities have been pestering successive governments to review some of the more challenging aspects of the Act, it seems this government is reviewing it. Given the City’s usual approach to business at the Port, it will be interesting to see their comments. We will continue to follow this and perhaps the Chamber will submit its own comments.
As members who regularly read this column will know, the Committee has regularly considered the question of what is or isn’t happening to the 407 Employment Lands. Oshawa has an extremely limited amount of serviced land available for manufacturing or industrial use and is thus hampered in any effort to bring new business to the City. With the long-awaited arrival of the 407 across the top of the City we’ve been hoping that there would be a whole new area open for potential industrial or commercial use. We’ve been told repeatedly that it’s now up to the Province to “free” those lands for development and that’s as may be. However, the bigger question is how much of that land have the City and Region earmarked for commerce and industry and how much solely for residential development. And when will all this happen and what efforts are being made by the City and Region to market this new land availability to commercial and business enterprises. Sadly, we seem to be no closer to a good answer to much of this. However, recognizing that the issue is broader than just the strip along the 407, the committee is now committed to looking at this under the broader umbrella of Employment lands generally and we will follow up and report as we learn more.
Our city representative reports that the City continues its feasibility studies regarding a possible “Innovation Hub” as well as its studies regarding next steps in the development of the critical Broadband issue. Again, we’ll follow it and report as we learn more.
Our UOIT rep advised us that, in concert with Durham College, they are hosting the Region’s Smart Cities Challenge. In the same vein, along with the City and Trent University, they are working on an Idea Lab initiative. All this is happening against the backdrop of continued expansion of the University’s facilities.
Durham College reports a good September launch with about 12,000 full time students.
The “Super Metrolinx” concept has not yet had a stake driven through its heart and we will be attending a further session hosted by the Toronto Board of Trade to discuss things “transportation” related to the GTA, where, as everyone knows, Toronto is the centre of the universe.
As always, we welcome your thoughts on any of these issues and your suggestions for other matters to be considered and educational events you might like to attend.
Our next GR committee meeting is scheduled for October 5, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. in the Chamber Board Room.