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Making plans for a smarter city

UOIT hosts forum to discuss how municipalities will change in years to come

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Brian Kelly, centre, with the Region of Durham, sits with Gary Rose, left, vice-president, nuclear projects with OPG and Glenn Case, senior technical advisor with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, during a panel discussion as part of a forum on smart communities hosted by UOIT.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Local politicians, professors and business leaders have come together to discuss the future of energy, mobility and innovation, and how these will change the urban landscape.

Leaders of large corporations such as Veridian, General Motors and the Spark Centre were all on hand to discuss the future of municipalities and how new technologies will shape their future.

Discussing everything from transit to nuclear power to waste solutions, one theme was clear: municipalities need not wait for higher levels of government to implement new ways of doing things.

“I think we have to undertake these things,” says Councillor Dan Carter, who was on hand to mediate a panel on new forms of energy including solar, battery power and nuclear.

“Local government and local initiatives can really push policy and results right here…in my opinion, I don’t think we wait for the province and I don’t think we wait for the federal (government).”

Brian Kelly, the Region of Durham’s manager of sustainability, was on hand for a presentation stating that with the constant evolution of technology and new forms coming in to replace old methods, municipalities must embrace what is known as  a “creative disruption.” These “disruptions” could mean everything from GM welcoming the age of the electric vehicle and building one here in Oshawa, or developers starting to build energy neutral homes that actually create more energy than they use.

“I think all of these opportunities are there if we can get out act together,” he said.

And with the current state of development in Oshawa, it’s a question the city needs to be asking, Carter says.

“Oshawa has some of the biggest booms in residential housing now. Why aren’t we having the conversation about the type of houses we would like to see established?” he says.

The Future of Smart Communities was hosted by UOIT’s Futures Forum and led by Michael Owen, the school’s head of research services.

He tells The Oshawa Express the goal of the forum was to bring “big thinkers” together to talk about improvements that could be made in Oshawa and he hopes the ideas formulated during discussions could spill out into the communities. At the very least, he says the attendance by local leaders shows there is a desire for change.

“They’re listening to what thought leaders are saying about what smart communities are and how our region and cities and towns in our region can actually become smarter,” he says.

And is Oshawa a smart community? Well, the answer to that is a little complicated.

“I would say it’s a reasonably smart community,” Owen says. “We’re not a dumb community. Can we be smarter? I think absolutely, but that means each and every one of us needs to think about the way in which we can utilize our resources, ranging from the way in which we control the heat in our homes, to the way in which we drive around the community.”