By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
An Oshawa councillor is one of four members of a regional task force mandated to etch Durham’s new strategic plan.
Regional council appointed Oshawa Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri, Pickering’s David Pickles, Whitby’s Elizabeth Roy, and Scugog’s Wilma Wotten to the task force.
As the old strategic plan came to an end in 2018, the newly elected council went into the session planning to create a strategic plan task force consisting of three councillors.
But when time came to name members, membership was upped to four.
Marimpietri was nominated by Ajax councillor Sterling Lee.
The group, dubbed the Strategic Plan Development Task Force, will work along with to develop the region’s new strategic plan.
They have until Nov. 13 council meeting where they will bring forward the new strategic plan for approval.
The group is tasked with approving a project timeline, discussing how long the plan will be, and determining how the public will be involved.
They will also attend public meetings, periodically review the progress of the strategic plan, give their input on updates for regional council, and will review the draft plan as well as make suggestions prior to council’s consideration.
The task force also includes the new Chief Administrative Officer, Elaine Baxter-Trahair, and one department head, who has yet to be selected.
Marimpietri said he believes everyone is on the same page when it comes to the future of the region, and how to address economic development.
“I just want to emphasize one particular aspect of economic development,” said Marimpietri. “That would be one that relates to knowledge-based industry and dealing with the universities and colleges that we may have in our communities.”
He also plans to emphasize the building of what he calls a “super hospital” near the university that could be used as a teaching hospital.
“The potential of a research and development park in and around the university or college where we can actually see a direct correlation between the students that are learning their craft and essentially developing in the private sector, which then would drive jobs,” said Marimpietri.
While discussing the strategic plan, several councillors voiced their opinions on what should be considered priorities.
Oshawa’s Ward 4 regional councillor Rick Kerr said a “very strong emphasis for me on economic development [is important]. We have so many potential things that haven’t been approved yet. And yet when they are, they just open up a complete new vista of need, development, and opportunities.”
Kerr singled out the GO Train expansion into Bowmanville, the development of a Pickering airport, and development lands along the Highway 407 corridor as high-ticket items.
“There’s just so many things, and I think we need to be very much on top of that and have a very clear, forward plan on what are going to be eventualities or potentials,” Kerr said.
Ward 1 regional councillor John Neal wanted to know how the region will be involved with the potential amalgamation of port authorities in Oshawa and Hamilton.
Regional staff noted there will be a report explaining the region’s position in the near future.
Scugog Mayor Bobbie Drew also brought up the impending closure of Oshawa’s General Motors plant.
“I think we need to, as an economic development strategy, focus on keeping people working in Durham Region,” she said.
Drew and Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton also discussed the need to include development of agriculture and tourism in Durham as a priority.
Drew said council needs to address development of agriculture and tourism as the closure of the plant draws closer.
Barton noted, “We have different needs in the north, but we need to make sure that [the region is] ready for long-term employment.”
He said for the northern parts of Durham, it’s improving Internet services and “at least partially servicing our employment lands.”
He also said the region needs to add more “rental accommodations.”