By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Durham Region chair and CEO Roger Anderson is adamant a successful future for the region is contingent upon strong partnerships with the provincial and federal governments.
Anderson spoke on a number of issues while addressing the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood at its Aug. 29 meeting.
With Durham Region’s population estimated to inflate to more than a million people in the next 15 years, Anderson stressed there will be an even greater need for jobs, and “people qualified to take those jobs.”
To the regional chair, there is a large unused plot of land that holds one of the keys to attracting those jobs to Durham.
“44 years ago, a young man by the name of Pierre Trudeau bought some land in Pickering because he thought it would be a good [location for an] airport. Move ahead all these years, Justin Trudeau is now prime minister. I once said to Justin wouldn’t it be nice if you finished your dad’s legacy and made a decision,” Anderson says.
Anderson estimated the Pickering Airport would create 40,000 “high-paying” jobs and the time has come “to move forward or stop the train and let everybody off. But I don’t think Durham is in a position to turn down 40,000 jobs.”
Speaking on the 407 extension throughout Durham Region, while calling it an overall positive, Anderson lamented the fact local residents have to pay to access the toll highway via Highway 412 in Whitby and eventually, the future Highway 418 in Bomanville.
“Aren’t you happy that you are the only folks who use tolls who have to pay to get on it,” Anderson asked rhetorically. “Just let me give you some of the highways they don’t toll, the 404, 427, 403, 410, 401…any north-south street in Toronto…pick a street you don’t pay.”
Anderson says he plans to personally contact Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca and ask him to remove the toll.
“But if he doesn’t there might be a couple of people who want to take Premier Wynne’s spot next June, and they’re all going to be knocking on your door, just ask them why in Durham we are the only people who have to pay to get on the 407 as opposed to everyone else in the province. It’s absurd.”
In regards to federal and provincial funding for infrastructure and transit, Anderson says the current application-based formula is unfair to smaller-and-medium-sized urban centres.
“I don’t want to fill out an application to get that money. Because if I fill out that application and you decide to elect all Conservatives and the government is Liberal, the chances of me getting any of that [funding] is slim.”
Calling for an allocation-based formula, Anderson says this approach is supported by many municipalities across Ontario, save perhaps ‘the big cities’ such as Toronto or Ottawa.
“Until the governments of Canada and Ontario give Durham, Peel, Kitchener-Waterloo [and other similarly-sized municipalities] the same kind of transit money they are giving Toronto and Ottawa, we will never be able to move our transit forward,” Anderson says.
He challenged those in attendance to question all candidates in next year’s provincial election whether they support allocation or application-based formula for provincial and federal funding.
At the end of May, the Liberal government introduced the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, also known as Bill 139, which is anticipated to bring significant changes to planning and development in Ontario, including the potential abolishment of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
Anderson says while he has disagreed with some of the decisions of the OMB, he never felt it should be “dissolved entirely”.
Should the OMB meet its end, Anderson says there will be positives and negatives on the local municipal level, specifically because 2018 is an election year.
“The odds of a council making the right decision two or three months before an election with two or three people in the audience complaining aren’t very high.”
Instances in the past where a municipal council may have avoided a decision on a planning or development issue and passed it off to the OMB for a decision will no longer apply, the regional chair warned.
“Now it will go to a municipal review panel, and they will give three options, yes, no, or send it back [to the local council],” Anderson explained.
In Anderson’s view, the positive aspect of this will be when a local council makes a decision, there will be no appeal process.
Bill 139 will change the types of future developments in Ontario as well, Anderson states.
“The Province of Ontario is going to make high density [development] a major, major issue from now on,” he says. “If you’re living on 30, 40 or 50 foot lot today, 10 years from now, you’re going to be a king or queen because you’ll never see them again, not in the City of Oshawa, the Town of Whitby, Ajax or Pickering. They’re going to be very, very rare.”
To Anderson, there is one major issue with this.
“Not everybody likes not having grass, and most of the people I know like to have a front door and back door, especially if you have kids or grandkids and you want them to go play outside so you can get some peace and quiet for a couple of minutes.
“It’s going to change the face of Durham and change the face of all new development and it’s going to be a problem.”