By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
With the new year already begun, Oshawa’s politicians took time to speak out on the year that was 2018, and what’s coming in 2019.
Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, MPP Jennifer French, regional chair John Henry, and Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter all spoke to the Express about their highlights from 2018, and their plans and concerns going into 2019.
Colin Carrie – PC MP
The carbon tax is first and foremost on Carrie’s mind, as he has been opposed to the tax since its inception.
He says that he believes Oshawa is “the latest victim of Justin Trudeau’s failed economic policies” after the announcement that GM will be shutting down its plant in Oshawa.
“I think the news that GM would be leaving Oshawa, and that would be the end of the era of building cars in our community, I don’t think anyone saw that coming,” he says.
He believes it’s been a tough year for Canada and Oshawa in general.
Carrie says while the Prime Minister did campaign on the promise to move away from manufacturing, he didn’t expect it to be so quick.
“I don’t think anybody thought that he would follow through as quickly as he has with his unique political policies that he’s put in place for Canada that has made us less competitive around the world,” says Carrie.
Carrie thinks a recession is looming and people are “rightfully worried about things, especially in our community.”
“We’ve had bad news before, and I know we’re going to get through it, and to have the year end like that, I think, was a real negative for our community.”
He says he’s also hearing about the carbon tax from commuters but they won’t be the only ones affected.
“A lot of people in Oshawa do commute to work, and their fuel costs are going to go up, their home heating is going to go up,” he says. “They call it a tax on everything for good reason.”
In 2019, Carrie says he will be focusing on positive change for the community.
“We know that people are worried about the huge debt that the government is putting us in,” he says.
He believes the Liberals failure to balance the budget is of concern, and there is nothing in place to fend off a possible recession.
“I’ll be working hard to make people aware of what’s going on,” he says .“With the uncertainty that the government has placed us in, the people are rightfully concerned about it.
“I think Canada is still the best place to live and work, we just need a government that’s listening to Canadians, and working for us and not against us,” he says.
Jennifer French – NDP MPP
For French, she notes that one of the highlights for 2018 was to have been re-elected for a second term to represent Oshawa.
She also says that it has been fulfilling to have been “successful in getting Bill 10, the Brunt Kendall Act, pass unanimously through second reading, and I look forward to shepherding it through committee and into law.”
She also notes several of her community events, such as the back-to-school barbecue, where she was able to connect with her constituents were a high point as well.
For 2019, French says that she wants to “see a number of initiatives that we have started, or have been working on, on behalf of our constituents, through.”
“We want a resolution, we want definitive answers on some community challenges and initiatives,” French says.
She says that she wants more concrete plans on the expansion of GO Transit to Bowmanville and to hear from the government that “they are willing to take the tolls off of the 412, and keep them off the 418.”
French says she wants more constituents who are dealing with challenges to find their way to her office so that she can help them as well.
“I want to continue to do the constituency work to ensure that anyone who is in a government tangle can find their way to the office,” she says.
Moving forward, French says, “There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the provincial government and systems right now, so I’m hopeful that many of the programs and funding that are in flux will hopefully see some predictability and stability moving forward.”
French believes she is concerned about the same things as the rest of the community, namely GM’s plans to shut down its plant.
“We want to be able to keep people employed, we want to be able to continue to grow as a city, so that certainly is top of mind heading into 2019,” says French. “We want [all GM employees] to have continued strong employment.”
Ultimately, French wants to hold the current government to account, and “hopefully encourage them to stand alongside the people of Oshawa when it comes to General Motors, good jobs and pensions, and a strong future. I want to continue to work with the folks in Oshawa, and encourage the government to join us as we champion a strong future for our community.”
Dan Carter – Mayor of Oshawa
“The biggest highlight [of 2018] was that I got elected to be the Mayor of the city of Oshawa,” Carter exclaimed. “The biggest news story I think of 2018 had to be the announcement that came down on Nov. 26 from General Motors, and I still think that is the biggest news story of 2018, and it could be the largest news story in 2019.”
Carter says there is a lot he hopes to accomplish this year, and finding a resolution with General Motors is at the top of the list.
“It’s the most important thing that I want to try and get resolved,” says Carter.
Carter says, “I want to make sure I do everything that I possibly can to find jobs for 3,000 people because that’s the thing that I wake up to every day, that’s the thing I think about every day, and that’s the most important issue.”
Another issue for Carter is that he’d like to see the province to commit to the GO expansion to Bowmanville.
“They’ve got $600 million sitting in a bank account to get the work started,” he says. “Release the money, get it going. [It represents] $1.1 billion economic impact in the city of Oshawa, 21,000 jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in investments would be there, 6,000 jobs in the construction industry.”
He is also very concerned about those who are living in poverty, as well as those who are being impacted by the opioid crisis.
“The City of Oshawa has taken a lot of different, unique approaches in regards to poverty and homelessness and people that are in the tent cities, or struggling with mental health and addiction outside of what our regional government or provincial government is doing,” explains Carter.
He also says the proposed regional mobile health unit, which he and councillor Bob Chapman envisioned together, is something he is proud of.
“I had a meeting three weeks ago with 50 churches to be able to get them to adopt a good idea about how we can help people that are struggling in poverty today,” says Carter.
Carter believes that if he could find a way to help those that need it to find housing, help them and lead them on a healthier path, that would be a great accomplishment for the City of Oshawa.
“[The homelessness and opioid crisis] is one of the largest, and hardest issues hitting every community across North America,” says Carter. “Imagine if we were on the leading edge of being able to figure out a way to not only house them but help them on to a healthier pathway.”
Carter believes that the city and the region need to do everything they can with the provincial and federal government, but thinking of local solutions is key.
“Every local place has a different part of this story, it’s not just one component of it,” he says.
“If we can find that unique pathway forward, that would be a huge accomplishment.”
John Henry – Regional Chair
Henry is he’s excited that Durham is now being recognized as a centre of excellence in education, health care, and advanced manufacturing.
While the announcement of the GM closure does put a bit of a damper on the year, he is still excited about the future of Durham.
“We’ve had great growth within the region,” says Henry.
“In particular, Oshawa had the best year they’ve ever had,” says Henry. “The region had one of the most amazing years, and people are seeing that.”
In 2019, Henry hopes to continue working on the same issues as before the new term, such as removing the tolls on Highway 412, and the future Highway 418, working on the lands along the 407 corridor, “and continuing to make sure that the world knows that Durham is open for business.”
The story, of course, turns to the impending closure of the GM plant in Oshawa.
Henry says, “One day you wake up and you’re the mayor of a city where General Motors is located and the story about what’s happening there and the closing of the plant and the jobs that are affected, and a week later you’re the regional chair with 24 other companies and General Motors that are all being affected by this change in direction within the automotive industry
He points out the decision is a challenge because not every worker at the plant lives in Oshawa.
“I understand the frustration that’s going on right now as I still have two brothers that work in the plant,” says Henry. “I worry about the employees within General Motors.”