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Region could host municipal leaders

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Durham could be making its bid to host a group of 150 municipal leaders from all across Canada.

Despite some hesitation from committee members, the region’s planning and economic committee voted to spend $40,000 in hopes of hosting either the 2022 or 2023 Federation of Canadian Municipalities board meeting.

Whitby councillor Steve Yamada questioned whether there would be a good enough return on hosting the event.

“I know we’re responsible for shuttling service, we’re responsible for IT services, those kinds of things, but I just can’t see spending $40,000 or up to $40,000 to host a committee, or an executive committee meeting. I just don’t see the benefit to it,” he said.

Chief administrative officer Elaine Baxter-Trahair explained to committee it’s an opportunity to bring delegates from across Canada to Durham.

She said hosting the meeting will bring awareness to the region.

“We see this as a first step in potentially being able to host the national conference, which will deliver tremendous economic benefits, both through its trade show, and through the various political and commercial representatives that would attend the conference,” she explained.

But Yamada was not convinced.

“Aren’t we already exposing Durham across Canada?” he asked. “I just don’t see how spending an extra $40,000 is really going to help us do what we really want to achieve through economic development in creating jobs, bringing and spreading that awareness when we’re already through your department, that’s what we’re doing. I just don’t see how this is going to add anymore benefit.”

Yamada wasn’t the only councillor to question the point of hosting the event, with Clarington councillor Joe Neal wondering exactly how many people this would bring to Durham.

While it is expected the meeting would bring in around 150 people, he still wasn’t convinced.

“Yeah, the hotels will certainly get some benefit, but again it’s taxpayers money involved,” he said.

But other committee members were in favour, with Oshawa’s Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr stating sometimes something must be given before receiving anything in return.

“The City of Oshawa just approved an in-kind service grant to Frank Sobil soccer tournament that brings hundreds, if not thousands of soccer players to Oshawa, and probably results in about $2.2 million coming into the local economy,” he said.

Kerr added it may be an event where the return isn’t overly apparent, but it is ultimately there..

“When you look at what it actually brings in terms of the tourism dollars, the awareness, promotion of Durham Live as a venue, all those good things, you almost couldn’t take out ads in a newspaper to get the same result,” he said. “So I think this is a terrific  opportunity, it’s a very well-attended conference.”

In the end, the committee voted in favour five to two, with the dissenting votes coming from Neal and Yamada. It now heads to regional council for approval.