Japan junket is double-double talk


Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum


The hot topic of discussion in city coffee shops this week swirled
around the merits of the forthcoming trip to Japan by Economic
Development Corporation CEO Bob Wheeler and Mayor Cliff
Barwick
.
And to be honest, neither presented a convincing argument when
confronted by members of council Monday on the need, or timing, of
this trade junket.

Were this simply a down turn in the economy, similar to 1981 or the
early 1990s, there would be no question of the validity of pursuing
investment opportunities overseas.
However, what we’re experiencing is a new world order and the
economic landscape when the dust settles, in particular the
manufacturing sector, will bear little resemblance to what has been
the norm for decades.
More specifically, the automotive industry may be conspicuous by its
absence in St. Thomas and Elgin.
To employ a railway analogy, today’s environment is akin to the dawn
of dieselization in the city more than a half-century ago.
For both individuals to infer this is just a blip on the radar
screen and the city will be well positioned when normal programming
resumes a few months down the road is to entirely misread the warning
signs.
As he fielded questions from Ald. David Warden and Ald.
Gord Campbell
, CEO Wheeler repeatedly focussed on the real reason
for the mission to Japan – to show that in challenging times, “we are
here to support them.”
“And that is also one of the focuses for the trip,” stressed
Wheeler, “to show that their investment is very much appreciated.”
Well gentlemen, who is reciprocating by visiting the area to assure
the 4,000 or so unemployed, or soon to be out of work, that their
contributions are appreciated and their source of livelihood is secure?
It is unlikely any of these casualties of the manufacturing meltdown
gained solace from Mayor Barwick’s dire insight.
“Perhaps there is a cutback here at Japanese-owned companies. Is
that attributable to the fact I wasn’t there (on the trade mission
next February)?”
Talk about planting the seeds of fear at a time when so many are
vulnerable. Move over Ald. Warden, there’s a new student in
sensitivity training class.

SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT
On a related note, why hasn’t the EDC been in touch with Andrew
Gunn
and the Alma College Foundation, whose aim is to bring a liberal
arts college to the area?
It’s exactly the type of outside-the-box thinking needed to
diversify the region’s economy.
With the potential for high-paying professional positions and 400
students enrolled at the campus located on the city’s doorstep, the
EDC should be touting the merits of Alma University whenever it sings
the praises of St. Thomas and Elgin.
After all, families from around the world sent their daughters to
Alma College and, as a result, put St. Thomas on the map in a most
positive fashion.

TWO HUNDRED AND COUNTING
There was a point in time when this corner feared the supply of
material needed to write a weekly city hall column would soon be
exhausted.
That was nearly four years ago when City Scope first appeared in
print and the number of cases of Saturday morning indigestion began
to rise.
Here we are 200 issues later and there are days when the flow of
information, rumour, gossip and snippets of did-you-know is
overwhelming.
None of this would be possible without the T-J team which helps
assemble the material every week, those fearless individuals in the
community who also believe in accountability and transparency and,
most of all, you dedicated readers who offer praise, encouragement
and criticism when required.

TRACK DOWN THOSE REPORTS
The city was quick to make public engineering reports related to the
Sutherland Press building. When will engineering and related reports
dealing with a significant downtown St. Thomas landmark similarly be
presented in open council?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Vicious rumours.”
Dave Elliott, president of CAW Local 1001, dismisses rumours
the Sterling Truck plant could close before the end of the year.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions
and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.
Visit the City Scope blog site at: http://
ianscityscope.wordpress.com/.

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One thought on “Japan junket is double-double talk

  1. When the province of Ontario and the “government-yes, private-no” people that support it controls so much of the education establishment in Ontario, I have very little belief that a private university can be created and welcome 400 students anytime in my lifetime, especially in St Thomas. As a grad of Redeemer University College in its early years, I saw how difficult it was to establish, and get recognition for, a privately-supported university. I would be happy to lend you a copy of the history of Redeemer, looking at how many hoops and blockades the founders had to go through to get a charter (has Andrew Gunn even stepped towards that?), to establishing a campus, and growing to a viable size. And then, while established and respected by the AUCC, Redeemer had to fight to get the charter changes to allow them to grant BA’s, to add the “University” to their name, and to have Redeemer credits and courses accepted by the public universities for transfer and graduate students.
    Let the EDC promote St thomas and Elgin to industrial clients that will see people earning money sooner, and paying taxes on their land and buildings (a non-profit school won’t), and not an Alma liberal arts college pipe dream.

    Ken DeVries kendeb@rogers.com

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