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
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
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
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
TWO HUNDRED AND COUNTING
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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
Dave Elliott, president of CAW Local 1001, dismisses rumours
the Sterling Truck plant could close before the end of the year.
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