Opinion Piece by: Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
“We’re all in this together.”
J. Murray Jones, the Warden of Peterborough County is well known for uttering these words at virtually every public appearance. He’s even handing out pens now with his battle cry printed on them…
Warden Jones is correct, of course, but are we really all together?
I say no, not even close, and it continues to cost us more than we’ll ever know.
Municipal borders were laid out in a system that eventually led to some 18 townships within Peterborough County, with the City of Peterborough in the centre of it all. Amalgamation under the Harris Government resulted in half the townships, but solved none of the problems. The initial report included the recommendation that Cavan and Monaghan townships amalgamate with the City of Peterborough. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
The result has been several decades of missed opportunities for this area. An untold number of businesses have had their expansion plans stymied, or have come here looking for a place to build and instead built somewhere else.
Why? I could point fingers at any number of targets and be partly right every time, including:
But pointing fingers accomplishes nothing. Doing something about it is what is needed.
Our current elected leaders, at the County, City, Provincial and Federal levels are under
increasing pressure to figure this out, and apparently a few discussions have been held. In 2019, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development started tracking the missed opportunities. There have been at least 14 since May of 2019 alone. And these are just the known, documented cases.
I’d suggest that if someone applied themselves, went back 20 years, talking to commercial real estate agents, developers, retired politicians and bureaucrats in the know, the economic impact of the missed opportunities would be absolutely staggering, not to mention appalling and unacceptable. And all because of manmade borders. Arguments over ownership, or costs, or who is getting a better deal.
As a community we’ve asked that our official plans from our city and county be bold and forward thinking. We cannot accomplish bold in a culture that constantly rejects possibility. I believe the solution lies in a commitment to a culture of yes, and in honest conversation between people who truly believe that indeed, we are all in this together.