The following letter was submitted by Ian Findlay.
As we approach the one year anniversary of this term of Council, it’s worth noting the lack of long-term visioning and leadership for our community on economic development.
Yes we’ve seen lots of selfies and talk of austerity; but where’s the vision and the plan? Where will the new jobs come from?
Guelph has a strong institutional base with the university and OMAFRA providing the largest employment opportunities. We also have a vibrant agri-food and bio-science sector that is the largest in Eastern Canada.
At the same time our traditional manufacturing sector is threatened by an off-shore base that’s hard to compete with.
The future for many of our post-secondary graduates is low-wage service sector jobs.
How should Guelph position itself to continue to provide meaningful employment opportunities for its children and grand-children?
One sector that has huge growth potential is the post-carbon energy economy.
The whole city spends $5ooM on energy costs. This is mostly comprised of carbon-based fossil fuels including fracked natural gas and tar-sands oil. Someone recently suggested that within five years, newly constructed homes could be net-energy exporters.
What would happen if Guelph kept some of that $500 million spent on energy and became a net-energy exporter?
Currently, community groups are working hard to upgrade the existing housing stock through energy audits and retro-fit financing programs. Institutional and industrial advocacy won’t be far behind.
District energy, integrated metering, financing, sustainable transportation and distributed generation are all corner stones of this new economic development opportunity.
Energy utilities, industry, institutions, transportation providers, community groups, Chamber of Commerce, the city and others will all need to be at the table.
This will require a committed and vision-casting leadership.
Guelph can be the city to get clean energy right and be an international leader in the post-carbon economy.
Let’s provide a truly living-wage future for our kids.