As the General Motors era is set to come to a close in Oshawa, the city is aiming to evolve into a green and sustainable tech hub that some believe will be key to its future success.
Rebecca Keetch will be losing her job at the end of the year.
It’s not the type of future she envisioned, but the news has given the General Motors worker a new calling: to help rebuild Oshawa’s economy by creating green jobs.
“We have a plant, we have a skilled workforce, we have an environmental crisis, a need for good jobs, and we can solve all of these problems by getting government investment and producing battery electric vehicles in the plant,” Keetch said.
Keetch and about 100 other GM workers are a part of Green Jobs Oshawa, an organization asking for $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion from the federal government to purchase the plant and retool it to produce electric cars.
She says there could be great demand from the postal industry and municipalities in need of fleets.
“There’s all sorts of good things going for Oshawa. If we could get people to get on board with this, then it would be a fantastic start to be the engine of a green new deal,” Keetch said.
According to a preliminary feasibility study conducted by Green Jobs Oshawa, if the proposal were to come to fruition, it could create up to 13,000 jobs.
The group has put out a petition addressed to federal politicians and is hoping to garner signatures.
The organization isn’t the only one contributing to Oshawa’s tech-focused future. Ontario Tech University is also hoping to be a catalyst for this type of change.
Ontario Tech president Steven Murphy says the school is rebranding itself as the MIT of the north and aims to be a leader in the future of education and technology.
“There are clean tech jobs in that future, there are up skilled jobs around how technology plays into automotive and other downstream industries, but I think the thing that catalyzes both of them is that it’s technology with a conscience,” Murphy said while standing in the university’s climatic wind tunnel.
A number of green tech projects are currently in the works at the institution, including a corporate energy management plan and a storm water management plan.
Murphy says Ontario Tech is revamping educational programs to incorporate technology as a means of improving humanity as a whole.
“It’s also about how can we use technology to help us with homelessness problems, with addiction issues, with the opioid crisis that’s happening in Oshawa, and so we really see the citizenship of this university extending far beyond technology,” he said.
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The university’s heavy implementation of technology for the greater good of Oshawa is a vision that closely aligns with Mayor Dan Carter’s.
“We have this moment that’s being presented to us, and I think we have to embrace the assets that we have in the community in regards to our post-secondary education, the skills and the abilities that people in our community have always demonstrated and look at where we fit in the future,” the mayor said.
“I truly see that our community is in this wonderful time of transformation … and I believe we have the people that will take us into the future.”
That future, Carter hopes, will bring a story of resilience.