The City of Oshawa, about 60 kilometres east of Toronto’s Old City Hall, with approximately 165,000 residents has shown warmth and compassion leading up to Christmas.
To put this in perspective, it is best to provide some background on this story and City:
Oshawa has not had the best year, given that its largest employer, General Motors (the car and truck assembly plant in south Oshawa) has fell on hard times, with the GM workers asking themselves whether they will have a job to return to in 2009.
The City of Oshawa has seen better times. Oshawa’s mayor, John Gray, wanted to see Oshawa’s harbour developed with the assistance of the Federal Government. In response, in September 2007 the Federal Government appointed David Crombie (who some might remember the media calling “Toronto’s tiny perfect mayor” when he was elected mayor of Toronto in 1972, 1974 & 1976) to prepare a report on the future of Oshawa’s harbour. David Crombie concluded his work in February 2008 and submitted his report to the Federal Government. The City of Oshawa wanted to see the report, but the Federal Government was reluctant to share it. The Mayor of Oshawa even had to go to the extent of requesting it through the Privacy Act. Crombie’s report was finally released on September 2, 2008. Crombie’s main nine (9) recommendations coincided with the City of Oshawa’s vision, with respect to the harbour. Unfortunately, Minority Leader PM Stepen Harper’s Conservatives said “no” to the following:
1. No commitments to Crombie’s recommendations.
2. No to a timeframe for implementing Crombie’s recommendations.
3. No to any financial guarantees towards Oshawa’s Harbour.
This is surprising, given that Oshawa’s Member of Parliment is Conservative Jim Flaherty (also Canada’s Federal Minister of Finance). When the U.S. was discussing bailing out Detroit’s automakers, Jim Flaherty was not prepared to make any financial commitments to the automakers north of the border. Oshawa must have been surprised, given that it is a GM city and that its MP, Jim Flaherty seemed unconcerned about GM’s future and the future of Oshawa’s GM’s workers.
Oshawa has had its share of famous residents over the years:
Colonel Robert Samuel McLauglin, referred to as “Sam” – founder of the McLaughlin “Buick”
The Colonel’s brother, John T. McLaughlin – invented the Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Sandy Hawley – he was and is a famous jockey.
Dennis and Jerry McCrohan, members of the group “Steppenwolf”. Both of these brothers, changed their surnames to Edmonton. Dennis McCrohan changed his name to Dennis Edmonton and then to Mars Bonfire, when he wrote the song “Born to Be Wild” in 1968. The lyrics of his song reveals the fact that he was born in a Motor City:
Get your motor running
Head out on the Highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way
Despite having an uncertain future and no help from the Federal Government’s Conservative Party, led by minority Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Oshawa’s City Council started a “Toys for Tickets” pilot project in 2007. The City of Kingston had been doing this for years and Oshawa decided to give it a shot. The idea was simple. Motorists that would have to pay for parking tickets received during a specific period of time, could, instead of paying the ticket, present a toy that was equal to or exceeded the amount of their ticket (normally between $10 and $75). In 2007 the City received $1000 worth of Toys when this campaign was launched.
In 2008 the City of Oshawa decided to implement this “Toys for Tickets” despite the potential loss of three thousand dollar ($ 3000.00) loss in revenue. The City decided that any ticket (with the exception of some tickets – disabled parking violations, etc.) issued between December 1 to 11, 2008 inclusive, with a fine of $10 to $75, could be paid off with a toy that was equal to or exceeded the fine amount associated with that parking violation. On December 10 & 11, 2008 those with tickets were presented with this option of providing a toy for the value of their ticket. The City did well and ended up collecting toys and other gifts worth three thousand dollars ($ 3000.00). This toys and other gifts will now be collected by those volunteering in Durham Regional Police Service’s annual food and toy drive and provided to those families in need. The City of Oshawa has now decided to implement this campaign every year, based on the prior successes.
Oshawa has shown compassionate leadership during this economic recession. How many other cities will follow this positive example and implement their own “Toys for Tickets” campaigns? It would certainly benefit the families and children living in other cities and would add to the Christmas experience for those in need.
See Oshawa: map
Update: April 9/09 – Oshawa to receive 9.2 million in funding for harbour clean-up.