Caption: In top photo, Brant MPP Dave Levac and former Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid at announcement of formation of Ontario’s green energy hub. Bottom, the accompanying photo-op on a Grand River cruise boat. (Graphic by TheGreenHub.ca )
By GREG McMILLAN
In 2011, what happened to all the smiling faces and back-slapping politicians who jumped on the green energy hub bandwagon?
Where had they gone?
Why had they seemingly been replaced by a big, fat question mark?
Was all the marketing fanfare about the formation of a green energy hub much ado about nothing? A hollow exercise in marketing and public relations?
As we look back as this year comes to an end, it certainly seems that way.
In the not-so-distant past, politicians of all stripes gathered on a boat on the Grand River near Caledonia, to share in the announcement that Brantford, Six Nations and Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties would be part of a new regionally-shared, specifically-targeted marketing and economic development strategy aimed at attracting foreign investment to the area.
It was a touchy-feely affair, to be sure, as the culmination of an organizing initiative led by the Chamber of Commerce Brant Brant was laid out for all to see. And the words of Chief William Montour of Six Nations provided the pièce de résistance: He spoke passionately about creating a co-operative union to help provide a mountain of opportunities for his people; ensuring a prosperous future for all.
Fast-forward, however, and anyone would be hard-pressed to find that any of the politicians in attendance that day did anything substantial to push the envelope in the past 12 months.
Granted, some of the principals from that heady day moved on – Barry English was no longer the president of the local chamber, Brantford mayor Mike Hancock gave way to Chris Friel, Ontario Minister of Energy Brad Duguid pulled a switcheroo and became Minister of Economic Development and Innovation – but that doesn’t explain the absolute dearth of progress we witnessed.
So, as we head into 2012, we simply have to ask: Why?
Why were there apparently no identifiable interactions between economic development departments in the partner municipalities to continue to build on the progressive mandate originally laid out for all to see?
Why were there no further announcements of joint green energy hub projects? Or international investors, for that matter. Why were there not more visionary plans to piggy-back on the original idea to create more jobs in a green economy?
Throughout 2011, Green Matters has had an opportunity to discuss these kinds of issues with business people, and they, too, have mostly been left scratching their heads.
We recall one such conversation, with Sam Tavernese, president of PQI Canada Ltd., a Canadian technology company based in Brantford. He could not understand how there seemed to be negligible followup after Duguid posed with shirts proclaiming the area as “ Ontario’s Green Energy Hub – The Place for Green to Grow.”
Tavernese lamented that municipalities and politicians weren’t doing more to galvanize green-focused businesses and lifestyles, to involve post-secondary institutions, to concentrate on ancillary sustainable job growth. To do something … anything.
We ask the same things as we head into a new year.
Certainly, there appears to be some movement in this area, albeit shrouded. One example could be something called the Education Works Alliance, from the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie. This is, to quote the group’s website, “a broad-based community partnership that will raise the education, literacy and skill levels of adults in Brantford, Brant, Six Nations, New Credit, Haldimand and Norfolk in order to broaden opportunities for employment.”
It goes on to talk about laying a foundation to “build economic development opportunities …” but falls short, at this point, of outlining, publicly, any specifics.
In any event, the private sector will still be looking for more visible leadership from the politicians and, concurrently, from the economic development departments in the hub municipalities; some sense of purpose that can connect the dots. That’s what has been missing and that’s what would be warmly welcomed in the year ahead.
Are they up to the challenge? Will they take a much-needed leadership role? Or will they turn their backs on new ideas and visionary ways of thinking? More, have they already lost their way and dropped the ball for good?
If they continue in their quasi-xenophobic ways, falling back to the familiar “we’ve-never-done-things-that-way-here-before” adage, then they’ll likely end up reaping what they sow.
Maybe we’ve missed something.
But isn’t it time for a more focused approach?
(Editor’s note: Green Matters welcomes input from any reader who has a contrary opinion and examples to back it up.)
Greg McMillan is a partner at TheGreenHub.ca – a green news and information web portal. Feel free to contact email@example.com with any comments or suggestions for topics to be covered in the Green Matters column. That could mean green lifestyle, business or human-interest items, including any personal or school-related projects or initiatives. We’ll write about people who live in The Green Hub area, which includes Brantford, Six Nations, Brant, Norfolk and Haldimand counties. Also, follow us on Twitter / @the_green_hub and @TheHubMan or Facebook / thegreenhub