THUNDER BAY – OPINION – Thunder Bay is in all truth a pretty amazing place. Here we live, right alongside some of the most scenic places in Ontario.
Our city has amazing recreation opportunities, fabulous local restaurants, so many of the things all the ‘big cities’ have, like incredible live theatre, and a symphony orchestra.
Sure Thunder Bay isn’t perfect, but name a city that is? Every city has problems. Leadership in government, business and the media need to be realizing that there are solutions and working toward them should be the goal.
So when the suggestion came along that our city needs a ‘Toronto style sign’, it made me wonder why we would want to copy Toronto.
Sure Toronto thinks of itself as the center of Canada’s universe, but is that reason to copy them on their more superficial ideas?
I think not.
Discover a Giant!
Go to Toronto, you can discover the “Toronto Sign” – But come to Thunder Bay and you can Discover a Giant.
In many ways, our iconic Sleeping Giant, although not in our city it is representative of both the opportunity and the potential of Thunder Bay. We can all look across the bay and see the Giant almost every day.
Waking up the Sleeping Giant means looking for what is special right here in Thunder Bay.
Are We North or Are We Really Western Ontario?
I would suggest our entire region needs to do some serious thinking about how we are seen.
We are tagged as “Northwestern Ontario”. When what we really are is “Western Ontario”.
Sure we are north of Toronto, but to many people in Toronto, the north starts at Orillia, and in many ways, to many, it ends about North Bay.
Thunder Bay is south of Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary as well as Vancouver.
Thunder Bay is situated for success
We have all the infrastructure in place to connect to the entire world. That is not just via the Port of Thunder Bay, but also on the “Digital Highway”.
We have a hidden advantage in Tbaytel – our connection in many ways to that digital highway. The stronger Tbaytel is, building our connection to the digital world, the better off our region is going to be.
We need to be moving at a far faster rate
We have seen our economy shift massively over our region’s history. Mining and forestry have reigned as key economic drivers. So have the grain elevators. Over the past decade, the economy has shifted to embrace more technology.
Innovation is our future now in my opinion.
So if we don’t need a “Toronto Sign” what do we need?
In my view, we need to start a community-wide discussion on what our city’s goals are.
We need to decide what directions to take.
Here are a few ideas:
Transportation – Thunder Bay has been a transportation hub for decades. Shipping by rail, road, and ship is a constant and needed service. Thunder Bay is the travel hub of Canada. No one can go east or west in Canada by road without coming through our city.
Transportation in manufacturing has been another economic driver. The Bombardier Plant in Thunder Bay has seen its ups and downs, right now the workers have almost completed the latest contracts.
As a Community, we should be thinking “What’s Next?”
In 2007, then Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was in our city. He said that talks were underway with Bombardier about building the next generation of rail locomotives.
The Premier was talking about Hydrogen Powered Rail.
Today, Bombardier has yet to move on to this technology. However, Alstom, in Europe has built and delivered the first hydrogen-powered rail.
Can Thunder Bay Get in on This?
The simple answer is yes. It is likely to take some out of the box thinking.
Bombardier sold off its rail division to Alstom for an enterprise value of $8.2 billion. Bombardier wants to place more attention on the company’s aviation business and pay down debt.
So the moves have been made already for a hydrogen shift right here in our city.
Why hydrogen? It is green, it is renewable, and it is going to be a way forward.
The heavy lifting has been done in Europe, sadly not Thunder Bay, however, that doesn’t mean the opportunities are done.
Our region is only as remote as we will lead ourselves to believe.
Connecting the real north, the Indigenous communities across the region to high-speed Internet is a critical step forward.
Fortunately, Tbaytel is in a position where with the right investments that could happen.
Our city has been hammered with the problems related to addiction to illegal drugs.
Thunder Bay should set a goal of becoming Canada’s leader in addiction treatment and recovery.
Our community has seen all the impacts of addiction. Crime, homelessness, and family disruption, and all the hidden costs to our economy are the price we all are paying.
Becoming the innovative leader in addiction treatment puts us and our region steps ahead, it is time for action in this area.
Moving forward, this year, our city turned 50 years old. Half a century. Seems like a long time but in real terms, it is not even a full blink in time.
What we should be doing is planning for the next fifty to one hundred years and working for success.
Invite the world to come and “Discover a Giant”.
That is just my opinion, as always, your mileage may vary.