OPEN LETTER: Land Assembly – Opinions, Facts and the Choice for our Region

Region of Waterloo – April 25, 2024 – BESTWR business coalition calls for a common set of facts in the community dialogue on land assembly.

Waterloo Region is at a crossroads.

The anticipated growth for our community will see us grow to one million residents in about 20 years.

There is an urgency for preparing and building for our social and economic future. This includes building thousands of homes, building a new hospital, completing the LRT, welcoming the workforce of the future, creating the jobs to sustain our economy – and doing it all with a clear eye to public safety, healthy neighborhoods and protecting our environment.

Our growth needs will surely mean we need the support of both senior levels of government.

But Waterloo Region must continue to chart our own course.

An important discussion is underway on assembling land in Wilmot Township so the Region has the option to consider multi-billion dollar investment opportunities that we have been missing out on for over a decade.

Everyone should be welcomed to the debate and to express their views.

And while we do so, let’s use a common set of facts:

  1. Over 10 years ago, the Schneider’s plant left our community because were not coordinated in trying to save it. Nor did we have a suitable large site ready to accommodate the needs of Maple Leaf Foods which ultimately invested in Hamilton.
  2. We lost potential investments by Dr Oetker and Ferrero Rocher for the very same reason.
  3. For over a decade, the business community has been sounding the alarm that we did not have any large sites for billion-dollar investments in the Region.
  4. For the last 3 years, the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has made this an issue of urgent concern at their open, public information sessions, and have raised this in Council Chambers as well. No secret, no surprise. All provincial MPPs, federal MPs and municipal politicians are invited to their annual Public Information Meeting. It’s advertised in the Waterloo Region Record every October, and the urgency around assembling a so-called “mega-site” and a decent inventory of additional shovel
    ready sites is clearly stated in Waterloo EDC’s publicly published strategic plan on page 16.
  5. In the Regional Official Plan (Section 2.H.1.22.) the Region is clearly mandated to assemble land for purposes of investment and jobs. This plan was debated and adopted by our elected Regional Councillors.
  6. Part of the inspiration to start assembling investment-ready sites was the Province of Ontario’s Job Site Challenge, issued in 2019, which calls on us to consider how to build Waterloo Region into the economic powerhouse we’re capable of becoming. All forward-looking communities in Ontario are embracing this challenge. Just days ago Honda announced a major new investment in Alliston, Ontario – a direct result of that community’s decision to assemble job sites.

Just as important as these facts is something else: doing big things in spite of the comfort of the status quo is built into our community’s DNA.

Think back to the creation of the University of Waterloo in the 1950s; welcoming Toyota to Cambridge in 1987; or the decision to build the LRT only a decade ago.

All of these decisions were controversial. All of them required careful study of fairness to landowners, sensitive environmental stewardship, robust community input, and strong projections on economic benefits including job growth. And each of those big moves turned out to be smart, strategic investments that has made Waterloo Region what it is today.

And it’s important to remember, each of these review phases happens at a different time in the process when a community begins assembling land for major projects. The extremely important environmental review, for example, happens only once a potential investment has been identified – it’s impossible to assess environmental outcomes without knowing what kind of facility and activity might be assigned to the site.

These are some of the facts that have been missing from the dialogue until now. It’s time all sides of the discussion hold themselves accountable to these facts going forward.

Our community deserves nothing less.

For more information, please contact:
Ian McLean, Chair, Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region


you can CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SEGMENT ON THE MIKE FARWELL SHOW (CITYNEWS 570) FROM Monday, April 29, 2024 in respect to the release above. (1:10:55)