Cel­e­brat­ing 150 years of the au­to­mo­bile

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS - This col­umn rep­re­sents the views and val­ues of the TADA. Write to pres­i­dent@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. is pres­i­dent of the Tril­lium Au­to­mo­bile Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, ON.

From the sun-dap­pled forests of Van­cou­ver Is­land to the tow­er­ing gran­ite cliffs of New­found­land, this week­end Cana­di­ans will be cel­e­brat­ing the 150th birth­day of this great na­tion.

As proud as I am of this an­niver­sary, I would like to rec­og­nize an­other mile­stone that is wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion - the 150th an­niver­sary of the first au­to­mo­bile built in Canada.

The first doc­u­mented au­to­mo­bile built in Canada was com­pleted in the same year as Con­fed­er­a­tion, 1867, in Stanstead, Que. That’s where lo­cal jew­eller and clock­maker, Henry Seth Tay­lor, de­signed and built a steam buggy.

Tay­lor ex­hib­ited his new in­ven­tion at a lo­cal fair, where it raced against trot­ting horses. The Stanstead Jour­nal wrote about this new in­ven­tion: “This me­chan­i­cal cu­rios­ity is the neat­est thing of the kind yet in­vented.”

For sev­eral years af­ter­ward, Tay­lor toured the lo­cal coun­try­side in his steam buggy, but he even­tu­ally lost in­ter­est in his in­ven­tion and put it into stor­age.

Tay­lor’s steam buggy sur­vives to this day: it was dis­played at the 2015 Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Au­toShow, and its per­ma­nent home is at the Canada Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Mu­seum in Ot­tawa.

In 1893, Wil­liam Still and Fred­er­ick B. Fether­ston­haugh de­signed and built Canada’s first elec­tric ve­hi­cle in Toronto, and in 1896, Ge­orge Foote Foss from Sher­brooke, Que., built the first suc­cess­ful gaso­line-pow­ered au­to­mo­bile in Canada.

Then, in 1904, Henry Ford es­tab­lished Ford of Canada in Walk­erville, Ont., and be­gan pro­duc­ing Model Ts in 1908. In 1907, Sam McLaugh­lin founded the McLaugh­lin Mo­tor Car Com­pany in Oshawa.

Since the early 20th cen­tury, the Cana­dian auto in­dus­try has be­come a ma­jor en­gine of our econ­omy. On­tario is home to five of the world’s top au­tomak­ers (Ford, Chrysler, Gen­eral Mo­tors, Honda and Toyota) and more than 350 parts man­u­fac­tur­ers. The in­dus­try em­ploys 90,000 skilled work­ers who pro­duce 2.5 mil­lion ve­hi­cles per year.

Canada-wide, the auto in­dus­try is re­spon­si­ble for 440,000 high­skilled, high-pay­ing Cana­dian jobs di­rectly and in­di­rectly, and con­trib­utes enor­mously to our eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

When I think about the his­tory of the au­to­mo­bile, I think about the free­doms and op­por­tu­ni­ties that this sec­tor has af­forded mil­lions of Cana­di­ans. The au­to­mo­bile has al­lowed us to travel to and from work, to shut­tle our chil­dren to their ac­tiv­i­ties, dis­cover in­cred­i­ble parks and nat­u­ral won­ders, and to do so in a level of com­fort that would have been in­con­ceiv­able a gen­er­a­tion ago. The au­to­mo­bile is even more es­sen­tial in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, where pub­lic trans­porta­tion is lack­ing and car own­er­ship is a ne­ces­sity.

Trains, tele­phones, ra­dios, TVs and the In­ter­net have done much to unite Cana­di­ans from coast to coast. How­ever, the au­to­mo­bile has also been a huge con­trib­u­tor to Cana­dian unity over the last cen­tury imag­ine how iso­lated our lives and com­mu­ni­ties would be with­out cars.

I couldn’t write a col­umn about the 150th an­niver­sary of the au­to­mo­bile in Canada with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing the tremen­dous ef­forts of the men and women who work in the re­tail car sec­tor. Ap­prox­i­mately 150,000 people work at deal­er­ships across Canada, in an in­dus­try that is thriv­ing and ripe with ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Reg­is­tered car deal­er­ships are equal op­por­tu­nity em­ploy­ers. They con­duct busi­ness in mul­ti­ple lan­guages and ap­peal to cus­tomers from many eth­nic back­grounds. Deal­er­ships are of­ten a ma­jor em­ployer in their towns and cities and con­trib­ute im­mensely to the pros­per­ity of their com­mu­ni­ties.

This Canada Day, take a mo­ment to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of the au­to­mo­bile in help­ing to shape our great na­tion. In­deed, au­to­mo­biles have come a long way since Henry Seth Tay­lor drove his steam buggy in the Que­bec coun­try­side in 1867.

On be­half of the Tril­lium Au­to­mo­bile Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Happy Canada Day!

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