New think­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion key to a sus­tain­able fu­ture

As a mi­nor­ity govern­ment gets down to work, here’s what’s hap­pen­ing at Trent

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - CAROL GRAY GUEST COLUM­NIST

In Oc­to­ber, while the Cana­dian elec­tion ma­chine was grind­ing through its fi­nal week lead­ing up to the un­sur­pris­ing re­sult of a mi­nor­ity Lib­eral govern­ment, I was south of the border speak­ing as part of a panel of ex­perts at Har­vard Univer­sity on the con­cept of “Just Tran­si­tion.”

As our Cana­dian par­lia­ment pre­pares to re­con­vene on Thurs­day, I am re­flect­ing on the themes that per­me­ated through the Cana­dian elec­tion di­a­logue and the themes de­bated at this Amer­i­can aca­demic sym­po­sium. They were more aligned than one might imag­ine.

Just Tran­si­tion is a move­ment that ad­vo­cates for low-car­bon economies, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ment. It’s fair to say that the Cana­dian elec­torate just sent politi­cians a strong sig­nal about find­ing a balance be­tween the seem­ingly con­flict­ing pri­or­i­ties of the en­vi­ron­ment, re­li­able em­ploy­ment, healthy com­mu­ni­ties and eco­nomic suc­cess.

At a time where Cana­di­ans and Amer­i­cans are call­ing for an ap­proach that re­sists ide­ol­ogy, the ques­tion re­mains: Can we be fi­nan­cially re­al­is­tic and pru­dent — and save the world at the same time?

Back in the bell­wether rid­ing of Peter­bor­ough, where elec­tion re­sults have ac­cu­rately re­flected the will of the na­tion since 1984, a re­spon­si­ble ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment is un­der­way on a num­ber of fronts, braid­ing the ef­forts of ci­ti­zen groups, the City of Peter­bor­ough and Trent Univer­sity. In a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple that mar­ries the in­ter­ests of eco­nomic pros­per­ity with a tran­si­tion to a lower-car­bon world, the city and the univer­sity have part­nered to cre­ate Clean­tech Com­mons, slated to be­come Canada’s premier clean­tech des­ti­na­tion. The re­search park will com­mer­cial­ize world-lead­ing environmen­tal re­search, en­able star­tups, pro­vide ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing for stu­dents, and help to keep lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and its work­ers in step with a rapidly chang­ing econ­omy.

The univer­sity also takes a hu­man­is­tic ap­proach to sus­tain­abil­ity, with plans to de­velop an el­der care vil­lage on Trent lands. Ex­perts say sci­ence to­day is rapidly mov­ing to­ward en­abling us to ex­tend life well be­yond 100 years. Trent’s unique vi­sion for an el­ders vil­lage will com­bine strate­gic ob­jec­tives re­lat­ing to aca­demic and re­search col­lab­o­ra­tions, ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing for stu­dents, and the need for sus­tain­able rev­enue streams, while re­spond­ing to a de­mand for long-term care beds and new pro­gram­ming fo­cused on ag­ing well.

Trent also con­sid­ered the press­ing need for af­ford­able hous­ing within the City and County of Peter­bor­ough as the univer­sity de­vel­oped a hous­ing strat­egy that would free up 700 spa­ces within the rental mar­ket in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

These are ini­tia­tives from the univer­sity’s Lands and Na­ture Ar­eas Plan which will main­tain 60 per cent of its ap­prox­i­mately 1,400 acres of land for na­ture ar­eas, buf­fers and green space, while cre­atively and sus­tain­ably de­vel­op­ing sec­tions to di­ver­sify the in­sti­tu­tion’s rev­enue streams. The Lands Plan has been forged in re­spect­ful di­a­logue with the area’s First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties that are in­te­gral to the cam­pus and the re­gion, as well as their his­tory and cul­ture.

As it moves to­ward solutions that serve a balance of needs, the univer­sity re­mains cre­ative and ag­ile, en­ter­ing into pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships that al­low Trent to fo­cus on its core mis­sion of ad­vanc­ing knowl­edge and ed­u­cat­ing un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents. The most re­cent ex­am­ple is a new aca­demic build­ing and res­i­dence at the univer­sity’s Durham cam­pus in the Greater Toronto Area, adding 200 beds and help­ing to re­po­si­tion the re­gion in a time of eco­nomic tran­si­tion.

As our par­lia­ment pre­pares to re­sume, we need to think about the de­ci­sions Cana­di­ans have made and get down to busi­ness. Cana­di­ans have demon­strated their val­ues and the kind of coun­try they want to hand down to the next gen­er­a­tion. With mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­pro­mise are para­mount, and rid­ings like Peter­bor­ough-Kawartha will ben­e­fit from re­la­tion­ship­build­ing with part­ner in­sti­tu­tions like Trent Univer­sity as we tran­si­tion to a more sus­tain­able model for our fu­ture.

Carol Gray is cur­rently the di­rec­tor of Amex Bank of Canada as well as IMF In­vestors. For­merly pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of Equifax Canada, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of small busi­ness bank­ing at CIBC from 1997-2003, she holds a BA in his­tory and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from Trent Univer­sity, an MBA from Western Univer­sity, and the ICD. D des­ig­na­tion, granted by the In­sti­tute of Cor­po­rate Di­rec­tors. She is vicechair of the board of gov­er­nors at Trent Univer­sity.


Trent Univer­sity is work­ing with part­ners, in­clud­ing the City of Peter­bor­ough, to de­velop new ideas about hous­ing, growth and sus­tain­abil­ity.

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