New thinking, collaboration key to a sustainable future
As a minority government gets down to work, here’s what’s happening at Trent
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.