Regional collaboration needed to solve Ontario's challenges, forum hears

Regional collaboration among universities, governments and industry is essential to helping solve shared challenges across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), business leaders and university researchers said at a forum in Hamilton this week.

“It takes persistence and leadership to move past some of those barriers to get large institutions to make partnerships work well. We’ve had some pretty good success with that,” said Matthew Roorda, professor and Canada Research Chair in Freight Transportation and Logistics, and Chair of the Smart Freight Centre.

The Centre brings together leading experts from the Region of Peel, U of T and McMaster and York Universities to improve and future-proof how goods are delivered across the GTHA. Preliminary research from Roorda’s lab has already found that when major retailers shifted their deliveries to off-peak hours, average trip time decreased by 17 per cent.

Jan de Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, said the challenges of the region cannot be solved by one institution or one jurisdiction alone. “I think the big thing we are trying to solve is what are the big cross-cutting infrastructure [projects] that can be undertaken? It’s working with the province and the federal government to help understand the interconnectedness of the economy,” De Silva said.

The forum was part of a series discussing the recommendations of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s new report on regional development in Ontario titled The Great Mosaic: Reviving Ontario's Regional Economies.  Universities, and the talent and research they produce, are key elements for regional economic growth, the report argues.

Ross Romano, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities praised the quality of postsecondary education in Ontario.

“We have the best postsecondary institutions in Ontario,” Minister Romano said. “Students from around the world want to come here and if we are really lucky they will stay here and raise families in Ontario,” Minister Romano said.

Prior events discussing how to advance regional development were held in Sudbury and Peterborough where the mining, forestry and health sectors were in focus. Approximately 200 local and provincial business leaders and politicians attended the events.