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‘Why can’t they make the future in Oshawa?’ GM VP on electric cars, pensions, and more

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Come this time next year, thousands of Ontario General Motors workers will be facing the stark reality that their time at the Oshawa assembly plant is coming to an end. The automotive giant confirmed yesterday that the plant is one of six that will close in North America. 

GM said it’s all part of a global plan to cut costs and dedicate more resources to developing electric and autonomous vehicles. But news that the Oshawa plant would be shuttered left many wondering why the century-old facility was being left out of the future. 

Senior Correspondent Susan Ormiston asked David Paterson, GM’s vice president for corporate and environmental affairs, about that — and more. 

GM’s Paterson explains why the Oshawa, Ont., plant can’t build the vehicles of the future. (CBC News)

Susan Ormiston: So does this plant go because of the U.S. president’s aim to make America first and make America great again and produce in America?

David Paterson: This has absolutely nothing to do with the president. This decision has to do with simply being able to make the transition to the future and reallocate capital into the massive investments that are needed for electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

The good news is that in terms of that technology, the one place in the world where we are able to do the software development and the high-tech work that is needed for the future is actually in Canada. We have just opened the Markham technology centre.

We’re hiring up to 1,000 technical engineers right now. We’ve hired 500 in last year, and we’ll expand that technology centre that’s in Markham that will build the cars of the future and the technology of the future.

GM says the Oshawa closure has nothing to do with Trump’s ‘America First’ policy. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

SO: Given the Canadian investment in GM over the years, why can’t the electric and [autonomous] vehicles be made here instead of somewhere else … why can’t they make the “future” here in Oshawa?

DP: We can make anything here in Oshawa. We could make any type of vehicle…

SO: So why isn’t GM investing in that?

DP: Because there are only so many vehicles on a global basis that are available for the production footprint of GM. We have 75 plants around the world, but we have far too many plants for the demand in the marketplace.

If there is a surge for demand for electrical vehicles then perhaps there’s going to be a need for more production. But you don’t produce things unless there’s a market demand for the products.

Watch Susan Ormiston press GM’s David Paterson on the Oshawa plant’s future:

Susan Ormiston asks GM Vice President of Corporate and Environmental Affairs why the Oshawa plant can’t be used to build the vehicles of the future 1:15

SO: What are GM’s plans to settle with the workers here who have 18 to 24 months left on their contracts? 

DP: Our next steps in dealing with our workers is to sit down and discuss how we make this transition in the next year.

SO: What can you offer them?

GM Vice President, Corporate and Environmental Affairs, David Paterson, says not all of the workers will be relocated to other Ontario plants. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC News)

DP: Well, about half of the workers impacted in GM Oshawa already qualify for a full GM pension. So they’ll be able to retire with a little better than a full pension.

The other half are already covered under the terms of our agreement with Unifor. So they would have things such as additional income support, 65 per cent of base salary, and then whatever else we could negotiate with Unifor in terms of when they would leave and under what benefits and what conditions. So we treat our people very well.

SO: How many of the existing workers can find work within GM elsewhere?

DP: We expect that about half of them will move to retirement because they’re eligible. And then we’ll take a look at which other ones might be able to find work either at our Ingersoll [plant] … or how many would be able to find work at our other plant in St. Catharines. We need to go through that process. But they won’t be able to all be moved to other plants.

Susan Ormiston asks David Paterson whether there will be jobs for everyone at other Ontario plants:

Susan Ormiston asks GM Vice President of Corporate and Environmental Affairs David Paterson how many of the current Oshawa workers could move to other Ontario GM plants. 0:28

This interview has been condensed for length and clarity. 



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A Look at TACT-Designed Interiors in Graywood’s Scout Condos

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Just west of the construction site for Scoop Condos on St. Clair Avenue West at Old Weston Road, Graywood Developments will soon be bringing a new 12-storey, SMV Architects-designed condominium to Toronto’s West End. Last month, we took a look at Scout Condos‘ amenity spaces—appointed by TACT Architecture‘s interior design wing—and today we’re back for a preview of the TACT-appointed suite interiors.

Scout Condos, Toronto, Graywood, SMV, TACT, St. ClairScout Condos, image courtesy of Graywood Developments

The project is offering 261 suites in a wide variety of unit types and sizes. Standard suite features are set to include 9’ ceiling heights in principal rooms, laminate wood floors, smooth painted ceilings, and neutral colour-painted interior walls. Other features include stacked washer and dryer units as well as individually controlled heating and air conditioning systems.

According to TACT’s Michael Krus, kitchens at Scout will be “more appointed, larger, with some custom elements unique to the project. We’re introducing integrated pantries into these kitchens, part of the kitchen millwork but flows into the living room so the kitchen becomes an extension of the living room. The kitchen isn’t just the kitchen, It will be support.” 

Scout Condos, Toronto, Graywood, SMV, TACT, St. ClairSuite interior, Scout Condos, image courtesy of Graywood Developments

Kitchens at Scout will feature custom-styled kitchen cabinetry in a selection of finishes, quartz countertops, glass tile backsplashes, stainless steel sinks, over-the-range microwaves with built-in exhaust fan, as well as standard appliances and integrated dishwashers.

Bathrooms will include custom-styled bathroom cabinetry in a selection of door finishes, porcelain tile finishes for walls and floors, quartz counters, and a full vanity-width mirror. Other features include white bathroom fixtures, wall-mounted vanity faucet with backsplash, and the choice of a chrome washroom accessories package.

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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To request more info directly from Scout Condos click here

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Costco-style membership for hay aims to modernize handshake deals

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Cindy Wilinski says 100 years ago if you needed to buy hay for your livestock you tracked down a local farmer, by phone or in person, made a deal and hoped the product was as good as advertised.

She said nothing much has changed today, except now it might be purchased via an email or over text message.

“It’s still the old handshake kind of deal and hope you don’t get ripped off,” said Wilinsky, who owns an equine training and breeding facility near Okotoks.

Wilinsky said she first got the idea of bringing the hay business into the 21st century after a drought in 2015 left a lot of people scrambling to find hay. At that time she started a Facebook hay-sourcing group called the Haylist — a database that amassed more than 7,000 members — where people could list hay for sale, request hay and list trucking services.

The Haylist is still going but Wilinski felt she could do more to help livestock owners find good quality, affordable hay from a credible and trustworthy source. That led to the creation of the Haybank, a Costco-style membership business she launched in the fall.

And, the response has been overwhelming.

“We literally ran out of all the hay we had lined up that was on the yard as well as what was coming.”

Those who sign up pay an annual $500 membership fee, plus the cost of the hay they purchase and transportation if needed. (Contributed)

Rather than the handful of memberships she expected, 83 people signed up within weeks, including Priddis-area rancher, Danny Lansdowne.

“This year hay is all over the map and I can’t afford the $200, or $180 [per bale],” said Lansdowne, who purchased hay for his five horses and cows.

“It’s a blessing.”

Wilinski attributes the higher than expected demand to a prolonged drought pushing up the price of hay, while any lower priced hay is being snatched up, and in some cases, she says, it’s being turned around and sold at a higher price.

“You know it’s just one of those things that turns your stomach.”

Those who sign up pay an annual $500 membership fee, plus the cost of the hay they purchase and transportation if needed.

The fees allow Wilinski to purchase bulk amounts of hay, in some cases entire crops,  and keep the transportation costs down. She’s sourced hay as far east as Ontario, and south to Montana.

“The problem has always been in making the trucking affordable so it’s not landing here being priced higher than what they need locally for it,” she said.

From the feedback Wilinski’s received so far, she says people are appreciative of having a secure way to buy hay.

“And you’re not sending an e-transfer to somebody you’ve never met for hay you’ve never seen.”

Wilinski said she tests the quality of the hay once it arrives, and only after she confirms the amount and quality does she put it up for sale.

In the months since opening the Haybank Wilinski says she’s managed to work out some of the kinks, address some of the growing pains and put a more balanced system in place.

“(We’re) just trying to make sure everybody gets the feed they need for this winter,” she said. “Because by the looks of things so far we’re going to have another year that’s not looking so grand unless we get an awful lot of rain or some late snow.”

Wilinski said she’s already heard from people who want to invest in her business and hopes to get more trucks rolling in order to service her customers even better.

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Excavation Progressing at Waterfront Innovation Centre Site

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It has been four months since September when Menkes Developments marked the start of construction for the Waterfront Innovation Centre in Toronto’s East Bayfront area. Shoring activity that began the first stage is now wrapping up, and excavation has now begun for the new 12-storey, 400,000 ft², Sweeny &Co Architects-designed office development.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoShoring at the west side of the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

The site is bisected by a short north-south stretch of Dockside Drive. Shoring activity is now proceeding on the smaller footprint of the western portion, where a drilling rig (above) continues to bore holes for the site’s caisson wall shoring system. Meanwhile, excavation is now progressing on the much larger eastern portion east of the road (below).

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoExcavation for the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

Crews are digging to a three-storey depth for the building’s underground garage, to hold 197 spaces. The dig is furthest along just east of Dockside Drive, where the pit has been excavated roughly two levels deep so far, and requiring a horizontal drilling rig to install a first row of tiebacks to anchor the shoring walls to the surrounding earth.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoExcavation for the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

Tieback drilling has since progressed to the east end of the site, closest to Knapp Lane. The image below shows the horizontal drilling rig used for tiebacks sitting idle, while tubes for the site’s de-watering drape over the fence.

Waterfront Innovation Centre, Menkes, Sweeny &Co Architects, TorontoHorizontal drilling rig at the Waterfront Innovation Centre site, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

The project—part of a larger regeneration of the area overseen by Waterfront Toronto—is targeting a 2021 completion date, set to house at least 2,000 workers upon opening. WPP will be the building’s lead tenant, with the the Canadian head offices for the multinational e-commerce, advertising, online media, public relations, communications, and branding services giant to occupy 260,000 square feet of the building.

You can get more information about and see more renderings of the Waterfront Innovation Centre in our database file, linked below. You can get in on the discussion in our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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UrbanToronto has a new way you can track projects through the planning process on a daily basis. Sign up for a free trial of our New Development Insider here.


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