For January 2022, three of the panelists take a look backwards, rather than forward, to provide a retrospective on 2022 before moving ahead to what 2023 will bring.
2022 brought peaks with significant announcements and investments. For example, the mega hospital construction timeline moving forward, the Windsor Assembly Plant’s retooling and the NextStar Energy EV battery plant announcement, Transit Windsor’s revitalization (sans garage), Ojibway National Urban Park progress, and Adie Knox Community Centre’s redevelopment.
However, there were valleys, like the Ambassador Bridge Blockade, two divisive and lowest and second-lowest voter turnout elections respectively, an eyebrow raising tax bill insert, and the former CAO Jason Reynar’s ousting.
There were also noteworthy debates like City Councillors receiving a pay increase and most COVID measures ending (although we are seeing some return . . .).
There was also s cultural milestones like the Windsor International Film Festival breaking its attendance record, Art Windsor Essex’s renaming, and the return of Transit Windsor’s tunnel bus.
With a new term and three new Councillors, 2023 will bring some learning of the ropes before the political jockeying begins. It will be interesting to see how the council’s composition affects votes and outcomes.
Elected officials should focus attentively on economic diversification because the above-mentioned investments add more of the same eggs to our primarily automotive basket, which is dangerous in a down cycle; as well as address public health issues while also continuing to invest in public and sustainable transportation, plus VISION ZERO to allow all residents who pay taxes to use the roads safely, unlike the current conditions.
A new year brings new challenges and the question is how will this city council address them?
Jon Liedtke is a fill-in on-air host for AM800 CKLW, Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and SAG-AFTRA, and plays trumpet in Windsor’s The Nefidovs.
Few years have had as much positive economic news for Windsor packed into them as we’ve seen in 2022.
Stellantis announced a return to three shifts at its Windsor Assembly Plant. After 94 years of operation this plant is still an important driver of our local economy, and business owners across the region breathed a collective sigh of relief at the announcement.
Beyond keeping what we have, three levels of government made significant contributions to attract the NextStar Energy EV battery plant to Windsor, which represents a huge private-sector investment in our city.
On the purely public side, major public works projects will likely be a driver of jobs and economic activity for some time to come, as the conclusion of the Gordie Howe Bridge project in 2024 will be offset by the newly-advanced date of 2026 for the start of construction on the mega hospital.
So far, so good.
Politicians ran — and won — on this record in the local 2022 provincial and municipal elections, and fair enough. In a time of growing economic uncertainty it is good news indeed that Windsor has a solid foundation to build on.
I have some concerns in the midst of all this good news.
First, I’m worried that a sclerotic city administration and politically compromised development corporation will make it harder for us to take advantage of the opportunities presented.
The city procured a reasonably useful, if flawed, roadmap to economic development in the Windsor Works report. Unfortunately, political jockeying and stress caused by implementation of some of the measures recommended in the report seem to have brought about an apparently improperly-executed firing of Windsor CAO Jason Reynar in the spring.
Resistance to change at the highest levels of City administration and governance will make turning Windsor Works into meaningful impact harder than it should be.
There is no question that Invest WindsorEssex deserves their fair share of credit for their role in landing the NextStar Energy EV battery plant in Windsor, but the organization also spent significant resources in 2022 on political PR campaigns and seems to be more interested in coming up with new slogans for the automotive industry than in exploring opportunities to diversify our economy.
That last bit has me the most concerned.
The automotive industry is a driver of Windsor’s economy. The new investments gave it a boost and it is likely to be a key part of our economic mix for many years to come.
It is hard to see how new automotive investments, however thrilling, are helping to make Windsor’s economy more resilient to the inevitable downturns inherent to a cyclical industry like automotive.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy firm in downtown Windsor.
Don Merrifield Jr.
I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are looking forward to a wonderful new year, because after the last few pandemic years, we could all use an easy one.
2022 was busy for the City of Windsor.
First we had a municipal election ushering in three new Councillors after two left — one to pursue other opportunities, another to take a run for Mayor, and the third defeated in his re-election attempt.
The new council makeup seems a bit more conservative after losing Councillors Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt, and how this plays out we will just have to see.
On the economic development front we’ve had a very exciting announcement with the NextStar Energy EV battery plant.
With upwards of 3,000 dedicated jobs as well as smaller feeder plants and related construction jobs, the area should benefit economically for years — which is a good thing since our unemployment rate is above average.
Hopefully we can use this as a starting point for much needed economic redevelopment and diversification. Our biggest mistake would be to treat this as a George Bush “Mission Accomplished” blunder and not build off the opportunity we’ve been presented with.
If the powers that be only see Windsor and Essex County in a narrow “automotive town” focus, I’m afraid we’ll be trapped in the same economic cycle that exists when focusing solely on one industry.
We also had a provincial announcement that the timeline for the new hospital has been moved up, which is desperately needed.
Our health services infrastructure have been ignored and neglected for far too long.
In a perfect world this would be accelerated even more, but we’ll have to take what we can get.
Housing development projects continue to be announced and have been a huge driver of regional employment for years.
With all these new jobs, I suspect the building boom will continue for the next few years. Locally we have a shortage of housing, so every unit is a plus.
Having said all that, the most important thing is that spring is only about 11 weeks away — I should probably do a sit-up or something to prepare.
Don Merrifield Jr. is a REALTOR serving Windsor and Essex County for over 21 years, a Co-Host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a father and grandfather, a former professional musician, and a former Ward 3 City Council candidate.
This article first appeared on Biz X Magazine