Economic Development in Durham Region

Recently, on behalf of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce I attended a roundtable on Durham Region’s economic development with federal leaders Honourable Minister Filomena Tassi and our own MP Ryan Turnbull.

Minister Tassi highlighted that fundamentals like affordable housing, transit, and healthcare are needed to prepare the groundwork for economic growth and healthy vibrant communities. Investments in these areas support a greater quality of life and keep our communities vibrant, all of which strengthens our local businesses. This requires sustainable and strategic investments from all levels of leadership. Economically, with the right investments the Region has ample opportunities to make Durham a self-sufficient powerhouse of development for its growing and skilled population; much thanks to past and present leaders that know its potential.

In 1972, the Pierre Trudeau government designated 19,000 acres of federal land in Pickering for a new international airport that would connect Durham to the world, without dependence on the Toronto Pearson Airport which is already meeting its capacity. Since then, there has been much debate over the benefits and consequences of the airport; particularly its environmental and community impact on surrounding farms and neighborhoods. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) found through its Needs Assessment Study in 2010, that a new airport was needed by 2027 to accommodate growth and demand. Following feedback, the land was divided, and 10,000 acres were reserved for Rouge National Urban Park, and the balance of 9,600 acres remains for the airport and surrounding economic development. Not much has moved on this project since.

Along with air transit, the Region is also working to harness economic opportunities offered through the Oshawa port, managed through the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority, which has the potential to be containerized to support larger vessels and the transfer of more goods. In partnership with Hamilton, the ports offer a great opportunity for collaboration and access to newer markets.

Another essential service, broadband, keeps some local and small businesses from thriving and connecting to a larger market. Fortunately, both the Province and Federal government are investing to strengthen Durham’s broadband. In July, the Provincial and Federal government awarded Durham region funding for a broadband expansion project that would deliver fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) technology to rural homes and businesses in 10 underserved regional communities. This is on top of the work the Region was already doing to expand broadband.

The lack of adequate and timely healthcare services not only defies the objectives stipulated in the Canada Health Act, but threatens the health and quality of life of everyone. As Durham region continues to wait for a new hospital and urgent care centre (through Lakeridge Health), the process and timeline mirror the challenges faced in healthcare throughout the province. Meanwhile, the Town of Whitby and the Region march forward and invite new physicians and healthcare workers to the area through various incentive and training programs, in partnership with our local colleges and universities.

More directly, the governments also have key resources and funding opportunities to support your business, regardless of whether you are a sole proprietor or a large corporation. There are practical grants and programing that can help grow your business, to name a few:

  1. the Social Finance Fund,
  2. utilizing the free government services of the Business Advisory Centre Durham (200-3000 Garden Street, Whitby, Ontario L1R 2G6),
  3. the Canada Digital Adoption Program; or
  4. the Work Share Program.

The discussions at the Roundtable confirmed that while we have a long way to go, we have also accomplished a lot as a Region in recent years. Moving forward, by increasing our capacities, we can practically take on new opportunities.

As business owners who want to see Durham thrive, I believe it is invaluable to 1) hold our leaders accountable to strategic investments that will secure a brighter future, and 2) learn about and utilize the opportunities already available. Check out the Business Benefits Finder to search for funding and services your business may qualify for.

And as a member of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, I also invite you to share your vision for Durham’s future with us. Together, we can better advocate for Durham’s future and growth more effectively.


– Preeti Sangwan, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Whitby Chamber of Commerce