Talking Rotary

Rotary In The Community

February 21, 2022 Winnipeg Charleswood Rotary Club Season 2 Episode 10
Rotary In The Community
Talking Rotary
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Talking Rotary
Rotary In The Community
Feb 21, 2022 Season 2 Episode 10
Winnipeg Charleswood Rotary Club

On this episode we talk Rotary with John Henry the Chair of The Durham Region. John talks about how he and his team manage one of the largest municipal governments in Canada and how Rotary impacts that community.

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode we talk Rotary with John Henry the Chair of The Durham Region. John talks about how he and his team manage one of the largest municipal governments in Canada and how Rotary impacts that community.

Peter Tonge:

Welcome to this episode of Talking Rotary. I'm Peter Tonge and I'm a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood.

Mandy Kwasnica:

And I'm Mandy Kwasnica Past President and also a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Charleswood, when we are so happy you have joined us here and I are so excited for this new podcast and thankful to our many listeners, let's start Talking Rotary.

Peter Tonge:

Randy, we just had a great conversation with John Henry.

Randy Nickerson:

Well, I've known John for quite a long time now I followed his political career. But more than that, I, I've been able to sit down and talk to him as a friend. And his knowledge of history is always what struck me as being very interesting. He knows pretty much everything about the Durham Region.

Peter Tonge:

It was a good education for me because as somebody that doesn't live in Ontario, we're all Toronto focused, and there's so much more going on in that area other than Toronto and John was able to give us an insight into the communities around Toronto.

Randy Nickerson:

Well, and especially with Durham taking up more physical space than Toronto. And it's it's no longer the sleepy town that people go home to after work. You know, it's a it's, it's a, just on population. It's that's the difference. I mean, I think Toronto has roughly two and a half million people in the GTA and hole is about 4 million people. But John has an influence on a large part of the REIT like just of the Greater Toronto Area that helps people work. And businesses locate and he cares. He's He's a true politician that cares.

Peter Tonge:

Yeah, I really got the impression that he got into politics to try to make a difference in this community. And that's nice to see.

Randy Nickerson:

It really has and it is a bit of a pleasure, not just a pleasure, but a privilege to to know Him.

Peter Tonge:

Absolutely. Morning, everyone. Welcome to another episode of talking Rotary. I'm Peter Gong. I'm here with our guest host Randy Nickerson. And we're here with the carrier of the Durham Region. John Henry. Good morning, John, how are you?

John Henry:

Good morning. It's great to be here with you today.

Peter Tonge:

As I was just saying, we have listeners from all over the world. So can you tell us about the Durham Region?

John Henry:

Well, you know, Durham Region is is the fastest growing region in Ontario right now. I'm incredibly proud of that. We're, we're we're adjacent. We share the Rouge river with the City of Toronto. So we're to the east of Toronto. And we cover 2500 square kilometers, and we're made up of eight municipalities. And to give you the idea of how big region is city auto would fit in this valley of Barrington. So, you know, we have high density along the lake shores, we agricultural and rural living in the north. In between all that we have some of the most amazing businesses in all of Canada.

Randy Nickerson:

I think John, you once said to me that P is about the size of Durham,

John Henry:

Durham Region is about half the size of Prince Edward Island, but we're a little bit bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Peter Tonge:

There you go.

Randy Nickerson:

So, John, I have a question. And not even a question just a bit of a statement. When I first met you, I was just so surprised that your knowledge of history of the region, and I've always been interested in how you you came to know all this stuff like and do you have a photographic memory or something because you know everything?

John Henry:

Well, I wish I could retain more information but I'm really proud of the region. As most people know, in Durham, I was born in Oshawa. But my business career allowed me to work in all parts of the region and outside of Durham as well. And and through my times, in business and in in politics. I've had the opportunity to meet some of the some of the greatest people you'd ever want to meet from, from the small entrepreneurs that have turned their businesses into huge businesses, to you know, presidents of companies, General Motors or OPG. And what they are done. And then you know, there's a lot of history in our communities our agricultural community is is simply amazing. Not only do we keep the lights on for about 33% of the province of Ontario through our OPG partners in Pickering and Darlington, but our agricultural community is huge. And Durham is still grows a lot of food for people in Durham region, but also the province of Ontario and across Canada.

Peter Tonge:

So a lot of the agriculture not only serves your region, but gets exported outside as well.

John Henry:

Oh, absolutely. Whether it's, you know, eggs or, or apples or beef, or wheat DERM has so many things to offer. And, you know, in Durham, you can live along the Lakeshore and, you know, basically in 10 minutes, we'll be able to like picking your own basketball. It is it is such an amazing thing to see. And, you know, about 80% of our region is is in the Greenbelt. So, you know, huge, huge environmental footprint, how we recharge the air and all the good things that Durham Region can do for the province. But you know, the talents of workers, you know, health care, we're leaders in health care, we have one of the finest cancer centers in the country. You know, we're leaders in education, through Ontario tech and Trent University in Durham College. And then you look at advanced manufacturing. And it's not just about the auto industry, and I'm happy to say that General Motors is building trucks against or will be shortly in in Durham, but it's all the other things that go on to make Durham One of the most fascinating places to live. And the greatest opportunities, I think, for young people in the country are right here in Durham Region right now.

Peter Tonge:

That's, that's really interesting. But what are some of the challenges in the region?

John Henry:

Oh, well, right now, like, like the rest of the world, we're challenged with COVID. And trying to manage that. And the sheer size of the region is the challenge too, because, you know, on a, on a fall day, you know, towards the end of end of middle of November, you can have weather in the north where you might be getting snow, and along the Lakeshore, the Sonship guiding the region is that large. So there's a lot of moving pieces here at the region. You know, we operate along our Lakeshore, we have water treatment plants and water pumping plants, and drinking water plants. But in the north, we manage wells, and we manage different types of waste treatments. And so there's, there's lots of interesting thing. And we own four long term facilities and, and we're about to build a fifth that we own and we operate. So you know, we look after our residents, in all eight municipalities. And together, when you put all the pieces of the pie together, you get the region of Europe.

Peter Tonge:

So how many people are sort of fall under that umbrella.

John Henry:

So are right now our populations, about 704,000 people. And if you follow the news, you'll you'll find that in the next 15 years or so our population will double as things and land gets more expensive in Toronto or doesn't exist anymore. The opportunities for businesses to move out to Durham along the Pickering innovation corridor, the 407. In different parts of the region, we still have land. And of course, we have all kinds of residential development, high density residential, we're building homes, we're you know, we give people the opportunity to come out and then live in Durham and you know, we've promote our transit system, Metro, our go train system, hopefully, we get to go train out to Clarington. And, you know, that's exciting because we're going to be able to build the first Trent truly transit oriented village on a greenfield on the Metrolinx line. And we're excited about that. And we're excited with the opportunities for, for people to raise their families here in the community, what Durham has to offer.

Randy Nickerson:

So, you know, John, I've probably known you for about 12 years now. And I've always, you're always doing things, what's your most proud accomplishment so far in your political life?

John Henry:

Oh, you know, there, there would be many. But I think what I'm proud of is the fact that, you know, we're, we're looking to the future and what we need to do 10 years from today. And we know that as as growth comes that we need to do certain things. So, you know, there probably isn't a week go by that we don't do something that I'm incredibly proud of. But right now, I think for us and Durham, being part of General Motors moving back to Durham Region is incredibly exciting, because of course everyone knows that just three years ago, the plant closed and they stopped making vehicles and then as the world started to change and as as Electrical electricity got less expensive in Ontario, General Motors looked at their opportunities. And I'm proud to say there'll be building trucks there this year. Hopefully, if we get the computer chip problem solved, that we'll be building building trucks in that plant. And that plant has a huge history here, you know, it's been, you know, you go back to the days of Iris McLaughlin and his family, you know, automobile manufacturing in Durham Region. And Joshua has gone on well, you know, over 100 years, and what we've been able to do as a as a community, of course, General Motors is located in Oshawa. But the people that work there come from all over the region. And, you know, we have made a difference in times of difficult times in the world. Of course, during World War Two, the amount of materials and vehicles that came out of general fruit was huge. And then we've continued to evolve that and then part of the economy of Canada for a very long period of time. And now that we're building vehicles, again, it's a great opportunity in the automotive sector, not just for us, but all those talented people that, that put cars together, but also make the parts that go into car. And it's it's not just an auto story, because parts are made all over North. So whatever happens in Oshawa, creates jobs and other communities. And that's, you know, that building the Cancer Center in Oshawa was was an amazing, amazing story, how it had been stalled and how we were able to get it back on track. And now it's one of the finest centers in the country, in our community. And, you know, our story is is not really told well, because we live in the shadow of toronto, toronto news takes precedent. But I just really want to say that the sun touches Durham early in the morning before it, Toronto, and Durham Durham's a pretty amazing place, you know, and it has a future that is very, very bright, and I'm excited to be part of breeding that future and look forward to it each and every,

Randy Nickerson:

how many jobs will be created with the plant reopening John, and I mean, not just the, in the factory, but the subsidiary plants as well?

John Henry:

Well, the rule was, so it's about 1500 jobs at General Motors, but then the rule of thumb if you listen to people for every automotive job in the plant, great seven spin off jobs out in the community. So that's an exciting story. And at the same time, we're talking about the great news at General Motors, we're also talking about Durham Region being the energy capital of Canada. And, you know, we're home to, you know, Pickering and Darlington, the nuclear plants, who were also as Pickering becomes decommissioned will be a center of excellence for decommissioning, nuclear, and then, as you follow the world of small modular nuclear reactors, and what's going on in Darlington, that, that is just an amazing story. And the jobs and the opportunities that will spin out from that will be will be unbelievable. So now, we've got, you know, those two projects going on, but we've got, you know, major corporations relocating their headquarters to their region, because they can find the talent that they need to operate there. And they can find the land to build, build a space. You know, we've got Botha and Toyota, our agricultural community is still growing. You know, we grow we're leaders in the apples and eggs and all kinds of amazing things. And that story about three out of a region and all the things that desktop.

Peter Tonge:

John, I'm curious about, we've talked several times in the last few minutes about all this growth, how as administrators and as governments you manage all this growth?

John Henry:

Well, you know, the great there's a great story, when you hire really talented people and you empower them to do do what they do best, they do great things. So here at the region, we have 1000 employees. And you know, we look after a number of things from the wastewater to pumping water, drinking water to to roads, and in long term care facilities, policing and paramedics and the daycare and all the things along with that in here we've got an amazing team and and they've come together and they're doing great things even during COVID We didn't close because everything that we do is considered so we were able to keep our everything running 1600 People were pulling from not from the minister, five Ross Protista where I work. If you called in today, you wouldn't see hiccup. You would get to the first thing that you need that would help you with the challenge you have whether it be a water pipe on your on your property that's leaking or you are calling for support from our paramedics or our police departments. You're not fun Are you recipients of benefits of the Reach supplies? We're still very much open for business.

Randy Nickerson:

Is there talk of a new hospital coming into the region as well, John.

John Henry:

So it's an exciting story. And there is talk, and it's more than talk, that Durham Region is going to need a third our population doubles hospital to meet the needs. And right now, it's in the, in the discussion stages where the municipalities that are interested or are putting together their bid, or their information packets for the hospital. So we have Pickering, with the and Oshawa all vying to have that hospital in their communities. So it's there's a process it's step by the province, but it's exciting and you know, down the road as it unfolds, you don't build a hospital overnight, so it's going to take years, but same time the growth of the region's is happening. So in the meantime, we're investing in our hospitals. And then we'll be continuing to reinvest in partnership with the province in our community in hospital, throat, throat, Durham to meet those needs. And of course, we're there when the new hospital is announced. And it will be there as a as a partner working through our grants program that we have at the region to make sure the contribution is there.

Peter Tonge:

That's really, really interesting. Now, this is a Rotary International podcast. So I'm wondering how service clubs and Rotary International contribute to the region.

John Henry:

You know, I'm really proud I was getting ready for the actually trying to figure out figure out when my first date or rotary meeting was and, and it was in 1919 88. I was invited by our, at that time, the, the company that I was a partner in, we had an outside consultant that did our computer work, and his name was Mike Cooper. Mike was a Rotarian in the wimpy sunrise club, and he invited me out to rotary. And it only took me that really that first meeting to sit back and say, this is a great organization. And my first I went to with these guys, Rotary Club and was there for a long, a few years, and then I got married, and it worked out for me. So I transferred to the AASHTO rotary club where I've been a member there for over 25 years. And rotary is one of these organizations that just gets things done. And long before politics, I was a Rotarian for well, for number 15 years, maybe 20 years where we we just did really good thing you know, we do some we do service projects, where we would actually answer if we, you know, when with the we built because he will did all the interlocking around because people at the lake we did really good project that allowed us to do that. And then we continue to do things. So the work that the club I'm in now the AASHTO Rotary Club is done with with Air Cadet unbelievable. And where those young people on do amazing thing, some of those kids that that, you know, you met when they were very young have gone on to, to do great things, not only in the military, but in, in, in, in the world in general where they, they go off and they're working in other countries as teachers or, you know, they're flying FAA teams or they're working in the business communities. Rotary really does. And, you know, we fund so many really great causes, we do so many environmental things. One of the great projects I did in the Oshawa Rotary Club was with under the leadership of Fred Chu, who was my high school principal and a long time ago and and he had this plan to build a butterfly. So if you go over on to increase Dr. We look at the where the rotary gardens are and the butterfly metal that's there. You know, we planted about 18,000 plant specific butterflies into into the community and it is absolutely unbelievable, what was done and it was done in partnership with the architects. The work we did over by children's arena where the Rotary Clubs helped pay for a bridge that connected connected our Botanical Gardens to the gardens on the other side, but rotary built memory gardens and then we built the busy COVID And then the continued involvement in Rotary. If you look at the history history of the Akbar Rotary Club, that we have the members of that club as part of the history of Asha, they were the people that own businesses employ people. They went in they ran the AASHTO affair that in the beginning when the club first formed that actually closed the streets downtown on the events and it was huge. And in here that's been replaced by I would think rip pass rusher was in Amazing job with Rebecka, Rotary clubs across the region, hold these amazing events where our public can come out. And not only have a great evening and get food, but also can hear about the value of Rotary. But we still, you know, attract people to club and join because of what we do in the community.

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Randy Nickerson:

John, I hear you're a brand new grandpa, How is that making you feel?

John Henry:

well, it knows that it makes me that I'm no longer invincible. You know what it was, I was very lucky in my in my business life in my other life to do some pretty amazing things. Not only here in Canada, but in throughout the United States. And in down in the island of Bonaire when I was younger, and, you know, I, I look at those times, and and of all the things they did, I came home and I met Kathy, my wife. And, you know, I'm proud to say that we've been putting in it seems like the first year we were married. It's amazing. And now I've watched my girls grow up and go on and do great things. And both my daughters were exposed Rotary at a very early age, they were at events that we would go to, they would come out to the barbecues, they come out to the working events. They know that the value of rotary service above self, and they both follow the best I know. And now I'm a grandpa and is easy. And you know, I look at, you know, one of the things we have with the just Gosh, my daughter, just their husband, they live in Petawawa. They're members of our Canadian Armed Forces, proud of the work that they do. But there's five hours away. So we started morning with the our photo of the day, and we're able to keep connected. You know, during the day, we get we get, you know, I'm excited to because my other daughter talked about, you know, she's just released that she also will be grandparents in the new year. And now I want to do more. I want to make sure we can do more with the environment. Rotary, has done an amazing job with polio. And, you know, the only organization in the world that could have taken on the challenge of eradicating polio and do the great work they did was a service club. And it was, you know, the partnerships, they farmed with, you know, Bill Gates in his foundation and the matching dollars, but the commitment to eradicate a disease around the world was done by volunteers. And that's what rotary is about. You know, we're down to two countries where we're, you know, the disease exists. Polio is in Afghanistan, on a shared border. And there'll be a time in our lifetime in our lifetime, when we'll have been able to stand up and say we were part of this, and we defeated this and then hopefully that and I can see it because when you read the Rotarian it look at the commitments in the environment that Rotary Clubs are making on the world and the changes that we're making. And we can do that because we're, we're connected, we care, and we don't, don't we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We don't sit. And we whether it was this year's project about, you know, doing a cleanup around around the Great Lakes, or what how they organize, you know, people to go out and do that. And, you know, I think the last tally, there were some point 20,000 people involved in the, in the Great Lake of cleanup that place back in, I think, April, May, I was proud to be part of that. And, you know, the little bit that each one of us does makes a huge difference going forward in the future. The challenges of the future are going to need people from from the rotary world that roll up their sturdy on really projects. I'm excited but and the future for rotary. The world needs service clubs more now than ever before. That we need to help our partners that I can speak as an elected official. It is a challenge for us to do everything. But if you look at the work that rotary and the other service clubs are doing in our communities, we could never film. The work that they do is simply amazing. The guidance that they give to the community, the people that Rotarians employ and work with so all the educators that that are Rotarians that you know invested time and people like me I mentioned Ken ridge. But you know, Tom Hodgins was the vice principal. While I was in people like my friend Tom Fitzsimmons, who passed away not too long ago who was in in in the Lippie, thrice club and the great work that he did in education, and in the people that they touched on have gone on to change the world. And that's exciting. That's the impact of Rotary.

Peter Tonge:

Yeah, it really, really does. John, whenever I'm chatting with a politician, I have to ask the question, you were a successful business person, what possessed you to put yourself forward into politics and into that world?

John Henry:

Well, you know, it's funny, and I often talk about in my private sector life, I owned I was partners in a lot large office equipment and fixtures company. And we did project management work for companies. So if you had a project and and there was a challenge, you call us, you'd hire us, my partner would send me in, and I'd help you resolve those problems. So one day I was, I was coming home from from work and the Cancer Center in Oshawa was having some difficulties being built. And it all there was a politics involved in in in in this party was in Oshawa. At the time, there was challenges. And I talked to my wife, Kathy, who was a pharmacist who was explaining why I was disappointed in the direction it was going. And Kathy just simply turned to me. And she said, companies hire you to fix their problems. Why don't you run in the election and go fix them. So I ran for office and lost my first attempt, and then the problem didn't resolve itself. So I ran again, and 1am proud to say that we were able to work with with the challenges and the hospital and the Cancer Center was built. And the involvement with Queen's University and in the Learn center and Lake Ridge Golf in Oshawa, which is which is an amazing hospital and, and even not only in the center, but during through COVID. The great work that they've done through the Region of Durham has simply been unbelievable to everyone from from the doctors and nurses, the maintenance people that have made it made dealing coat with COVID, much easier for us than the chest. I can't thank you enough. And then, you know, it came to the point where you know it the problem was fit. And then, you know, an opportunity come along to run for mayor and, and my wife with her support said, Well, you know, you've done this, why don't you try this. So I was very lucky in two terms as the mayor of Oshawa, and now I'm the chair of the Region of Durham. But it has been a real privilege to serve my community not only as a Rotarian, but as elected

Mandy Kwasnica:

Talking Rotary is a proud supporter of shelter box, which is an international disaster relief charity, that hand delivers the emergency shelter, and tools families need to self recover after natural disasters and conflicts around the world. Shelterbox is proud to be rotary International's project partner in disaster relief, further strengthening a global circle of friendship. Together Shelterbox and rotary are transforming despair, into hope for families after disaster. Learn more by visiting Shelterbox canada.org.

Peter Tonge:

I appreciate that. Because I always I always like to ask because it seems like a difficult thing to make that decision to put yourself forward for your community. So

Randy Nickerson:

And I've always wanted to ask him that theater but I've just never had the chance. Well, I know.

John Henry:

Well, it is because in order to run for office, it really has to be a family, a family coming together. I without the support of my wife, Kathy, I could never do the support of my kids. Because my kids were when I decided to run for office, we're still in high school. You know it, you're out a lot, you're away you you miss things, but they understand how important you know making our my community a better place to live. And, and I've been lucky. You know, I've worked with some amazing people in my private sector life. That's some very talented people that invested time in me, especially my teacher that saw something in me that I didn't see you know, in in it. I have this great story when I became there. I received a bouquet of chocolate bars from my grade a teacher. And you know, I was I was shocked to get it. And in the card, it's that gone. I always knew you would do something. And I sit back and reflect on on on that teacher on a regular basis, how I may have challenged her in school, but how she never gave up on me. And in that this is my way to thank people for that. Every person that you know every did business with me that invested time in with me, and my partners and business, my friends and rotary and the business community that it always moved me along and challenged me to do more, and opportunity to say thank you.

Randy Nickerson:

Well, and I think, Peter, I'm going to get John to answer this. What's your calling card? John,

Unknown:

if you were to come to my office to meet me, you would get an Oh, Henry chocolate bar.

Peter Tonge:

Make a point of it. Next time I'm in the area. I will go a long way for a chocolate bar.

Randy Nickerson:

Oh, I'm just really proud of John. I'm proud that I know him. He's come to my camera club and done some speaking for us at our year end event. It's just been a privilege to know him.

Peter Tonge:

Thanks, John, I appreciate the work that you're doing there in Durham and helping us and our listeners learn about DERM. Because you guys live in the region. And you understand it is new to the rest of us. So that's great. But I always have we only have one standard question in our podcast. And that is you've been involved in rotary for many, many years. What keeps you coming back? If you could do Why do you keep coming back to rotary?

John Henry:

Well, you know, when I look at Rotary, one is the friendships. So my closest friends that I have are Rotarians. Going back, you know well over 30 years now. And I think is the opportunity. The gift of service above self. Everybody rotary gives you an opportunity to get together with like minded people who want to do really good things for their communities. It doesn't matter where you live in the world, you're a Rotarian, you're making a difference. Whether you're working in a soup kitchen, or you're helping to clean up, you know, a park that's got garbage in it, or you're putting a safe drinking system in or you're traveling through back, the back parts of the world delivering the polio vaccine Rotarians are carrying, you know, they're out there, you don't do it, or anything other than the fact for roads. And, you know, Rotary is kind of unique, because to be a volunteer rotaries and organizations also have to pay dues, and number of people that, you know, continue every year to pay their dues, and then come out what equity back to their communities, to do amazing things is a great store. And I think, the fellowship, and the service, if you have really good fellowship, you will always have in the clubs, there's always been really great. I encourage them. And in the meantime, I encourage us to find a project that makes a difference in the community. Even if it's just a Saturday morning, where you decide you're going to go and clean up the waterfront, pick up that garbage work with your municipality, have them come and take it away when you're done. We as a group of people can do big things, and I'm proud of that. And rotary can Rotary has made the lives of people around the world people that you never will meet, never, never will see. And you know, we we do that and we we get what we do with thanks and love in our hearts. So I'm excited about the future of what free can do. And you just think of all the people that rotaries around the kids go to school or I mentioned our Air Cadets or the money that we put back to different projects within our communities that help build our communities. We're community builders. And we're changemakers. And we've proven that over and over and over again and when there's difficult times around the world, you know, Rotary comes together to make sure that we can make a difference in the lives of challenges. And you know, when you look at our program where we send boxes, and utensils on the world, things that you need in the event of emergency that that's a great program, and I'm proud to be part of that as well.

Mandy Kwasnica:

Thank you so much for joining us on another great episode of talking Rotary. We would love to hear from you. Please send us your comments and story ideas and you can share with us easily by sending us an email at feedback at talking rotary.org Let's keep talking Rotary.