As John Henry officially became Durham region’s new chair, he says there is a “dark cloud” hanging over the eight municipalities he now presides over — the plans to shut down the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont.
At the region’s headquarters in Whitby, Ont., former Durham chair Gerri Lynn O’Connor handed the chains of office to Henry at his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday morning. But, Henry says just hours before that, he visited the head of Durham College to discuss plans to support the thousands of GM workers who may lose their jobs.
“We were very lucky that we were given a year’s notice,” Henry said of GM’s announcement last week, saying it plans to close the Oshawa location by the end of next year. “We started working on the day after the announcement.”
Henry, who spent the last eight years as Oshawa’s mayor and won his new title by a landslide vote, has handed off his old role to Dan Carter, a former Oshawa councillor. Carter says he’s hopeful the plant will stay put.
“We have to make sure that we never forget about the individuals are impacted by this announcement — the men, the women, the children… not only in our city of Oshawa but all across the region of Durham,” Carter said.
The president of Unifor Local 222, which represents thousands of workers at the Oshawa plant, says if GM puts the brakes on the plant, it will cost the region more than 5,000 jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs.
Henry says the councillors and mayors within Durham Region will work together as a team to support those who will be affected by the closure.
“I’m hoping that we stay united,” he said.
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