Trim, fit, youthful, Dr Colin Carrie lounges with languid ease at his desk in his Simcoe Street, Oshawa office, focused, attentive, intent on the conversation. Although his demeanor reflects a calm, collected, confident mindset, his face and voice reveal a careful concern for Oshawa.
He’s facing one of the greatest tests of his leadership character. It’s a dark hour for his city. His leadership now is to comfort and lead Oshawa’s navigation into the future, in the face of a staggering challenge.
He is granting the Millionaire Mindset magazine our exclusive yearend interview, his warmth filling the room with a gracious welcome, his calming voice a reassurance that Oshawa under his leadership would pull through any crisis.
Dr Carrie works with passion, zeal and dynamic energy as the elected Canadian Member of Parliament for Oshawa. Eyes alert with interest, smile ever present, Dr Carrie walks the city with ease, for he is a household name among his constituents. In his 14th consecutive year as elected MP in the Canadian Parliament, 56-year old, slightly balding, he stands tall, confident, assured. Dr Carrie knows what his leadership means for the city, for Ontario, and for Canada. His life is a mission of service to the Canadian society.
We were talking to Dr Carrie in the midst of devastating news for Oshawa. General Motors, the iconic company that had dominated the city for 100 plus years, had announced the weekend before our interview that its massive automobile plant would shut down permanently. Three-million square feet of industrial manufacturing space on the city’s vibrant waterfront would come to a grinding halt, stunning the socioeconomic life of the city into shocking silence.
Dr Carrie feels the pain. GM’s sudden announcement of its shut down, to be over and done with within a year, in latter 2019, launched 2,500 workers at its plant into uncertain economic waters. The city could ill afford such a massive lay off for families who had trusted that their entire working life would be secured as GM workers.
The pain penetrates deeper into Dr Carrie’s soul because Oshawa stands proud and strong as an automobile city. Oshawa’s love affair with automobile manufacturing started in the early 1900s when Robert McLaughlin launched his horse carriage transportation service – the first taxi service in the city, and then a car manufacturing plant. That McLaughlin auto plant eventually became General Motor’s car manufacturing factory, employing the 1980s upwards of 40,000 people. Car manufacturing made the city.
And the era suddenly, without warning, with a harsh bang on the brake, slammed shut. Dr Carrie feels that loss with intense emotion.
He believes poor leadership at the Federal Government caused the GM era to end.
Dr Colin Carrie plans to run again for another term as Oshawa’s Member of Parliament, in federal elections this year. He has already served under three Canadian Prime Ministers and is now one of the longest-serving current Member of Parliament in Ottawa. Dr Carrie won five elections so far, and is heading into his sixth this year. With such deep experience and vast knowledge of federal politics, his leadership gifts Oshawa with a fine asset to the city, and to Ontario and Canada. His public service to Oshawa is without parallel.
What’s the secret to his longevity as a politician, even when his Conservative Party lost to the Liberals in the last Federal elections, with many of his colleagues losing? “Without the support of my wife and children, I would not be able to do this job,” he said. He credits his wife, Elizabeth, for being his biggest cheerleader. His oldest son, Liam, 25, graduates med school next year, while his second child, Aiden, 23, wants to become a Game Developer, and his youngest, daughter Grace, 16, is still in high school.
Plus, he loves Oshawa. Dr Carrie grew up in a military family, his father serving in the Canadian Navy. “So we moved around a lot when I was a child. At 15 years old, my family settled in Oshawa, and I have been here ever since,” he said, adding that “my family is very Canadian”, with its diversity of beliefs and lifestyles.
He’s seen Oshawa become diverse over the years, the face of the city gradually changing as development extended into the deep north-end, farms giving way to residential developments and superstores. But “GM was always there. It’s so sad it came to an end now. I never, ever thought that Oshawa would be without GM,” Dr Carrie said. In this, he echoes the sentiment of every Oshawa resident, as nobody alive now knows an Oshawa without GM.
Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Dr Carrie as MP took charge of the greenbelt along Rouge River, extending and developing the environmental conservation area into an iconic Ontario landmark. However, now, as Opposition MP, “my role is limited to basically be a critic in Parliament. And my main preoccupation is fighting for Oshawa jobs. At our constituency office and going out into the community, we listen to people, and take what they say back to Parliament,” he said.
The Conservative MP stands with his Party Leader, Andrew Sheer, in strong opposition to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policies. For example, Dr Carrie labeled the $650M that Canada announced would be doled out to Media houses as an aid package for professional journalism to thrive, as a “bribe, in an election year”.
Dr Carrie mentioned factors that hamper the work of democracy, for example, “political correctness scares off some politicians… and social media causes people to be extra cautious”.
But he serves with confidence that the people of Oshawa know him, understand his heart of service, and trust him to do and be the best MP possible. Indeed, in his time as MP, he’s seen a “resurgent Oshawa. I’ve learned that it’s significant to listen to the community. It’s always important to listen. Because together we’re strong. Canada is the best country in the world. And it is a great honor for me to serve in this country and this city and Province. It’s a humbling experience,” Dr Carrie said.
Before jumping into the political arena, Dr Carrie graduated and worked as a Chiropractor in Oshawa.
So how did he decide to move from being a Chiropractor, to become an MP?
“My Dad, Charlie Carrie, as a Navy, believed strongly in public service. He instilled that value in me. I grew up reading about Canadians in military service, and they gained my utmost respect. Freedom is not free; there’s a cost for it. I came to admire public service”.
Today, Dr Carrie’s Mom, Margaret, is 91 years old, having raised an exceptional Canadian family as a stay-at-home Mom.
So, is Dr Carrie worried about Oshawa’s future given the historic shutting down of the GM plant, closing the door on an industry that served the city for 100 plus years?
He wants to pressure Prime Minister Trudeau and Ottawa to take the matter seriously and to either replace GM with a jobs strategy for the workers who face unemployment or resuscitate a new operation at the GM site.
However, Dr Carrie loves that Oshawa has been diversifying its economy over the years. Today, as MP he has seen the city become the only Teaching City in North America, and fast growing into a Knowledge Hub in Southern Ontario, with the presence of three universities, and four Private Career Colleges. The MP plays a key role in the rapid global reputation of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), which is fuelling a massive development transformation of north Oshawa.
Oshawa is attracting overall investment of upwards of two billion dollars, including a supermall development close to the 407 highway, along with several other signature projects in the works.
Since he was first elected as MP in 2004, “I am pleased to be the MP who brought significant Federal government investment into the City. The Automotive Center of Excellence at Durham College, our Student Centers, the Regent Theatre, the 407, 401, 412, all these highways connecting every part of the City with the rest of Ontario and Canada, we made sure these developments happened, working with the Province. We’ve got the Deepwater Harbour, the Oshawa Airport, Railway systems – Oshawa is now one of the most diverse transportation hubs in Canada. I worked with Jim Flaherty (the late former Canadian Finance Minister) to invest in universities and colleges. We helped build UOIT,” he said.
Now, with GM’s closure, Dr Carrie is turning his leadership focus on Oshawa becoming a vibrant Knowledge Society. “We want to see Durham Region be prepared for the coming Knowledge Economy,” he said.
Dr Carrie developed a reputation as the Infrastructure MP, for leading the construction of several infrastructure projects in Oshawa, including the signature deepwater port on the city’s waterfront. “We spent billions of dollars in the city – including the bailout to GM,” he said.
“I feel great for what I have been able to do for Oshawa as its MP,” Dr Carrie said.
Now, he is overseeing the historic transformation of the city from an automobile manufacturing hub, into a global knowledge society. As one era shuts down, generating angst and concern among leaders and residents, Dr Carrie stands strong, steady, sure, in leading Oshawa to a new future. Just as Robert McLaughlin reinvented the city with automobiles in the early 1900s, Dr Carrie as MP could oversee the reinvention of Oshawa as a 21st century Knowledge Hub in the emerging global Knowledge Economy.