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OPG moving its HQ east of Toronto

It’s hard to imagine Clarington’s mayor any happier.

Adrian Foster is speaking to me moments after the official announcement that 2,000 jobs are about to be plopped down in his town of about 93,000 people.

Ontario Power Generation is centralizing its offices and moving headquarters from downtown Toronto — at the corner of College and University — to an empty field next to the OPG training facility on Energy Drive.

Located just east of Oshawa, the addition of all these jobs is music to the ears of local politicians after the GM shutdown.

While 1,200 of the jobs moving to the Clarington site are already scattered throughout Durham, the other 800 will come from Toronto and elsewhere in the GTA, even as far away as the Niagara Region.

Foster wants all those new workers to consider making Clarington home.

“This is a phenomenal community, twenty minutes from anywhere,” Foster said.

“If you want to be on the beach you can be on the beach. If you want to apple pick or berry pick it is 20 minutes from home. If you want to golf it is 20 minutes from home.”

From camping to fishing to cycling, Foster is selling the experience of living in Clarington as an outdoor paradise on the eastern edge of the GTA.

That might be part of the lure for those leaving jobs in the downtown core.

OPG long ago sold off their HQ at College and University, now they lease the space they need but between losing that space and and the various offices from Niagara through Durham they hope to cut their annual office space charge in half.

Right now the various offices that OPG operates in the region cost about $26 million a year, they expect that to drop to $13 million a year in operating costs, that’s even taking into account what could be generous moving allowances.

In 2013 Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk detailed some crazy moving expenses for OPG employees.

One employee moved 10 kilometres from Toronto to Pickering, further away from the job site, and was still granted an $80,000 moving allowance.

Another employee transferred offices and was rewarded generously according to the AG’s report when he “received over $392,000 in housing and moving allowances and related reimbursements from OPG, on top of the proceeds of $354,000 from the sale of his old residence.”

Nice work if you can get it.

Will that happen this time?

OPG isn’t willing to say, at least not outside of the executive suite.

I don’t expect anyone to pay anything for me,” said OPG President Ken Hartwick.

Hartwick currently lives in Milton and doesn’t expect consumers to pay for him to move if he chooses.

He implied the same should apply across the executive suite, many of whom could sell homes in Toronto at a substantial gain only to buy bigger, yet cheaper homes in Clarington.

As for the unionized workforce, Hartwick said the contracts in place will apply and even with moving costs, savings will be released.

“We have collective agreements for different groups of our employees which we would obviously respect,” Hartwick said.

“When we look at the savings that we can achieve here, it factors in the real savings we can achieve.”

That he says, includes any moving costs that must be paid.

Let’s hope so.

One spinoff that the provincial government and the municipal government hope can be achieved is the idea that this region will now become a hub for energy, nuclear energy in particular, but others sectors as well.

“This is going to attract a lot of jobs here,” said Ontario Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy.

For a man normally focused on savings, looking at the bright picture across the horizon tells you that for the Eastern GTA, this is a big announcement with huge potential.

Let’s hope it delivers.

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