Some city residents have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Canadian Automotive Museum (CAM) to right what they see as a wrong.
They say the CAM receives a grant of $5,000 and pays a municipal tax of $20,000 annually. On top of that, the grant is not a “given”. It has to be applied for every year.
The City of Oshawa is being asked to waive the tax or give a grant equal to the amount of the municipal tax.
Canadian Automotive Museum is a not-for-profit museum, located in the heart of downtown Oshawa since 1963. This volunteer-led museum has been rated the number one thing to do in Oshawa, according to Trip Advisor. Oshawa’s own ‘Doors Open’ program rated it as the number one place visited. As a tourist draw, it has an economic impact on downtown Oshawa.
Residents fear if the tax is not waived, the museum may be forced to take on corporate sponsors, or move to other parts of Durham – and that would be tragic.
“The history of the automotive industry in the region is in Oshawa where RS McLaughlin first started it, followed by General Motors. The auto workers have donated to the museum,” says Doug Sanders, a former city councillor and a leading advocate for support to CAM. “The museum also hosts the history of Unifor Local 222 family auxiliary, which shut down and transferred is archives to CAM.
“We’re trying to see everybody sends enough letters to the council to waive the tax fee. It is the museum’s second largest expense. The museum is a draw for downtown. It is an economic issue. I’m afraid if it doesn’t get support it might move to another location within Durham which offers a location as well as waiving of fees and other options,” Sanders told Durham Post.
He said since 1990, the museum’s funding has been cut from $20,000 per year, to only $5,000 in 2021. “This is the only museum in Oshawa that pays more in municipal taxes, around $20,000 per year.”
“I believe, as well as others, that the City of Oshawa should waive the tax amount or provide a grant for an equal amount. This is Canada’s only museum that is dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Canada’s automotive industry, located right here in our city of Oshawa,” adds Sanders.
Linda Powers, a resident wrote a letter to Oshawa City Council asking for permanent funding or financial support, because “Automotive Heritage is part of the fabric of life in Oshawa”.
“We have so many families with generations that have worked in the auto industry, or industries related to the auto industry. We need to honour and respect their many social, financial and cultural contributions to our city by ensuring that the Canadian Automotive Museum receives the proper financial support it so deserves,” says Power.
“Museums are so important in telling and protecting our collective story, and our story in Oshawa is the auto industry and our Canadian Automotive Museum reflects that important story. The Canadian Automotive Museum has struggled financially over the past number of years especially during the last two covid years. But, in spite of that, it has remained a great place for people to visit in downtown Oshawa,” she pointed out.
“We presently have such a grim downtown with the issues of homelessness being left unaddressed by our city and regional governments and the closing of stores and restaurants due to covid. We can not lose the CAM because it is one of the very few bright and entertaining spots remaining. It is also a wonderful place for families to visit together and runs some excellent programs that attract tourists from all over,” she said asking: “And what city does not support their museums in some permanent way?”
“Oshawa’s downtown will truly die if the Canadian Automotive Museum has to close for lack of support from the city. We do not need any more stores, restaurants or attractions to close in downtown Oshawa. Our Canadian Automotive Museum is an award winning museum and needs to stay in Oshawa,” Power points out.
Bruce Baird, another resident said: “With the proper funding, CAM can bring thousands more of day tourists to Oshawa”.
“I feel the city should be supporting CAM much more financially. The City of Oshawa was built (figuratively) by General Motors and the hundreds and thousands of auto workers over the last 100 years – CAM is a tribute to them. Let’s not forget,” said Baird
“Their taxes have increased to near $20,000 per year making it almost impossible to improve their displays or expand. It is one of Oshawa’s top draws for tourists…my biggest concern is that our council doles our millions to their city run museums while ignoring the CAM,” says Gary Lockie.
He pointed out that the last two years have been devastating due to covid shutdowns really hurting visitors, yet this well-run non-profit museum with a dedicated small staff and board has continued to survive, but without expansion potential.
Council has again this year ignored pleas for help. CAM sits across from Memorial Park where the city has tried to reduce vagrancy, sleeping and loitering in doorways. The Automotive Museum should be their prime mover to make this happen, but sadly both local ward councillors or full council have not risen to the challenge of helping this heritage and tourist attraction highlighting our automotive history in Canada,” adds Lockie.