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The announcement of GM's closure leaves Oshawa preparing for the "great vacuum"

When the manufacturing operations in the largest employer in Oshawa, Ont. It stopped unexpectedly more than a century ago, it could have been a disaster for the economy of the city.

Instead of waiting for what some saw as an inevitable disaster, some of the Oshawa leaders met and brainstormed about a plan to get things working again.

That scenario is undoubtedly what many Oshawa residents expect after General Motors announced that they have no plans to manufacture vehicles in the city after 2019. He is also one of those who has lived Oshawa before.

In 1899, the main economic engine of Oshawa was the transport works of McLaughlin. It employed more than 600 people in a town of about 4,500.

When the carriage burned to the ground, some feared that Oshawa's fortunes would collapse. The civic leaders, worried that the losers of the trial were right, devised a novel solution. They lent the McLaughlins $ 50,000 to rebuild.

The manufacturer eventually moved from cars to cars. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, McLaughlin's previous transportation jobs became General Motors Canada.

Fast forward to 2018, and similar predictions of pessimism are emerging following GM's announcement. However, ask today's leaders and experts, and they will say that there is a big difference between the Oshawa of 1899 and the Oshawa of 2018: it is not a city with only one horse.

"It's going to have a big impact, but it's not going to have the same impact it would have had 25 years ago," Bernard Bernard, a professor emeritus of economics and international business at the Schulich School of Business at York University, told Wolf. Channel Monday.

The difference, say Wolf and others, is that Oshawa's economy has diversified significantly in recent decades. While 2,800 jobs in a city of 160,000 are not insubstantial, GM employed 23,000 people in the city as recently as in the 1980s.

Any list of major employers in Oshawa now has to include the health care and education sectors, as well as the provincial government. Another 1,000 people work in a call center. And then there are the thousands more who live in Oshawa, but travel to other places in the Metropolitan Area of ​​Toronto, as well as those who do the opposite.

"This is not just an Oshawa problem. The people in the plant live everywhere, "Oshawa's outgoing mayor John Henry told the CTV news channel.

The same goes for the auto parts manufacturers that supply the Oshawa badembly plant. Many of them are not located in the city, but they will still feel a significant shock due to the loss of business.

However, it is Oshawa who will be the hardest hit. When the closure was confirmed on Monday, residents of Oshawa expressed concern about everything from the decrease in property values ​​to the destination of the restaurants and bars that serve auto workers.

"We have always been identified as an industrial city," Cecily Minniti told CTV Toronto.

"It's going to feel like a big vacuum there."

Henry and the auto workers have expressed the hope that a compromise can be found to keep the plant open, although provincial and federal leaders have said they have no reason to believe that GM would be open to any idea in that regard.

Wolf also said that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the car giant back on a plan that was clearly long in its development.

"It's the bottom line, in the end, what counts." If GM has calculated in terms of their global configuration that they do not have a product for that plant, I do not think there's much they can do, "he said.

GM's operations in Oshawa extend beyond the badembly plant. Its Canadian headquarters is located in the city, including a large engineering center, and has alliances with the Institute of Technology of the University of Ontario.

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