Funding request for Canadian Automotive Museum put off until next year by Oshawa Council

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Published May 26, 2022 at 3:16 pm

The Canadian Automotive Museum houses the world’s most significant collection of Canadian automobiles and tells the story of the automobile in this country and in particular, the City of Oshawa.

City councillors call it a “gem” and wring their hands over the thought of losing it to another burg but seem loathe to help finance it after another attempt to secure a grant or some other financial contribution from the City was put off for another day, or in this case, another term of council.

This request for funding came as a result of a public campaign that has seen more than a hundred letters and a petition with 400-plus names to have the City contribute more cash to the museum beyond the $5,000 tax break it now enjoys.

Brian Nicholson introduced a motion to ask staff work with the museum’s board to come up with a financial plan but was shot down at Tuesday’s Council meeting, with fellow councillor Bob Chapman saying that would be beyond the scope of staff’s responsibilities. “That’s their business plan. It’s not our staff’s job or our mandate. They will have to live and die with their financial plan.”

To Nicholson, the motion wasn’t over-stepping or particularly complicated, but about stepping up now with a plan now before the museum – which is housed in a building that is 100 years old – comes back to Council in the future asking for a lot of money for structural repairs.

“The building will be their biggest expense going forward so it’s about building up a nest egg. Is it not better financially to start this today?”

The museum used to enjoy sizeable annual contributions from the City, peaking at $25,000 per year in the 1990s. But in 1996 Oshawa made changes to its grant program and no financial contributions at all were awarded to the private museum between 1998 and 2014.

Museums in Ontario receive an average of 23 per cent of their operating revenue from their host municipalities, which would represent a $50,000 contribution to the automotive museum.

Other privately-run museums, such as the Ontario Regiment’s Tank Museum, receive annual grants from the City.

Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said the museum needs the City’s help, noting that anyone who has been to a major auto show “can’t help but feel a sense of pride” when they see a museum vehicle on display. “The automotive museum and the building are real gems with direct ties to our historical past.”

The Canadian Automotive Museum was founded in 1962 by a group of Oshawa businessmen with the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce. The two-floor building, with its ‘Made in Canada’ exhibits on the second floor, was once the home of the Ontario Motor Sales dealership, which still exists nearby.

The current collection ranges from a 1903 Redpath to a 1999 Chevrolet Lumina.

The main motion to provide the museum with a capital grant or operational money this year was defeated, with Council deciding to bring the request to the 2023 budget deliberations, which will take place soon after the new Council is sworn in this fall.

“That’s pretty sad,” Nicholson noted. “Now they’ve made it an election issue and it didn’t have to be that way. This got tremendous support from the community and what the new Council decides to do with this is impossible to say.”

“The last thing we need is for them to leave Oshawa.”

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