Years of lobbying finally pays off as Auto Museum gets its funding from Oshawa Council

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Published March 3, 2023 at 2:54 pm

After years of lobbying and a letter-writing campaign from the public, the Canadian Automotive Museum has finally regained some financial support from the City Oshawa.

Oshawa Council approved an annual capital contribution of 25 cents per person in the recently concluded budget deliberations – roughly equivalent to $47,000 – as well as a $15,000 grant for “strategic business development” at the museum.

Museum board member Gregory Johnston has been at the forefront of the lobbying effort, which until now has fallen on (mostly) deaf ears at council.

“Your voices were heard,” Johnston told supporters on Facebook. “They say you cannot ‘turn back time’ but this cannot be true because you did!”

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.

Other privately-run museums, such as the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum and Parkwood Estate, receive annual grants from the City, while museums in Ontario receive, on average, 23 per cent of their operating revenue from their host communities.

That would represent about $50,000 to the automotive museum, a little more than the 17 per cent they will receive under the new capital contribution from the City.

Johnston said he made it his mission to restore funding to the museum when he joined the board but eight years of pleading with elected officials and staff but got no further than a $5,000 tax break until he enlisted the support of residents and local businesses.

After “exhausting every method of restoring grant funding” using the City-provided channels, Johnston and the museum staff turned to the public, “and you didn’t disappoint,” he said.

In addition to residents, the museum received support in the campaign from labour organizations (Durham Region Labour Alliance, Unifor 222, GM Salaried Retirees), local car clubs, business groups and charities.

Another advocate for restoring funding to the museum is Regional Councillor Brian Nicholson, who has presented numerous motions in recent years to have the funding approved.

Each motion lost or was deferred to the next year’s budget deliberations until Jan. 20 this year when Council saw fit to approve Nicholson’s request.

Johnston said he was “happy” to get the good news from the budget talks but his still unclear on the details.

The Canadian Automotive Museum, which was founded in 1962, 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. 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.

Lightning McQueen from the Pixar ‘Cars’ movie franchise. The iconic car was named after the late Disney animator Glenn McQueen. a Sheridan College animation graduate who died in 2002

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