I recently spent a week in China as the guest of the Tianjin Education Commission. I was invited due to my role as co-chair of the Human Services Planning Board of York Region and due to my academic background in education. The main purpose of the trip was to explore opportunities for high school student exchange programs. The principal of Sir William Mulock Secondary School and the Superintendent responsible for exchange programs were on the trip representing York Region District School Board.
This was an amazing opportunity for York Region and I was honored to have been asked. We spent four days in Tianjin and two days in Beijing and I can honestly say it significantly affected my view of the world and the future of education, transit, and trade.
The scale of everything in China seems to be in multiples of ten in relation to what we experience here. Toronto is about 2.5 million people; Beijing is about 25 million people. Toronto has about 100 cranes involved in high rise construction; Tianjin has about 1000. Toronto has two subway lines; Beijing has about 20. In the entire week I was there I could not stop marveling at the pace of construction. There were groups of 20 and 30 twenty story buildings everywhere. On one occasion we visited an “Education Park”. This park had just completed phase one of its development in just over 12 months. Phase one consisted of seven separate collages and over 1 million square meters of built space. Phase three will be complete before 2015 (it has not begun) and will consist of two state of the art Universities. The bookshelves of the recently completed library scanned themselves every 60 seconds and relayed data to the main terminal as to which books had been removed from the shelves and which books had been replaced. There was much to marvel at.
There were also challenges. The air quality in both Beijing and Tianjin was very poor. It is hard to imagine the health issues that must be related to air quality so poor that we rarely clearly saw the sun (or even the tops of some buildings). The air quality when we were there was not nearly as bad as it would become only one week after our departure. The air quality is not bad all year round and certainly in some areas (the education park) it is much better. Traffic congestion is also a serious challenge – like nothing I have ever seen. But the transit in both cities was second to none. The two cities are 135 km apart and the smooth, modern train conveyed us in exactly 29 minutes.
The trip was certainly fascinating, even mind boggling, but it was also productive. We had many excellent meetings with education commission staff. In fact when we arrived at the Tianjin Education Commission we were greeted at the door by many people and a 20 foot banner reading “warm welcome to delegates from Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.” The York Region School Board staff was able to discuss specific potential programs and to tour more than 6 different high schools. I was able to participate in all meetings and provide a glimpse into the quality of life in York Region and in Newmarket. I couldn’t help but think during many of these meetings that today’s exchange students are tomorrow’s business leaders. Having future ambassadors visiting each other is economic development incubation for the future.
This opportunity was possibly going to be offered to Toronto. I was glad I was able to include the York Region School Board and I am glad that some of our students may have an experience similar to the one I had. And one last thing, for the record, we were the guests of the Tianjin Education Commission and this did not cost Tax Payers one penny. It was a very fortunate glimpse into the emerging world power: CHINA.
Newmarket has just been named one of the top 10 places to live in Canada (out of over 200 cities and towns). MoneySense Magazine ranks towns and cities against each other in various catagories such as safety, health care, growth, average income and more. Newmarket for the fourth straight year made the top 25 and this year gained a spot in the top 10.
This is an amazing accomplishment and a great recognition. It reaffirms what we all know – this is an amazing place to live and raise a family. This didn’t happen by accident. For many years the residents, the businesses, and organizations of Newmarket have contributed their time, energy, ideas and resources to making Newmarket “Well Beyond the Ordinary’. Town staff and elected officials over many years have made decisions and spent time contributing to this slowly evolving achievement. Everyone in this great town deserves to feel proud today. Are we perfect – no, is there more we can do to improve – yes, but right now Newmarket take a moment to stop and feel nothing but Pride in a job well done. CONGRATULATIONS NEWMARKET !