Tech ends are not aligned

By Tony Patterson
WATERLOO/OTTAWA — I was at the AgendaCamp at Waterloo last Sunday to learn about Ontario's innovation economy. It is organized by a TV show (Steve Paikin's Agenda on TVO) but usurps the BarCamp format. It's orchestrated by a bouncy young man I take to be a tony1459Edit90X167.jpgProfessional Camp Animator, a species unobserved east of Toronto, and runs very smoothly. You can follow it from beginning to end, starting here. The proceeds become grist for a follow-up broadcast next day, featuring RIM's co-CEO Jim Balsillie and 'creative class' guru Richard Florida, for which the streaming video is here. For those who like to follow my career in detail, my appearance comes at 2:22 precisely
I hadn't planned to go. When I think of it on Friday I'm surprised to find they still have room. It turns out there are fewer than 100 participants, despite the pulling power of TV, and this is the best attended of five Camps the program has hosted in the past six months.
So I set out to organize the trip. I don't possess a car and the thought of renting one to drive alone that distance seems environmentally insensitive, not to mention expensive.
I don't go often to Waterloo and often when I do go I'm leaving from Toronto. This would be my first direct Ottawa-Waterloo connection — or so I imagine.
First I check flights. There are no direct flights from Ottawa to Waterloo on Sunday. There are three a day to Kitchener during the week.
I check the train. There is no Via Rail service to Waterloo from anywhere.
I check the bus. The only one that will get me there at all on Sunday takes nine hours with a drop-off at the university at 01:00, an hour when even the most creative class is unlikely to be sitting. The bus takes nine hours because there's a lay over in Toronto to get from Ottawa to Waterloo.

I go back to look at car rentals. There are none available. I've left it too late. Of course a car would take me through Toronto anyway. People as old as I am will recall that the 401 was built originally up north of town so that intercity traffic could bypass Toronto. Metropolitan engorgement has placed it damn near centretown today.
I wind up taking the bus (five hours) Saturday afternoon, overnighting in Toronto, renting a car next morning early. Coming back also demands a stop in Toronto, to drop the car and catch the bus.
The natural flow of tech traffic — ideas, money, talent — will always be through Toronto. It's hard enough for outpost economies to compete. But they make it harder for themselves if they operate in isolation from one another. The short of it is there's no direct way to get from Ottawa to Waterloo on the weekend and limited links at other times. They illuminate the ends of Ontario's tech corridor but they're not well connected. This should concern them both.

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Companies in the Ontario Technology Corridor, almost 6,000 of them, spanning the software, photonics, wireless, cleantech, digital media, life sciences, and micro-electronics sectors, employ more than 250,000 people. There are almost 30 universities and colleges along the corridor.

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