TORONTO—The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union is celebrating the federal government’s renewal of its $250-million auto sector investment fund, but says money isn’t enough to preserve the industry in Canada.
In a statement released in the days following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of the renewal, CAW president Ken Lewenza heaped praise on the $250-million in repayable funding, but said Canada risks losing its future share of the automotive sector without a “multi-pronged” strategy moving forward.
“This is an important affirmation that the federal government remains committed to attracting future investments in this vital industry,” Lewenza said. “(However) we need a comprehensive, integrated federal-provincial strategy to attract investment and support Canadian jobs.”
In addition to financial support for new investments, Lewenza said such a strategy should also feature negotiated commitments to Canadian content, fair trade policies to reduce large auto trade deficits, active procurement strategies and other policy levers.
Lewenza noted the historic pattern of cost-sharing between the federal and Ontario governments in supporting major auto investments, and challenged Queen’s Park to confirm that it will continue that traditional partnership.
Lewenza also challenged the federal and Ontario governments to ensure that their future support for the auto sector is tied to enforceable commitments by the auto producers regarding their production levels in Canada.
“Industrial policy needs both a carrot and a stick,” Lewenza said. “Supported companies need to make clear and binding commitments regarding their long-run presence in Canada, in return for the public support they are receiving.”
Lewenza pointed to the successful Canadian footprint commitments contained in the 2009 restructuring agreements with General Motors and Chrysler, but which expire in 2017.
“Those footprint commitments meant that Canada’s share of North American vehicle production actually increased through the financial crisis,” he said. “They are a model that should be replicated in our future investment policies.”
Last year the CAW released a major policy paper on the need for a national auto policy, titled Rethinking Canada’s Auto Industry.
It advocated a ten-point strategy to ensure a proportional Canadian share of high-productivity, well-paying jobs in auto assembly and parts production.
To learn more about the report, log on to www.rethinktheeconomy.ca.