The future of Canada's automotive industry is not about horsepower, “it’s about software power,” says federal Minister of Economic Development, Navdeep Bains.
That was the message for the country’s auto sector when he sat down with Automotive News Canada in an exclusive interview March 31.
Bains has spent much of the first year of the Liberal government’s mandate touting innovation as the best way to keep automotive investment coming into Canada.
He said he sees no new investment by any automaker in the short term, and that’s why he’s focused on the technological advancements of the future.
“People think of the automotive sector very much in the context of the past,” Bains said. “I think it represents a very bright future in terms of connectivity, mobility, technology and innovation jobs.
“I’m not sure people fully appreciate that.”
He said his ministry and the federal government “are really going to drive that agenda.”
In the last year alone, General Motors has opened a technology centre in Markham, Ont., and is still filling about 1,000 engineering positions; BlackBerry opened a self-driving research centre in Ottawa; and in March, Ford announced it would spend $500 million on its own research-and-engineering centre in Ottawa and hire 300 software engineers in Ontario.
The federal government has pledged up to $102 mil-lion to Ford’s efforts, which also include a new $600-million engine program at its Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ont.
“Certainly, the partnership with government helped but it’s not exclusively that,” Ford’s president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, said about the automaker’s investment in engineering.
Ford also had the chance to hire about 400 former BlackBerry software engineers in Ontario.