The Ontario Budget didn’t offer the auto industry anything beyond the $40-million plan Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government pledged in February of this year, but the head of Canada’s parts association hinted there is more to come.
The government’s auto sector plan, Driving Prosperity, was originally unveiled during the Canadian International AutoShow. It lays out a 10‐year vision for how the industry, the research-and-education sector, and all three levels of government can work together to strengthen the sector’s competitiveness.
Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association President Flavio Volpe said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of new auto funding and felt relieved and reassured to see Driving Prosperity officially included in the budget.
“We weren’t expecting to see new programming in there. What was important was to see Driving Prosperity confirmed in the budget,” Volpe said. “It may sound administrative but governments in the past have gone left when they should have gone right when it comes to the budget document.”
Volpe said what’s included in the budget is just “phase one” of Driving Prosperity but couldn’t elaborate beyond saying his association is in discussions with the government about what should be included in phase two.
“What I can say without betraying the process is that the bigger, wider instruments that help attract investment and retain them from an operational cost point of view is what the focus of those conversations is,” Volpe said.
Funding committed over the next three years for phase one of Driving Prosperity includes:
- $10 million to the Ontario Automotive Modernization Program;
- $3 million toward the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network’s new “WinterTech” development stream;
- $2 million for the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network’s new enhanced Talent Development stream;
- $3 million to fund the micro-credentials pilot;
- $19 million for new internships and other experiential learning opportunities and;
- $3.2 million toward online learning and training portal.
Mark Nantais, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), also said he wasn’t surprised or disappointed by the budget. He called the budget a “coordinated plan” to entice more investment in the province, and not just from the auto industry.
“CVMA supports efforts by the Ontario government to eliminate red tape and the burden of inefficient regulations to enhance the competitiveness of the province as a place to attract new investment by industry, particularly in innovative technologies necessary to compete in the evolving global market,” Nantais later said in a statement.
However, Unifor, the union that represents thousands in the Ontario automotive sector, slammed the budget for not including aid for the combined 4,100 autoworkers about to lose their jobs this year at GM Oshawa and FCA in Windsor.
General Motors will close its Oshawa assembly plant at the end of the year while FCA will eliminate a shift at its minivan plant in Windsor in September.
Unifor President Jerry Dias said Ford’s “so-called plan for auto is an embarrassing retreat.”
Dias mocked the government’s decision to legalize tailgate parties and rebrand Ontario’s licence plates.
"License plate branding and tailgate parties won't help manufacturing workers rebuild threatened industries,” Dias said. “The Conservatives are leaving workers at GM and Chrysler, and in communities across Ontario out to dry by not presenting a competitive, clear strategy for manufacturing."