I couldn’t help but notice the podium Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford shared with Stellantis North America COO Mark Stewart to announce a further $3.6 billion in Canadian automotive investment on May 2.
“Clean air and good jobs,” it read.
Beneath “clean air” was the Government of Canada logo, and below “good jobs” there was the Government of Ontario logo. How perfectly fitting.
What we witnessed while automakers spent the spring announcing billions for auto investment — $13 billion over an eight-week span, to be precise — was the strangest of bedfellows working together and getting exactly what it is they both wanted.
Trudeau and his Liberals got the coveted “greening” of the auto industry they have been after for years, in an effort to meet their climate goals. And over his term, Ford gets to say he helped create or maintain jobs at no fewer than seven assembly plants operated by five automakers.
It’s obvious the two leaders view the auto sector through different lenses; the federal Liberals see it as a dirty polluter and necessary evil to keep people employed. Ontario’s Conservatives know the industry represents a deep pool of well-paid voters, who, if kept happy, might cast a ballot in Ford’s favour come June 2 and send him back to a majority.
Neither is necessarily wrong. Or right.
But taken together, they represent the best of both worlds. Neither can say “no” to potential investment as the industry races toward electrification.
Failing to work together and offer automakers incentives in the billions of dollars would be detrimental to both causes. Automakers would look elsewhere. The Liberals would continue to fall short on their pledge to slow climate change.
And the Conservatives would be held (somewhat) responsible for the loss of investment poised to keep Canada’s auto sector healthy and stable for another 100 years.
Consider Windsor as just one example.
Stellantis has promised the return of the third shift at its minivan plant there, which is about 1,500 jobs. It will build an EV battery plant that will employ about 2,500 people. And it will hire 650 white-collar workers at new EV research centres in the city. That’s 4,650 jobs that don’t exist as I write this column. And, at an annual wage of $50,000 — just for round numbers’ sake — that’s $232 million ripe for spending in a city of 235,000 people. Per year.
That translates to more houses, boats, date nights, youth sports registrations and charitable donations.
Everybody wins. Not just the politicians, automakers and their employees. Everybody.