Is this really how you should treat one of your most loyal partners?
That’s the question I have for the federal government as its standoff with Stellantis continues.
In short, the automaker claims the federal government promised to match incentives contained in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) if the automaker built its $5-billion battery plant in Windsor, Ont. Stellantis says the government is reneging on the promise. And now, the federal Liberals are asking Ontario to help level the playing field. In short, the three parties can’t agree on much.
The federal government is suddenly blaming the Ontario PCs for not doing their “fair share,” whatever that means. The feds have never elaborated.
Doug Ford says U.S. federal incentives in the IRA should be matched by the Canadian federal government, a point that doesn’t seem that far off base.
Ontario agreed to a $500-million contribution to Stellantis and gave Volkswagen the same when the German automaker announced its $7-billion battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont. Proportionally then, it would seem the Ontario actually gave more to Stellantis than it did to Volkswagen.
Still, Stellantis is threatening to walk away from the entire $5-billion project, eliminating 2,500 potential jobs — a number I’m told is “conservative.” Oh, and by the way, those batteries are meant for new electrified products to be assigned to assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton.
At full capacity the battery plant would employ 2,500 workers, Windsor Assembly Plant about 5,000 and Brampton roughly 3,000. That’s more than 10,000 Stellantis employees eventually out of work if it starts pulling up stakes across the province. And, using the federal government’s own math — the very math they used to justify the Volkswagen plant — that’s 100,000 indirect jobs lost. The feds claim a “multiplier effect” of 10 indirect jobs to every direct job.
Is this really how the federal government is going to treat a company that’s been building vehicles in Canada for nearly a century? Yes, you read that right. Chrysler Corporation of Canada Ltd. incorporated in Windsor on June 17, 1925, as successor to Maxwell-Chalmers Motor Company of Canada.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD
But, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The auto industry is rapidly shifting toward electrification, but that doesn’t mean the game has changed all that much.
Stellantis might be the latest iteration of Chrysler — the latest in a long line of names such as Daimler-Chrysler and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
But the fact remains, the late, great Sergio Marchionne is right again: Canada’s automotive industry is once again “a political football.”
That’s what he called the last manufacturing debacle, nearly a decade ago, when Chrysler Group LLC withdrew its request for $700-million in taxpayer funds originally earmarked for the $3.6-billion retooling of the Windsor Assembly Plant.
Tim Hudak, who was leader of the Ontario PC Party at the time, called it a “ransom.”
That prompted Marchionne to fire back:
"It is clear to us that our projects were being used as a political football, a process that, in our view apart from being unnecessary and ill-advised, will ultimately not benefit Chrysler.”
So, Chrysler paid for the retooling itself. Windsor Assembly Plant is still standing, making flagship minivans, employing thousands and scheduled for a retool designed to allow the plant to make electric vehicles of some sort.
Isn’t that worth something — anything — to the federal government?
Apparently not. Because the political football game that began in 2014 his headed to overtime.
As I tweeted earlier this week, all of this is very unbecoming of our politicians. The entire dispute makes Canada look like it’s run by amateurs.
It’s as if we’ve been married to Stellantis for 98 years and then, on the eve of our 100th anniversary, we’ve decided to cheat on our wife with the new girl in town.
“The feds are supporting the VW plant in St. Thomas. How many f - - - ing workers in Ontario are VW workers?” asked Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who represents hourly Stellantis workers in Windsor. “Stellantis has the largest footprint in Ontario for workers. This is a return on investment, and nothing but. I just keep saying how many f - - - ing VW workers are there? This is bulls - - -.”
Frankly, he’s right.