BRIDGEWATER, N.S. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on March 14 the federal government plans to provide $44.3 million to Michelin's manufacturing plants in Nova Scotia as they shift toward production of tires for electric vehicles.
Trudeau made the announcement at the factory in Bridgewater, saying that the expansion will secure hundreds of well-paid, existing jobs and create new ones at three factories.
The prime minister was joined by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who says Michelin's decision to modernize and expand its operations is a testament to Nova Scotia's strong business environment.
Houston says that through the province's newly increased Capital Investment Tax Credit, Michelin stands to receive a credit of about $61.3 million over five years, based on the planned investment of $302.7 million.
Standing before hundreds of the plant's workers, Trudeau said Michelin could have chosen other destinations for the investments, and this is part of the reason why he and the Nova Scotia government provided public funds to a profitable multinational corporation.
"I think you know that a big international company like Michelin, that has plants and fabrication facilities all around the world, has choices and options," he said during the announcement.
"(Premier) Tim (Houston) and I stepped up with cash to encourage them to come here and show we're willing to invest in the future of Michelin here in Nova Scotia and Bridgewater."
However, Trudeau told the workers that the quality of their work was ultimately the key to Michelin's decision to expand in the province.
"You are the competitive advantage that Canada has. The quality of the work that is done here and in plants like it across the country is the one thing that continues to be the strongest selling point as we draw in investments from around the world," he said.
Michelin currently employs about 3,600 Nova Scotians at its manufacturing plants in Bridgewater, Waterville and Granton, and the expansion is expected to add 70 more jobs.
The planned modernization will allow Michelin to produce more energy-efficient tires, including ones used for electric vehicles, and to cut factory emissions through electrification, company officials said.
Alexis Garcin, the chair of Michelin North America, said during the announcement that the expansion allows his firm to adjust to a market where up to half of new passenger vehicles will be either hybrid or electric by 2030.
"That's why these investments are critical, so that we can seize massive opportunities as the markets transform," he said.
Trudeau said during the announcement that Canadians want "good union, or good, well-paid middle-class jobs that will support families and the communities they live in."
However, trade unions say that the announcement Tuesday should have been accompanied by government pledges to end legislation in Nova Scotia that has made it difficult to unionize the three Michelin facilities in the province.
"Investments in Nova Scotian businesses must be paired with advances in workers' rights in order to truly benefit the working class," Jennifer Murray, the Unifor Atlantic regional director, wrote in an email.
"There have been dozens of unionization attempts by Michelin workers, but amendments to the Trade Union Act known as `the Michelin Bill' that retroactively ended a valid unionization attempt in 1979 remain on Nova Scotia's books," she wrote. She called on the Houston government to repeal the Michelin Bill and "enable workers to more freely participate in collective bargaining."
In an interview after the news conference, Houston said his government has no plans to change the legislation.
Still, some workers at the plant said they were encouraged by the announcement, saying it means long-term job security and a boost to the town.
Josh Truelove, a 35-year-old employee, said, "It's great ... It's good for our plant. It's going to keep us in work for the rest of our lives, along with future generations."
CORRECTION: A headline on an earlier version of this report overstated the federal government's contribution. It is contributing $44.3 million.