TORONTO _ The Ontario government is creating a new council to advise on how to better protect workers and Ontario's rights under trade agreements with the United States, and Unifor National President Jerry Dias will help lead it.
Premier Doug Ford says the goal is to protect workers on both sides of the border.
He says the auto industry in particular could be at risk if the co-operation between the United States and Ontario stops.
The economic development minister says protectionist measures the United States Congress is debating now would harm several local industries including auto, lumber, steel and agriculture industry.
A proposed tax credit backed by the Biden administration would give American consumers up to US$12,500 for buying an American-made EV. The bill is currently before the Senate, but has drawn international criticism for its protectionist bent from several countries, including Canada.
Vic Fedeli says Ontario is an important economic partner to more than half the states south of the border and the new council will highlight the cost of protectionism to businesses in Ontario and the United States
Dias, who will chair the new council, says the province is at a “critical juncture" in its relationship with the United States and there is a need for co-ordinated efforts between the province and the labour unions to protect the local economy.
It might seem strange seeing Dias, whose union normally staunchly opposes Conservative governments, working with Ford. But the two have set aside their differences in this fight.
Dias said in a statement that “coordinated action between government and labour [is] urgently needed to protect jobs and the economy.”
Ford had similar thoughts.
“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jerry Dias as we work together to protect an integrated economy that employs millions of workers on both sides of the border,” Premier Ford said in the same statement. “At a time when we’re on the cusp of unleashing the full potential of Ontario’s auto sector as we build an economy that will compete globally, now is not the time to rip up decades of cooperation and put workers on both sides of the border at risk.”
The value of trade between Ontario and the United States was estimated at $358 billion in 2020 amounting to 53 per cent of the total merchandise trade between Canada and the United States
Ontario says vehicle assembly and auto parts production directly supports nearly 100,000 Ontario jobs, with hundreds of thousands more spin-off jobs in communities across the province.