Harper's $1B promise to auto sector gets mixed reviews
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, October 6, 2015 9:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 6, 2015 7:50PM EDT
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is facing criticism from both ends of the political spectrum for his promise to spend $1 billion over 10 years on the automotive sector.
Tuesday’s proposal to expand the Automotive Innovation Fund is seen by many as compensation for the decision to agree to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Monday, which will phase out a 6.1 per cent tariff on foreign automobiles, putting pressure on domestic automakers.
Unifor, the labour union that represents many Canadian auto workers, said the money is not enough to make up for the 20,000 jobs it says will be lost under the agreement.
Ron Svajlenko, President of Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa, Ont., called the $1-billion fund “a pittance.”
“That’s not going to save our auto industry,” he told reporters at a protest outside a Harper rally in Whitby, Ont. “That’s not going to protect jobs.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the $1-billion promise amounts to using public money to “buy off favoured sectors.”
Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Scott Hennig told CTV Power Play that while “the TPP is a good deal for Canada,” the compensation “isn’t part of the deal … and we think it’s unnecessary.”
Referring to potential job losses, Hennig said “that’s the way that competition works. We don’t go and compensate a pizza place in downtown Hamilton when another pizza place opens up.”
Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association president Flavio Volpe was more positive. He said the billion-dollar fund is a significant amount of money and sends a positive signal that the Tories are committed to the sector.
Flavio said that, although there are “real concerns” for small parts makers, “we have some time before the TPP takes hold, and what’s more important … is can we get them a new customer?”
“When the next carmaker says I want to set up a car in North America, can Canada compete to get that customer?” he said, adding that the funding announced Monday is “at least moving in the direction of ‘let’s get more customers here.’”
Harper, meanwhile, denied that the funding amounts to compensation.
“The programs we have here are not compensation programs,” Harper told the crowd in Whitby. “They are incentive programs to attract this kind of investment into the sector and keep this kind of investment in the sector.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who has said he would review TPP if he becomes prime minister, told supporters in Surrey, B.C., that Harper’s proposal is “an admission that he’s is going to be killing off tens of thousands of jobs in the auto sector.”
Mulcair also said Harper can’t be trusted to deliver the money.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was in Montreal where he said his party is pro-trade and “looks forward to seeing the details of the trade deal.”
Although full details of the TPP won’t be ready until after the election, vehicles would be allowed into Canada without tariffs as long as 45 per cent of their content comes from TPP regions – a lower bar than the 62.5 per cent provision required under NAFTA. The 6.1 per cent tariff would be phased out over five years.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV Deputy Bureau Chief Laurie Graham